Tag: book review

Book Review: Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey

a small glass church being floated on a river amidst the australian bush

Street libraries really are the ‘gift that keeps on giving’, aren’t they? Like a secret messaging system or gift exchange, a knitting project – knit one, pearl one, read one, leave one – for bookish sorts like me. I met a man once as I stood browsing my local, who told me its owner/caretaker (it’s on her front wall – painted to match) worked for a publishing house, which not only made perfect sense but also explained the range and the quality of our neighbourhood selection. I felt like I’d won the street library lottery!

Peter Carey‘s 1988 Booker Prize-winning Oscar & Lucinda is certainly no new release, but I’d never read it. So when I noticed it through the glass-panelled front door of its little library house during Sydney’s extended COVID lockdown (in 2021) – during which we were only permitted to wander within 5kms of home – I decided it was now or never. It had been a while between book reviews. Oscar & Lucinda was over 500 pages, and very teeny tiny print, so over the weeks it took me to plough through it, it became a metaphor of sorts for the strange rhythm that became #lockdownlife. Knit one, pearl one.

It was worth every moment. In fact nary enough space in a single post to review this epic 19th-century tale of unrequited love.

“Lucinda duplicated his stance without meaning to; that is, she hugged herself, kept her arms locked firmly around her own body while she felt the space between them as if it were a living thing.”


I could have wept.

This yarn was so deftly spun that it expanded and contracted as if by magic, like a spider’s web but from the outside in; a thing of wild, organic beauty except that every glistening thread has actually, on the contrary, been ever so carefully teased into existence by its patient creator.

All testament to the unassuming brilliance of Carey’s remarkable storytelling, of course.

I went into this story completely blind. I’d heard of it, but honestly, if I’d read a synopsis I likely would have thought ‘not my bag’, as I tend to read almost exclusively non-fiction. No, I never saw the film.

So, if a bizarre 550-page period saga slash romantic comedy slash deep dive into Christian fundamentalism slash gut-wrenching tragedy that lurches like a sinking ship between the Devon coast, the race track at Epsom, filthy, bawdy colonial Sydney, and the eery backwaters of Bellingen (in the hinterlands of the NSW north coast) doesn’t appeal to you, read this book. Please.

If I didn’t have a foot-high stack of books by my bedside and a list of 50 ‘to reads’ in my i-Notes, I’d be turning back to Page 1 of Oscar & Lucinda tonight just to feel it all over again.

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Book Review: Get the Girls Out by Lucy Bloom

Headshot of fair skinned woman with hot pink mohawk smiling cheekily at camera

Funny story, how I came to read Get the Girls Out, a memoir by Lucy Bloom. I first met Lucy briefly late last year at a brand new sole traders’ social thing in Coogee, the vibrant little coastal neighbourhood in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where we both live. Of course I had no idea then that she was an author. Or a highly experienced business consultant. Or a CEO. Or a renowned international keynote speaker. With her trademark hot pink mohawk blitzed in favour of a peroxide buzzcut, Lucy was now a veritable undercover super-hustler!

Hair aside, she was friendly and relaxed and, along with the other half a dozen people I met that day, made me instantly feel as though I’d miraculously stumbled into a brand new tribe of like-minded creatives and exactly the type of low-key legends in whose company I thrive.

I knew Lucy operated a B&B from her stunning 19th Century seaside apartment block, so when she put a post up on a local Facebook community group a few weeks later for someone to help clean the place in preparation for Christmas guests, as a fellow vintage- and history-buff, I jumped at the chance for a stickybeak.

And so, somewhere between ‘pass the Chux’ and discovering Lucy’s custom laundry hamper (a giant tilting wire basket concealed inside a faux cupboard – ingenious!), she dug out a copy of Get the Girls Out and left it by the door for me to take home.

I’m so grateful! I really, really enjoyed this book.

As someone who lives under the constant weight of anxiety and with cabin doors armed and crossed checked in readiness for her next debilitating depressive cycle, I always find it remarkable (but oh so refreshing) to come across people like Lucy who grab life by the tits and seem to bounce so easily back from adversity and blaze through shitstorms headfirst. Hashtag ‘belikelucy’.

