A Ramble about Reading

It is about 5pm on the first Sunday in March as I write, and outside my window steady rain is falling in a sheet that obscures the view. It’s been raining for about two weeks now. Much of the coast of lower Queensland and New South Wales is caught in an east coast low that has caused extensive flooding, loss of life, livestock, livelihoods and general mayhem. The east coast of Australia can’t seem to win a trick. First it was the December/January 2020 bushfires, then floods, then COVID, and now, floods again. Just now it has been announced we should expect another 200mm (nearly 8 inches) in the next couple of days.

Personally we are all right – except for a pesky window leak which wets a small part of our bedroom carpet. Since we live in a high-rise apartment block, it is difficult to know the source of the leak. On certain wind directions, you can hear water running down the wall cavity. It’s an external wall, and there is speculation that the drainage pipes are installed in that cavity, and what we are actually hearing is the rainwater running down the pipes. Comforting explanation, but it doesn’t explain why water seeps out from under the skirting board. A hydrographer’s report was requested a couple of years back, but there has been no sign of that yet. Anyway, so long as we are at home, we can get on to it quickly and protect it from spreading with old towels. And to be frank, there is not much point in going out and risking road detours or driving through flooded roads.

The golf course has been under water for two weeks – I mentioned seeing two black swans swimming on a fairway in my last post. In the absence of his regular golf games, Bill has been doing a lot of reading. He hasn’t been a regular reader in the past, but he is sure getting into it at the moment. He recently reread Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel, and then I did. Usually it’s the other way around. Often I pass on to him whatever I have just read. We even sometimes discuss our views afterwards 🙂 . I am currently reading an Australian classic: The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney by Henry Handel Richardson which I doubt will be his cup of tea. And I just finished rereading my childhood copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass which he has politely declined. But what a romp, hey! I was seven when I first read it, so I doubt that I realised the second half was based on a chess game. Puts the characters in an entirely different light.

Bill is currently reading one I won, Ten Thousand Aftershocks, by Michelle Tom, and that is one he has got to before me!

Sometimes the books that come across my desk are from fellow members of the Society Women Writers, such as the memoir Red Herrings for Breakfast by Annabet Ousback, or fellow authors known to me, such as Kate Forsyth, and her reimagined fairy tales. I’ve read two of hers so far, Bitter Greens (based on Rapunzel), and Beauty in Thorns, which is about the pre-Raphaelite artists and spins around the Sleeping Beauty painted by Edward Burne-Jones. Kate and her sister Belinda Murrell are also the joint authors of Searching for Charlotte, which traces their great-great-great-great-grandmother, and demonstrates how she is the author of the first children’s book written in Australia. The Charlotte in this story originally came to Australia as a governess, which leads me on to another non-fiction book I read recently, Great Expectations, by Patricia Clarke, which draws on the letters written by governesses sent to Australia by the Female Middle Class Emigration Society to reconstruct their lives in the colony.

An author with whom I have interacted on a zoom conference, but not met in person is Geraldine Brooks. Most recently I have read Year of Wonders, and in the past I have enjoyed People of the Book and The Secret Chord.

First person accounts of the Holocaust continue to be published, and my most recent read in this sphere is The Nazis Knew my Name, by Magda Hellinger and her daughter Maya Lee.

And, lightening up totally, was the fun quirky read, The Other Side of Beautiful, by Kim Lock. It may have been on account of reading this book that I chose to paint a Kombi van at my sister’s birthday celebration.

Coming back to heavier reads, The Fishing Fleet by Ann de Courcy is partly read, and also recently completed were North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. All three of these were recommended to me for one reason or another, but the last is a difficult task for bedtime reading. One sentence, I seem to remember, went on for seven pages. And I thought I was verbose.

You might have worked out by now that I am not a RomCom or Rural Romance kind of reader, but I can assure you there are plenty of other genres I have read in the last six months. The above books are mostly since November, and a number of them are useful to inform my own writing, which is currently set in 1880s New South Wales.

All the same, some of you may find this ramble piques your interest to search out these books. I have deliberately only included links to them rather than a review or precis of each, otherwise this blog post would have been a small book itself.

And I cannot leave without a mention of my personal friend, Christine Sykes. So far, her published works are the novel The Changing Room, and her memoir Gough and Me. Another novel will be off to the printers very soon.

Meanwhile, I plug away at my historical novel, Louisa’s Legacy, while I hope that one of my pitches for my hybrid memoir/narrative non-fiction Florence & Lucy will bear fruit 🙂

Wishing you all a happy start to the week, and leave you with a couple of pictures of our links golf course.

