Fully Sick Backpackers (a short story)

7 Jul

You wouldn’t think changing a hotel’s name would cause such a stir.

I knew that even if I lived to 100 I’d never be a local, but I hadn’t counted on becoming the town pariah in my old age. Not that I care.

I can thank Kenneth’s sister’s son, Derek for the name.

“These scones are fully sick Aunt Jean,” he said to me while tucking in to some afternoon tea after football training.

Well, I saw red. I had him by the ear, before he could stutter out an explanation.

“It…it…it…just means they’re totally awesome.”

The things they come up with. You have to laugh. But the name grew on me. I suppose you could say it was a bit of an ‘up yours’ to the ladies of the CWA. They wouldn’t have me on the committee because I’m from east of the Divide. Not that they said so, but I knew.

The ‘Settlers Rest’ was Kenneth’s first love. And his last. You’d think it’d been in the family for generations, not knocked up in the sixties, the way he carried on about it.

He’ll be turning in his grave now. I’m counting on him getting over it before we meet again.

“The traveling salesmen, that’s our market,” he’d say. “They know a quality hotel when they see one.”

“Move with the times Kenneth,” I’d say. I’d show him the young people in the street with beads in their hair and bags on their backs. Christ knows what they saw in this town. Australiana, I suppose. “We need to get some of them in here. That’s the market of the future.”

“Dirty troublemakers, the lot of them.” Kenneth would say, banging the jugs down on the bar. “Scare off our clientele.”

I always thought they looked nice though. I’d see them down at IGA, pondering over groceries in their foreign accents. It made me wonder what supermarkets were like where they came from, that they seemed to find ours so strange.

Kenneth’s mother hasn’t spoken to me since the sign went up. Her loss.

I’m quite proud of it, especially the smiling Buddha that Derek painted. He said that’s what they like and it seems to’ve worked. He’s a pretty talented kid, though his mother doesn’t think so.

Kenneth was wrong about one thing. The traveling salesmen love my backpackers, particularly the girls. Dear little things they are, with their pierced noses and threadbare clothes. They probably like it here because I remind them of their grandmothers.

I’ve been run off my feet since I got into Lonely Planet. Try Jean’s traditional Australian cooking, it said. Seems that not only are they exotic to me, I am exotic to them.

My scones are their favorite.

“Is this a spashal Orstaylian recipe ma’am?” a lovely American boy asked me.

Got me thinking. I wouldn’t mind seeing a place where they don’t make scones. What do ladies bring to cake stalls in those countries?

If I close my eyes I can picture them leaping out of a Cadillac in sunglasses and high heels with a plate of Pecan Pie in America. I can see them skiing down through the pine trees holding a steaming Apple Strudel in Austria. But what do the mothers do in Japan when the school needs to raise money? Hold a sushi stall?

I asked one of the young Japanese girls.

“Yes, yes, sushi,” she smiled and nodded.

I’m not sure that we understood each other. The idea that there might be completely different ways of doing things wouldn’t leave me alone. Night after night I worried about it. If it wasn’t supermarkets in Sweden or petrol stations in Peru, it was toilets in Tokyo or ice-cream in Indonesia.

Eventually I knew I’d have to find out for myself.

I’ve sewn the Australian flag on my new backpack and I’m counting down the days.

I can hear Kenneth turning in his grave right now.

 

This short story was a winner in the ABC Regional Short Story Competition in 2005 and was read on ABC Radio National. 

Night Calls (a short story)

27 Jun

The dream is always the same – a spinning marble.

He extricates himself from his tangled sheet. The sun is dipping behind the hills. “Time for work.”

The terrier pricks its ears at the sound of his voice.

Feet to the cold lino, he stands and inspects the map taped to the wall.

The red pins move further south each year – south and west. Woodenbong, Evans Head, Casino, Kyogle. These are the invasion fronts.

The enemy is getting better – more cunning, faster moving. It even has longer legs. “I think we can hold ‘em, Rusty, but there’ll be no slacking off.”

The dog wags its tail across the floor.

His bushy, grey eyebrows drop – the prognosis is dire.  “Twenty native animals almost gone for good – and that’s just this valley.”

Picking up on his tone, the dog climbs to its feet. Like its master, its hair is thinning, its legs creaky.

