Archive | August, 2012

Men and Babies – ‘Sweet Old World’ by Deborah Robertson

14 Aug

David, a freelance journalist and writer, lives on Inishmore, a harsh island off the coast of Ireland.  A place where people come ‘for the wild beauty and the five thousand years of history, the Celtic legends and the burial sites of saints. They’re coming for the drink and the sex and the craic.’ David has come to live there in order to help his divorced sister, Orla, run a guesthouse.

David is forty-three years old. With many unfulfilling relationships behind him, he is now yearning for something more. Not satisfied with being a much-loved uncle to his three nephews, he wants a child of his own. ‘He is full of hope. And this is what he doesn’t talk about: he wants to be a father, now, not later. He doesn’t want to waste one more minute of his life.’ David is conscious of aging – he has a back injury incurred on the same night he realised his desire to have a child – but thinks there is still time.  He imagines a phantom child running through the house.

When Ettie, a seventeen year old Australian girl, has a serious accident after leaving David’s house, her mother, Tania, comes into his life. As a tentative love unfolds between them, David dares to imagine a long-desired future – a baby in his bed. But Tania starts to question his motives and, even to the reader, they are not totally clear. Small events begin to erode her trust.

The author has said that she started this novel as a story about three sisters grappling with infertility, but became bored with it, realising that the male view on this subject was one that interested her more. The desire of single, heterosexual men to have children is not one that is much explored in our culture.

Sweet Old World is Deborah Robertson’s second novel. Her first, Careless, was short listed for the Miles Franklin in 1998 and she has also published a book of short stories, Proudflesh.

                I read this book in one flu-bound day in bed and shed a few tears at the end. Like all good fiction, Sweet Old World drew me deep into another reality. Beautifully written, complex and subtle it explores a little known emotional realm. A lovely, lyrical, heartfelt story about loss, longing and hope.

This is my 11th review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

I will be at the ARRA mega book signing event on the Gold Coast this Friday (17th). Do say hello if you’re there!

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Lights, camera, um… (coming out in Byron Bay)

6 Aug

Well, I’m starting to recover from the excitement of the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Highlights for me:

–   Rubbing ink off Isobel Carmody’s face in the book signing tent.

–   Sitting next to Tom Keneally in the book signing tent. I was able to reminisce briefly about the fact that I taught him cross-country skiing back in the late ‘80s. He says he can ski properly now and just got back from Vaile. Tom Keneally is like Peter Pan – he never ages.

–  Participating in the debut author’s panel with Amanda Webster, Shamus Sillar and Jessie Cole. Such a lovely and receptive crowd and a varied group of authors. Amanda Webster made me cry, Shamus Sillar made me laugh and Jessie Cole had me in awe at the quality and impact of her writing. A special thanks to those two lovely ladies who couldn’t decide whose books to buy afterwards and so bought them all – we love you!

–          Panel-wise, I especially enjoyed seeing climate change campaigner Anna Rose and chatting briefly afterwards. Anna was excited to learn that I’m currently writing a romantic comedy about climate change. I was excited to learn that her book Madlands, is practically a romantic comedy itself – it ends in a wedding!

What else? John Marsden drinks Coke Zero, Hannie Rayson can put on lipstick without a mirror, Andy Griffiths has the biggest book signing queue, Leanne Hall gets into character by crawling around on soccer fields at night, and I still haven’t met Martin Chatterton, even though he lives in the same small town as me.

And I think that might be about it for my brushes (and lack of brushes) with literary fame and glamour. Now I can retire with relief back to my cave.

Photo: Debut authors before the panel