30 thoughts on “A Ramble about Reading

  1. We’ve seen some flood footage on our news too. It’s obviously been considered so newsworthy that even the trauma of Ukraine was momentarily off our screens. It’s all a bit biblical at the moment isn’t it? Fire, floods and pestilence (Covid still with us and mutating) and now we have a war thrown in. I think you have the right idea to disappear into the alternative worlds offered by books. Good luck with the leak, what a nuisance.

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    • I had a bit of a giggle myself when I read over the blog. The Richard Mahoney one is three books in one volume, so that will keep me occupied for a while. Starts off on the Ballarat (Victoria) goldfields 1850ish, and I keep trying to compare the lay of the land then, with how it looks now.
      I meant to read Louise Penny last year, but I got mixed up and read Barbara Kingsolver instead. It was a good book all the same, ‘Unsheltered’. Perhaps you have read either of those authors.

      We have just entered autumn here, not that we have the colours you would be used to. Spring gardening sounds a wonderful pastime. All we have is some stringy herbs in pots, a zygocactus and an impatiens that are going gang-busters despite our windy balcony. But I have a wonderful outlook of the general gardens which are maintained by a professional gardener who reminds us all every so often, not to go planting our own things!

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    • Oh yes, Don. I read many of her books in my younger years (no TV). Great yarns. And you’re right, (Dame) Ngaio Marsh (RIP) was born in Christchurch New Zealand.
      So far our toesies are still dry, and I’m hoping it stays that way. A storm lashed up again last night about 11pm, so I sat up in bed reading until I got comfortable with the sound of the wind whistling around our bedroom. It was a bit like, ‘I’m in here, and you’re out there – and let’s keep it that way’.

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    • Hi Lynda. A friend did a video of what the golf course looks like this morning after last night’s rain. I’ll try my best to upload that. We were supposed to spend three nights at Wiseman’s Ferry next week, and I am trying to cancel that. I can’t get through on the phone, so I’ve sent an email, although I imagine the internet is out too. Cheers, Gwen

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    • When it rains here, it pours. At first, the ground is so baked hard the water doesn’t penetrate. Then it becomes saturated and claybound so it can’t absorb anymore. Some dams are way, way, over the 100% capacity, but letting it spill will further flood townships downriver. It’s a mess!
      About reading, your library is so extensive you probably will never need to even borrow from the local library, but with your intelligence, experience and insight, Austerlitz might just be your cup of tea. And surely you read Alice in Wonderland at some time? LOL

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  2. That’s an interesting collection, Gwen. I keep downloading books but can’t seem focus or absorb things. the way I used to. Sometimes I can manage a reread.
    Hope you’re all able to get out and about soon. It’s like experiencing a watery lockdown. We’ve had droughts, fires and now floods. I keep thinking of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem. I love that poem.

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    • Oh yes, Mackellar’s poem will live forever I think. It wasn’t until I wrote the post that I realised just what a mish-mash I’ve been reading lately – and I forgot to include Henry Lawson’s short stories 🙂
      I saw a Facebook post yesterday where a woman’s nine-year-old son permanently deleted her book downloads as he was “tidying up” her device. LOL. No ice-cream for him, methinks.
      After a lot of umming and aaahing I did venture out by car this morning. Only fifteen minutes down the road, and it was mostly okay. But on Wednesday I need to take a 90 minute train trip and the website says there will be delays because they are checking the condition of the tracks. Yikes!

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  3. This afternoon, the storms kicked in again in QLD, just hoping there is not as much water in this lot. I think you guys down south are now coping the worst of the rain, hope it eases off soon.

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    • It has been terrible, hasn’t it Sharon? I feel for all those people in Queensland and the NSW northern rivers. And it is not over yet, and as you say, we are copping it now. Various friends have reported localised minor flooding and/or water lapping at their doorstep. I’m guessing you haven’t been immune to that either. Then as fast as the sun peeks out, everything becomes sticky and humid.
      Many thanks for dropping by and commenting, Gwen

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  4. I saw about the terrible floods on television. I hope when the water drains off the golf course the greens won’t take too long to recover. The important thing us that you are safe and well. Have you read any Alexander McCall Smith books? I’m an avid fan of both his Scotland Street and his Sunday Philosophy Club series. Take care, Marion

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    • I thought our floods may have made the international news Marion. I was listening to a local dairy farmer the other day, and he said when pasture has been submerged for more than a few days the grass roots die for lack of oxygen, so I don’t hope there is much hope for the gold course greens if that happens.

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