“Lucky we’ve got all night, ‘ay?”

He doesn’t sleep when it’s dark – hasn’t done for thirty-eight years. He’s tried, but it never works.

A sun-spotted hand shifts a pin. Picking up a pen, he circles the area for tonight’s operation. “Goin’ up the range tonight, Rusty.”

It’s a good night. A gentle rain taps on the tin roof. “Should be a decent catch.” He opens the fridge to check the storage – a lump of cheese and half a litre of rancid milk leaves plenty of room. “No worries there, mate.”

Flicking on his torch as he steps onto the verandah, he cocks his head – listening for the call.

Brrrrrr, brrrrr…

The males are calling. It’s like the dial tone of a phone in the rainforest.

Brrrrr, brrrr – is anyone there?

The dog trots behind him, pressing its nose into his leg before jumping into the front seat of the ute.

His first catch of the night is a big one – twelve centimeters. Hand inside a plastic bag he grasps the toad, knots the bag and drops it in his bucket. He gets back in his car, drives slowly down the dirt road.

The mountains rise above him – dark forest stretching all the way to Queensland. Two eyes shine in the headlights. He pulls over – another hopping hunchback. It would be easy to swing the wheel – to flatten it, but that’s not his way. You need to check it’s not a native. It can be hard to tell who’s who and what’s what on a dark night.

A quick grasp, a knot and it’s in the back with the others.

He never knows when it will happen.

A twig snaps behind him.

Instantly he’s back there – heart thumping, hands sweating – every shadow a potential enemy. The forest crowds him. A damp smell of rotting wood rises to his nostrils.

The only way to live is to kill.

            They’re only farmers.

            They’re growing rice for the enemy.

The dog whines, pulling him back.

What was it the Vietnamese said – the core of the body is not the heart, but the stomach?

Your stomach is chopped to pieces.

            What does that mean?

            You are in anguish.

There could be something in that. He still can’t stand the smell of Asian food – would choke on even one grain of rice. When in town he crosses the road to avoid the Thai restaurant.

He pulls out his map and the names blur, shift – are replaced by other names …

Maybe he should have moved somewhere more open – cleared plains. But this is what he knows. If he has a place in this world, it is these mountains.

            If he has a place.,,

It takes ten minutes for his heart to settle.

Back home he updates his records – sex, location, size – then puts his catch in the fridge. In the morning when they’re asleep he’ll move them to the freezer. There’s no need for cruelty. They’re just creatures out of place.

            Destroying without intent.

             Wrong country, wrong time, Mister.

Pulling more thumbtacks from a bowl, he pins them to the map. If there’s a strategy to their invasion he’ll work it out eventually.

Six whiskies into the night the clock hands meet at the top of their circuit. He lifts the phone.

Brrrrr, brrrr…

Calloused fingers touch the numbers, but he doesn’t dial. He imagines a phone ringing in a house in Melbourne he’s never seen. His eyes linger on their photo.

I can’t live with you like this anymore. You’re scaring Becky.

            I’ll get better, just give me time.

            It’s been twenty years – how much time do you need?

“Sometimes I wonder, Rusty, how things might have turned out if I’d been born one day later.”

The dog’s milky eyes regard him steadily. It’s heard this all before.

He pictures a hand digging into a barrel; pulling out the marble with his birth date on it. “Or one day earlier…”

If he hadn’t become a creature forever out of place.

Brrrrr, Brrrr…

He replaces the phone gently. “Come on Rusty, still six hours ‘til dawn.” Picking up his torch, he stumbles into the night.

Beside his path a barred frog glistens in the torchlight, its skin golden between the stripes.

Ok, ok, ok, ok, it calls.

The dog is well-trained. It cocks its ears, but doesn’t move.

Ok, ok, ok…

But without the marble – perhaps he wouldn’t be here… and someone needs to do it. “It’s alright, mate,” he murmurs to the frog. “I’m here now. We’re going to stop them.”

 

This story was the winner of the Byron Bay Writers Festival Short Story Award in 2008 and was originally published in the Northern Rivers Echo. I just came across it again and thought I’d pop it up here. 

