There is something about stories that magnify and illuminate the concept of social control that spooks me. I think they yield their power by highlighting elements vaguely feared by readers and bringing them to life as to turn that fear into terror. Whether it be the anxiety you feel when a police car is next to you at traffic lights, the thought of the Nazi or Pole Pot regime or what can happen when Communism takes a turn, however you look at it social control is a scary thought.

The Handmaids Tale exists in the same realm as George Orwells 1984 and Animal Farm and Aldous Huxleys Brave New World . If you have read any of these you’ll know what I mean. In each instance, the general population is controlled, monitored and punished as higher authorities see fit. The Handmaids Tale is unique in that is is from a women’s perspective and the regime that is detailed bases its principles on obscure interpretations from passages in the bible.

Without ruining too much, Atwood had me convinced for almost 5 minutes that what she had written about was long lost, though true history. As troubling as that was, the reality is that its themes are true. Things like this are happening in the world as we speak, women are oppressed whether it be in far away countries or in our own neighbourhood. Just because it isn’t happening to us doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

The book didn’t detail it’s message or intent. It just left you to stew the principles and figure out what it means to you. For me I felt it told the story of complacency. When we get comfortable in this world and hand over our power we leave ourselves open to an array of consequences. It’s not about paranoia, it’s about being aware, maintain our independence and making sure we are active not passive thinkers.

Well you and I have both noticed that I have not posted anything for some time and despite trying to ‘buy’ time with some personal entries I realise I can no longer fool myself. 52… just ain’t going to happen.

It turns out trying to become a teacher in a year is harder than expected. And with my husband offering incentives (clothes and shoes! ) for high marks all of my attention has turned to my studies. And rightly so I suppose but I should have thought that through before attempting such a lofty goal of 52 books in a year.

So I have offered myself and you this compromise. I’ll do my best. I love reading and writing, and rather than avoiding writing because I am so certain I can’t accomplish my initial goal, I’ll read and write as much as I can manage.

Any who, I’m happy to report that I’m currently sitting on a distinction average in my course, with more high distinction than I have ever seen in my life, so I’m happy with how my teaching ambitions are coming along. It’s exciting to be doing something I like so much.

All my love, xoxo

Next review will be on ‘The Hospital by the River by Dr Catherine Hamilin’ – amazing stuff.

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter break. Levi and I made use of our time off together going to the easter show, riding the Loftus tram with family – which incidentally ticked a ‘must do before I die’ box and having a fantastic easter egg hunt in the garden. It was great.

So I’m still reading, but clearly not writing. I’ve been in an unproductive rut these last few weeks, but bear with me people, I will get there, promise. Until then, here’s some photo’s.

Jade xo

Coming up…

So I’ve been reading at quite a rapid pace, however whenever I sit down to write a review the residual backchat and white noise of unimpressed Year 9 students fills my head with a slow and stead thump, thump, thump.  So until I get it together here a few cover shots of my reading escapades. Love Jade xoxo

It’s been a busy week. The arrival of Tristan Ryan came, my new nephew, born perfect and beautiful to excited parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles and my first week of teaching prac. I’m at my old High School of all places, which was my secret desire amd has turned out really well. My supervising teaching is my old year 12 English teacher and has thrown me right in the deep end, planning and teaching her year 7 and 9 class for the next two weeks. It’s scary and great all at the same time. I have to do it at some point, and I figure some hard work now will pay off when I’m teaching on my own next year.  So it’s exciting times. Obviously the busier I get the harder it is to manage this book a week goal, but I’m still dedicated and hope that someone out there is benefiting from my reviews.  And remember I love comments – they keep me motivated, so I’d love to hear from you. Wishing all my readers the very best for the week to come. xoxo

For me, historical fiction reigns supreme. Like a true and loyal friend, I know I’m not going to be disappointed. And this book was no exception. Dedicated to my kindred spirit Jen Loker for recommending it and being just that type of friend. xo

White Rose Rebel is set in Scotland in the early 1700’s. Anne, the heroine of the novel is loosely based on a historical figure almost entirely lost to time. Scraps of her story that remain, paint the picture of a Scotswomen, who risked everything, including her marriage by defying her husband and going to war for her country’s freedom. Though the novel is fictious, war was rife during this period and Scotland was on the verge of losing all. The last of their customs, freedoms and way of life were about to be lost to the English, much of which would not be regained for hundreds of years if ever.