But none of us is superhuman, including Lucy. Far from it.

This raw memoir provides us with a poignant glimpse into the life of, simply, a fellow human, woman, mum, daughter, boss, colleague, and lover. Lucy’s trailblazing, professional success, and personal evolution have been hard-won. She makes mistakes, lots of them, yet she learns and grows from them with good humour, grace, and humility.

“‘My deepest wish,” says Lucy, “is that reading this book makes you want to do cool stuff, make plans, launch that business, pack your bags, shave your head, ride that horse, date that hottie, apply for that job, chuck that party – and, most of all, get your girls out, whatever that means for you.”

Available wherever you buy your books, Get the Girls Out describes a woman who lives, learns, and loves with her eyes, arms, heart, and yes, occasionally her legs, wide open – something we can all aspire to.

For me, Get the Girls Out – indeed Lucy herself – appeared in my life as these things so often do, in the right place, at the right time. It’s taken me many, many years to believe in the magic of serendipity. And to trust that I and I alone have the power to affect positive change in my life. But the momentum is building, and Lucy’s inspiring memoir has given me the confidence to embark on my very own year of YES.

Find Lucy on Facebook, Instagram, or at thelucybloom.com.

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Book Review: Cardinal – The Rise and Fall of George Pell by Louise Milligan

Where to start, except against a backdrop of a toilet where this guy belongs. What a staggering account of systemic failure – of the Catholic Church to protect society’s most innocent and vulnerable people, its children – this book is. And all the while nasty, nasty George Pell was hiding his own grotty little secrets.

Fair skin hand holding the book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell over a toilet

A Royal Commission eventually heard that between 1950 and 2010, a staggering 4444 people alleged to 93 Australian Catholic Church authorities incidents perpetrated by 1880 church figures, teachers, priests, bishops, and so on. Read that again.

The Church spent tens of millions of dollars over many, many years fighting individual cases on behalf of its members, denying any wrongdoing yet all the while paying off victims; and Pell, as its then-head and one of the Church’s most senior figures worldwide, was leading the charge.

And – you can’t make this stuff up – the same shit was going down all over the USA at the same time.

Dozens and dozens of victims have committed suicide over the years, many of them from a single generation and the same Victorian country town, leaving their families in tatters. Dozens more lead tormented and difficult lives – directly or indirectly – because of the abuse they sustained.

Sexual abuse never goes away – it’s a (sometimes imperceptible) scary, grimy lens through which you’re forced to view the world and life forever more. Such is the trauma and shame the abuse triggered in these CHILD VICTIMS, the average time it took them to come forward was 33yrs. To have the abuse denied only perpetuates the trauma.

Pell was eventually also personally accused of several sexual abuse crimes, by multiple people, found guilty, sentenced, and jailed, THEN RELEASED ON APPEAL. Because filthy rich. And technicalities. But we see you, George. Your God sees you. And you and all of your despicable cronies are going straight to Hell. But y’all know that.

Buy it here.

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Book Review: Delving Deeper by Jo Frasca

Hands holding book titled Delving Deeper on Kindle

An endearing, if not particularly fluid, glimpse into the psychotherapy journey through the eyes of a Sydney-based psychotherapist. But what this book lacks in literary prowess it sure makes up for in authenticity and warmth. We love Jo and her wee rescue pup and their insight and patience as we try and learn to make sense of our past.

Psychotherapy isn’t for everyone – not least because it’s so expensive (in Australia anyway). It’s emotionally gruelling work, but we do it because there is no alternative, especially for people like me who’ve tried everything else (and I mean everything).

With suicide and mental illness and substance abuse and incarceration rates sky high, why the hell this long-term emotional care and support and ‘holding’ and ‘hearing’ and ‘seeing’ that all of us wounded sparrows need to make sense of the world isn’t subsidised, I have no idea.

So much pain and trauma and suffering presenting as so many different things on the surface. We don’t even realise it! They’re like watermarks on our psyches. But are we really wanting people to HEAL? Or just quick fix them – peddle them meds and alter their behaviours…?

Society needs to dig deep to save itself right now. And I’m convinced that Jo and her ilk are some of its most important, unsung heroes.

???? There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen. ????

Buy it here.