Lighthouses and Shipwrecks – my review of ‘Coast’ by Ian Hoskins

20 Jun

Coast-A-History-of-the-New-South-Wales-Edge-by-Ian-Hoskins-610x734In these days of sea-change and the fight for sea views, it’s hard to imagine a time when we shunned the beaches. But our obsession with the coast is a relatively recent one, according to historian, Ian Hoskins. Prior to the turn of the 20th century, our national identity was much more closely linked to the rolling plains and mountains. The early colonists, Hoskins says, avoided living near the beach.

Hoskins has set himself quite a task – to write the first history of the entire NSW coast. Hoskins’ first book, ‘Sydney Harbour: A history’ won the history section of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in 2010. In ‘Coast’, he now sets out to explore our relationship with this 2000 kilometre stretch of shore.

In delving into this subject Hoskins covers a broad territory. Chapters include natural and indigenous history, colonisation, convicts, fishing, lighthouses, surfing and the sea change phenomenon. He points out how as we journey along our coast, we can see traces of all the uses that have come before. Aboriginal fish traps and lighthouses have given way to coastal mansions.

The chapter on the people and politics behind the growth of harbours and shipping makes for fascinating reading. As shipping grew in the colony, so did the shipwrecks. By 1921 1300 vessels had been wrecked on the NSW coast, many disappearing without trace. These disasters led to a call for the coast to be ‘…illuminated like a street with lamps.’ The first lighthouse keeper was established at South Head in 1818 and by 1901 twenty-two lighthouses shone along the NSW coast.

Lightkeepers had to be hardy in these remote locations.  Being a lightkeeper, Hoskins says, was ‘a curious mix of the freedom that comes from inhabiting a near-empty landscape and the regimentation that follows such responsibility.’ His stories include that of the plucky lightkeeper at Cape St George, who took to shark fishing to support his eleven children.   It does seem an enviable lifestyle from the vantage of these overbusy times. But even in the late 1800s a visitor to Montague Island noted that, ‘These people are contented enough, and perhaps there are few of us in the bustling crowd, surrounded with problems that are driving the world crazy, as happy as the residents of this lonely sea-girt island.’

‘Coast’ is a beautifully laid out book with many colour and black and white photos, maps and paintings adding to its charm. Written in a readable style and researched in incredible detail through primary and secondary sources, it will satisfy even the most avid coast lover.

This review initially appeared in Inside History.

I’m looking forward to chairing a panel on lighthouses with Ian Hoskins and ML Stedman, author of ‘The Light Between Oceans’, at the Byron Bay Writers Festival in August.

Tenderness, suspense and dementia – my review of ‘The Night Guest’, Fiona McFarlane

20 Mar

the night guestThe Night Guest is the debut novel by Australian author Fiona McFarlane. This surprising and assured story has just been short-listed for this year’s Stella Prize for Australian Women Writers.

The protagonist of the novel, Ruth, is an elderly woman living on her own in a house by the sea, somewhere on the New South Wales coast. One night she wakes up, thinking she hears a tiger in the house. But she is just imagining it, she tells herself.

Next morning, a woman called Frida arrives at her door. She has been sent by the government, she says, to care for Ruth. Frida appears to Ruth to be Fijian, a characteristic which evokes her trust. Her childhood memories of Fiji press in on her more and more as she ages. But the longer Frida stays, the more reality and fantasy become confused in both Ruth’s and the reader’s mind.

Frida is a character who bursts from the page. Sometimes tender, sometimes fierce, she kept me entranced wondering what she was going to do next. A chameleon, Frida changes her hair daily and shrinks and grows almost magically, in Ruth’s eyes. Suspense grows as she gradually chips away at Ruth’s independence.

Ruth’s wandering lucidity makes her the perfect unreliable narrator. While the reader can fill in some gaps it is hard to know exactly what is going on. A scene where Frida fights the tiger filled me with dread, while doubting its reality at the same time. This element of the story adds a touch of magical realism which is left to the reader to interpret as they will.

The Night Guest was a standout read for me. Something of a psychological thriller, it also covers a wide emotional territory. Ruth’s memories of her first love Richard and her life with her husband interweave with her increasingly bizarre daily life. The story raises themes about aging, trust and dependence

McFarlane tells this story in simple but evocative prose. Inspired, she says, by both her grandmothers having dementia, it is a finely wrought picture of a mind coming undone.