Against that backdrop we meet the characters who paint the picture of Scottish society and its culture. Their way of life is beautifully portrayed – a people driven by their sense of community and deeply imbedded beliefs of freedom, equality and justice. You can’t help but recognise and relate to what is good and true about their way of life.  Particularly enjoyable were the descriptions of the equality between men and women which were vital to their societies functionality.

Sex and passion are major themes through the novel, as is sexual freedom. One critic describing the book as ‘pacy, racy…a hot little kilt lifter’ which it certainly is. However, I’m a believer that there is a difference between realism,sensationalism and pornography. Many a romantic scene represents much more than a few hot pages. I wouldn’t go as far to say that every novel is pure in its intentions but I think that a characters development and motivations, sexual or otherwise make for a realistic portrayal of time and people in history.

There’s not much left wanting in this novel. I must admit though that I have a love/ hate relationship with the writing technique of ‘long build up/conflict’ for the majority of the novel and then ‘resolution’ for the last few pages, or last chapter if you are lucky. I’m completely drawn in by the emotions it causes ie. fending off the desire to skip 20 pages and find out what happens, being completely unable to eat or sleep until you finish the book etc, but honestly sometimes it’s just heart wrenching!

Paisely writes with great passion for her country. You feel her sense of lost for her countries history and with each page that history becomes introduced to you so poignantly.  She has such a deep, abiding sense of patriotism and a genuine love for her characters. It’s one of those stories you wish wouldn’t end.

In this novel the author has drawn extensively on his own actual experiences as a criminal in exile. After being divorced, Roberts’ life collapsed into drug abuse and he was convicted of a series of armed robberies. After being tortured in prison, he escaped over the wall and fled through New Zealand to India on a false passport. After spending eight years as a renegade in Western Asia and Europe, he was re-captured in Germany and eventually served out the remainder of his sentence in Australia. This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of time he spent in India.

 In writing about this book it is impossible to separate the story from the author. Although the story is evidently well-crafted, it’s impossible to guess how much is fact, how much embellished, and how much complete fiction; I constantly wondered about this. His language is conversational and natural, and carries the conviction of having lived the events: I found it required me to allow a generous dose of poetic license and go along with the story as it is told.

 I love stories and appreciated the well-woven and layered tale that emerges. The narrative is entertaining, surprising and gripping, and maintains a quick pace while developing lush textures. Alongside the narrative is the journaler’s moral observation and introspection. In this novel, Roberts has a strongly philosophical intent and sets forth his own and other’s motives and meanings for a range of challenging ideas and behaviors. At times the themes are heavy and difficult, but rewarding. Roberts looks for – and finds – humanity in the individual irrespective of who or what they may be. He reveals and considers the good and bad in people with depth, compassion and humour, and identifies great triumphs in both trivial and terrible choices. Roberts doesn’t try to justify his frequently nefarious and criminal activities, but presents an honest exposition of the effects of people’s choices in their own and other’s lives. In addressing the battle of morality with intelligence and practicality, this book is a daring victory.

Roberts’ greatest achievement is his power to draw the reader into the scene – and there are many rich scenes in this book. His declarations of love for Bombay are supported and made authentic by a compelling descriptive talent. The devotion he pays in portraying his city makes clear that Roberts really does love Bombay. With the non-judgmental eye of the lover, Roberts portrays the vibrancy, friendliness, corruption, honor, crime, racial tension, kindness, greed and poverty of Bombay with openness and affection. His descriptions of the people and their environment focus on the evocation of feelings, and just as the feeling of a place remains with the traveler long after they have returned home, these feelings of Bombay are what have stayed with me from this book.

 Among the very best Australian novels I have read; for the experience and education it is easily worth the shelf price.

This is an absolute treasure. If by divine intervention, a collection of papers from a society of women known as the Cooperative Correspondence Club (CCC) were discovered by author Jenna Bailey while doing research at the University of Sussex. Spanning much of the 20th Century, these papers tell the story of women living all across the United Kingdom who wrote of their lives, beliefs, hopes and struggles in a magazine, compiled and circulated monthly amongst its members.

Membership was restricted to mothers only, despite motherhood not being the predominant subject matter of the magazine, and no new member was admitted who could not bring something ‘new’ to the content. The magazine was strictly confidential and members wrote under a pseudonym, so as to ensure privacy if a non-member was to ever get their hands on the magazine.