This is a hard book to review without spoilers so I’m going to have to leave it there. Eerie, suspenseful and thought-provoking, I suspect that The Night Guest will be one of my top reads for this year.

My own story about dementia, which coincidentally also features a tiger and Fiji, featured in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on March 14. Read it here

This is my second post for the 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge

Friendship at Forty – my review of ‘Tiddas’ by Anita Heiss

3 Mar

tiddas coverI jumped at the chance to read Tiddas, because while I have read Anita’s memoir, Am I Black Enough for You? I had not yet read any of her women’s fiction. Anita, a proud Wiradjuri woman, has created a whole new genre in fiction — Koori chick-lit. Her novels are about smart, urban, Aboriginal women who like to shop, but are also socially aware and deeply rooted in their culture.

With Tiddas, she departs from her four previous novels about footloose singles by introducing us to a group of women on the cusp of forty. The title of the book means ‘friends’ and the story revolves around five tiddas who grew up together in Mudgee, but have found their way to Brisbane.

The action in the story takes place over about a year and uses the device of a monthly book group meeting as a marker for the changing seasons and lives of the five. The nature and value of female friendship is the thematic backdrop to the way each tidda deals with the central issues in her life.

There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. Having grown up in Brisbane, I loved the setting — the river, the joggers at Kangaroo Point and the gorgeous jacarandas that feature on the cover. The tiddas, Izzy, Veronica, Xanthe, Nadine and Ellen are well-rounded and despite, or maybe because of, their faults they are all likeable and fun to be around. On one level this is a study of issues relevant to all woman of this age — sex, fertility, career and relationships. But the book also gives an insight, through the tiddas, into Aboriginal culture and politics. Izzy, for example, aspires to be Australia’s Oprah, while Xanthe is a cultural awareness trainer and Ellen a funeral celebrant. I found the tiddas’ journeys realistic — their friendship waxes, wanes and sometimes falters. As in life, not everyone gets tied up with a ‘happily ever after’.

Tiddas is a warm-hearted book, which delves gently into both personal and social issues in a way that feels intrinsic to the story. I became involved in the lives of the tiddas and read the book quickly, finishing it with a sense of having been enriched by some lively and intelligent company.

Those of you who live near Byron Bay are lucky because Anita Heiss will be in our town soon… 

I will be discussing Tiddas with Anita at the Byron Bay Library on March 14 5.30pm for 6.00 (Phone 6685 8540 to book) and she is also running a workshop on writing women’s fiction on March 15 (see www.nrwc.org.au).

You can find out more about Anita and the Byron Bay event here. 

This is my first post for the 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge

High Anxiety – my so-called writing process

24 Feb

stressed-woman-cartoon-266x300I was tagged in this fascinating blog chain about how writers write by Kate Belle. Kate and I met at the Elizabeth Jolley Conference, which was the prelude to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference, in Fremantle. As I recall we managed to walk out of one session and — unknowingly — in by another door. Strangely the session we’d just walked into was identical to the one we’d walked out of. It was baffling.

Since meeting Kate, I have gone on to read her novel, The Yearning, which is a beautifully written and very sexy story of a girl’s ongoing obsession with her much-older lover. Kate’s second novel is out in a few months and it sounds like a ‘can’t miss’. Find out more about Kate’s writing here:

Web/Blog: http://ecstasyfiles.com/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/KateBelle.x

Twitter:     @ecstasyfiles

Email:       ecstasyfiles@gmail.com  yearning

So, let me tell you about my so-called writing process…

What am I working on?

I’m finalising my next book which is due for publication in early 2015. It is a story about a trendspotter who has lost her ability to predict the next big thing. So in an effort to find her mojo, she sets off on a pilgrimage with a difference – a big difference.

I am also in the very early stages of something rather different (for me) — a young adult novel. I’m a bit out of my comfort zone, but so far, I’m loving it.

And, I’m just about to submit my thesis for a Masters in Creative Writing – so fingers crossed for smooth sailing there.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, my first two books ‘Liar Bird’ and ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ fall into the genre of chick-lit or romantic comedy. They feature quirky protagonists and are both set on the NSW far north coast, which is where I live. My next novel is a bit of a departure from that as it features an older protagonist and it isn’t as much of a classical rom com, in fact she has some fairly serious issues to deal with. But there’s still plenty of humour and romance and for those who like quirky, I’m pretty sure it ticks that box too.

My writing probably differs from others in its genre in its particular sense of humour. Humour is such an individual thing and all I can do is follow my mind where it takes me and hope others find it funny too.

Why do I write what I do?

Good question. I’d like to pretend it’s a deliberate choice, but in fact this seems to be the only sort of story I can write. I’ve played around with a lot of different styles of writing, but I keep coming back to stories with a humorous bent, written from the point of view of a female protagonist. This goes for my current young adult project too. When you’re on a good thing…

How does my writing process work?

I would love, love, love to be a plotter, but the only time I seriously tried to do this I failed dismally. As soon as I had a plot outline, I completely lost interest in the story. The only thing that keeps me writing is a desire to see how the story is going to turn out. I start with a character I love with a problem she needs to resolve and hit ‘go’. And yes, I do end up in cul-de-sacs and dead ends — it’s inevitable and it’s infuriating, but that’s what first drafts are for. I rely on my writing group to tell me to keep going when I’m convinced — as I often am — that I’m writing the stupidest story ever.

I would now like to introduce you to two writers who will be revealing all about their process this time next week.

losing februaryFirst up, Susanna Freymark. Susanna and I first met at a writing retreat near Byron Bay, many, many years ago and we have also spent a week at Varuna together. As I recall Susanna’s writing process involves loud music and frequent trips to cafes. Her debut novel, ‘Losing February – a story of love, lust and longing,’ was released last year and was described in The Hoopla as ‘un-put-downable’. I can vouch for the fact that it is.

You can find Susanna’s website here .

sweet seductionJennifer St George is a Byron Bay based writer and we first met at my book launch for ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’. Late last year, I attended Jen’s launch for the print release of ‘Sweet Seduction’, which is a compilation of her two novels, ‘Seducing the Secret Heiress’ and ‘The Convenient Bride’. Jen’s books get rave reviews for their characters and blazing hot passion. I did notice that plenty of people were fanning their faces during the reading at her Byron Bay launch.

You can find Jennifer here:

Susanna and Jennifer will be posting about their writing process next week so head on over to their blogs to find out more about this mysterious and individual thing — the writing process.

Winner – Australia Day Blog Hop Giveaway

29 Jan

Thank you to everyone who hopped along and commented on my blog. I loved hearing from you all about your superstitions (or lack of). It was absolutely fascinating. In fact I’m beginning to think I should write a book about it….

I drew a winner randomly and the lucky reader is Erin, who blogs here.  I’ll be getting that book off to you quick smart, Erin.

Very superstitious? (Australia Day Blog Hop)

24 Jan

???????????????????????????????     I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but I do have a tendency to see meaning in things that may be meaningless to others. Often the world seems deeply mysterious to me. Perhaps that comes with being a writer. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in Byron Bay.

I have recently returned from a month in Japan. It was my fourth trip there, so clearly I like it. One of the things I particularly enjoy is seeing the Shinto shrines dotted all over the country. Everywhere you go there is a Tori gate that welcomes you to the spirit world. The Shinto religion has many gods and even objects like trees or rocks are revered for their kami or spirit.

On one of my previous trips to Japan I discovered the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. Soon I started seeing them everywhere. They seemed to be calling me, so I bought a little model of the gods and took them home. My Seven Lucky Gods look a little like the seven dwarfs. They are all plump and smiling. Each one is about the size of a thimble and dressed in brightly coloured robes.

I am a bit of a collector of objects of significance. When I start a new writing project, I am often scanning for a touchstone that will symbolise the story. The object sits next to my computer while I write and it seems to give me courage. I suppose that’s superstitious, but writing is a leap of faith and you take help where you can.

I am currently working on my next novel, which is to be published by Random House in early 2015. The protagonist is a trendspotter who has always been able to predict the next big thing. Until one day she finds she can’t. She needs some help and this is where the Seven Lucky Gods come in.

It wasn’t until I had those gods sitting on my desk that this story really started to take shape for me. It’s been the same for my previous two novels. While I’m a pretty rational person usually, when it comes to writing I need my lucky object.

Do you have a superstitious habit or ‘lucky’ object that you rely on?