Initially as a response to the loneliness many women felt as wives and mothers living in isolated areas it eventually became a deep friendship network where they could express themselves and receive advice and support like nowhere else. They saw each other through the loss of children, divorce, the war, the depression and an array of other situations. The women were varied in social status, wealth, age and character which gave the women a taste of ‘how the other side lives’  and bought perspective and experience to many of their challenges. The magazine gave hope, comfort and stimulus to extremely smart and educated women who often struggled with their role in the home. They wrote about anything and everything. Some of my favourites include, the theory of how your enjoyment of sex while you are conceiving effects whether you have a boy or girl, the comments on current trends in raising children and the witty and hilarious account of a near murder by one of the members.

Jenna Bailey knew she struck gold when she found the papers of the CCC. Though many had been destroyed by time, the papers she did find formed the foundation of this book. From there she researched the members and their families who filled in the gaps. A few of the members of the CCC were still living and recounted their motivations for writing and what the magazine meant to them while their families spoke of this secret book their mothers treasured and their desire to sneak a peek. From Jenna’s research the history of the members were gathered and offers a great insight into the women.

Women and history is the perfect combination for me. I love reading anything that highlights the lives of women, particularly in times and places I haven’t lived. This book takes you right back in time. Through the often general and common musings of their lives, these women bring to us what it was to live in a time we will never know. However the most magical element for me was just how much we have in common. It seems that joy, heartache, struggle and love are universal concepts, it’s just the backdrop that changes. I feel that each of us could sweep across the generations and find ourselves quite at home discussing life with the CCC, corset and all.

I read this book in completely the wrong conditions. I’d never thought too much about how my life’s conditions really effected the quality of my reading but after giving it some thought during this read, I thought back and realised that so often it does. How many good books have we cast aside because of our own mental state? Or how many books that are generally marred as terrible are glorified because at the time we relate?

I read this book on the train (my usual reading venue, not ideal, but not overtly bad) but it happened to be during my last week of work, which turned out to be the busiest and most stressful of my entire time there. I had exactly the same amount of time I usually would but my head buzzed with the stresses and strains and thus my experience was diminished. Being a light read anyway I wasn’t overly concerned but I liked the idea it raised, that we as avid readers really do have such a deep connection with literature, so much so that how we feel directly impacts the story and its effect on us. I like that.

So the book. It really is a summer read. The type of book you should throw in your bag as you head out to the beach. It’s light, it’s pretty, it deals with fantastic human follies and its about ballet which of course makes you dream of your own childhood dance classes and the dormant thought that you should sign up for some adult ones.

The story follows Galina, a Russian Ballerina from her life in the Imperial Ballet School in pre revolutionary Russia, through her career with Ballet Ruses in France and how she came to be in Adelaide, South Australia. Galina begins writing her life story, as a way to set things straight, when a former colleague appears back in Adelaide and old wounds are reopened. Being a lover of all things ballet, the depiction of the ballet world is beautiful to read but it was the depiction of human characteristics that I liked most about this book. I love how Galina complains of the lack of discipline and commitment the little girls have to their ballet classes! It made me laugh out loud when she says ‘don’t they realise ballet is serious’. It was such a typical Australian folly seen through the eyes of a Russian. I also haven’t experienced ‘spite’ so well described on the page before. Galina has held onto her grudge towards her old colleague for over 20 years and she does it with so much Russian passion and vigor. Without ruining too much of the ending I also love how simple acts can wash away years of anger and rage in just a few seconds – so real, so true.

Although it isn’t the most amazing book in terms of style and language this really is a nice read. It’s an interesting story, takes you through interesting places and deals with real feelings and issues. So next time you are heading on a beach holiday or lazing at a picnic give it a go.

She got into uni!

Well despite all of my fears that I wouldn’t get in I was accepted into a Graduate Diploma of Secondary Education at the University of Wollongong! As you can imagine I was over the moon about it and the flow on effect that I could resign from my job – yay!

I started on Monday (first day of school picture taken by Levi shown below) and it was an intense but great day and I felt all the positive feelings that I was in the right place at the right time. I can’t believe that in a year I will actually be a teacher. It is an exciting and daunting task but I’m hopeful that this year will be fantastic preparation. I’ll be teaching English and Society and Culture and in just 3 weeks I’ll have my first practical – wow!

Thank you all for your love and support. I’m running slightly behind in my reviews but I will be all caught up in the next little bit. I’m also going to have some guest book reviewers in the coming weeks so I hope you enjoy that. Also bring on the comments and discussion, I love to hear from you!

Lots of love,  Jade xo