Comment on this blog to go into the draw to win a signed print copy of my current novel ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ (or if you’ve already read that one I can send you ‘Liar Bird’).

Happy Australia Day and a big thank you to Shellyrae from Book’d out for organising this Australia Day Blog Hop! australiadaybloghop2014

A Story within a Story: The Storyteller and his Three Daughters by Lian Hearn

14 Dec

the storytellerLian Hearn is the author of the best-selling Tales of the Otori series, which sold over four million copies worldwide. Her latest book, The Storyteller and his Three Daughters, is also set in Japan. The date is 1884 and the storyteller of the title is Sei, a master of the art.

While Sei is renowned for his storytelling, he is starting to feel that times are changing and his old way of telling stories is no longer enough. People in these modern times are craving more excitement, more drama, and more passion. Can he reinvent himself? Sei wonders.

Luckily, or unluckily for Sei, he has three daughters who bring plenty of problems into his life. Two of his daughters leave their husbands. One wants to become an author while the other thinks her husband is in love with his young male assistant.  His third daughter is married to a Kabuki theatre manager who is struggling to keep his show running in the face of rivalries and romance between his players.

The history of the time also provides an added layer of interest. Tensions between Japan and Korea escalate as Japan comes out of its period of isolation and embraces European ways. An English storyteller, Jack Green, gathers a wide audience while Sei ponders how painful those trouser things must be. Hearn’s own passion for Japan is evident as she immerses us in this fascinating culture.

The Storyteller and his Three Daughters is told as a story within a story. It is a reflection on the process of finding stories and telling them and how truth turns into fiction. Lian Hearn has talked about how she found this story. She had a number of the characters in her head – a former samurai, a female medical student, a Korean boy and a Japanese man who loves France – but it was only when Sei, the storyteller started to speak to her that she saw how they could all fit together.

This is a light hearted and in some ways whimsical book with many humorous moments. Lian Hearn is so clearly in charge of her own storytelling that she can take liberties that perhaps a lesser writer could not. Witty, romantic, suspenseful and thought provoking – what more could you ask for from a story?

This is my tenth (and probably final ) review for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2013.

Happy Christmas and I hope Santa brings you lots of books. I’m planning on tackling ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton, which should keep me going for a while.

A traumatic coming of age story – Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’

2 Dec

Donna Tartt sprang to notice in 1992 with the bestselling ‘The Secret History’.  Her second book, ‘The Little Friend’ came out in 2002 and now, her eagerly awaited third novel, ‘The Goldfinch’ is here. That’s a long time between drinks, but it’s a novel worth waiting for.

‘The Goldfinch’ is the story of Theo, a boy whose life is ripped apart at the age of thirteen when his mother dies in an art museum bombing. Theo escapes from the building clutching his mother’s favourite painting. The Goldfinch — which is a real 17th century painting — is a priceless wthe goldfinchork of art. He also has a ring, given to him by a dying man with instructions on where to deliver it.

Despite his best intentions, Theo never quite manages to confess his theft. As time goes on — though still wracked with guilt — he becomes more and more attached to the painting. While he is initially taken in by the wealthy family of a friend, the painting goes with him to Las Vegas when his missing father arrives to claim him. His father – a professional gambler – lives in a sprawl of abandoned mansions on the edge of the desert.

In Vegas, Theo becomes close friends with Boris, a Russian immigrant, and the two neglected boys learn to fend for themselves. The habits of drugs and theft that the boys fall into are hard to escape.  Wherever Theo goes in his life, The Goldfinch casts a shadow, drawing him into the dark underbelly of the art world. This and his unrequited love for Pippa, a girl who also survived the museum bombing, creates a sadness and tension that he is unable to assuage.

‘The Goldfinch’ is a big book at almost 800 pages, but it never flags.   Tartt is a gifted author who provides that rare combination — an elegant turn of phrase and a cracking plot. Theo, Boris, Pippa and other secondary characters such as Theo’s father and his fiancée, Kitsey are all compelling and believable individuals. Tartt has cited Charles Dickens as a literary influence and her story has the same rollicking quality and deeply flawed characters.

‘The Goldfinch’ is a coming of age story, a reflection on the effects of early trauma and a wild ride. I found it deeply satisfying and hard to put down.

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