Tag Archives: Gold Coast

Cheeky and enlightening – my review of ‘Mullumbimby’ by Melissa Lucashenko

14 May

mullumbimbyMullumbimy is Melissa Lucashenko’s fifth novel and is, as the name suggests, set in northern New South Wales.  The protagonist, Jo Breen, is an Aboriginal woman who uses her divorce settlement and the money she earns mowing grass at the Mullumbimby cemetery to buy a block of farmland. She sees this as her own way of reclaiming Bundjalung country and the process of returning her land to health is deeply satisfying.

Jo’s life is already complicated by her artistic and moody teenage daughter and becomes more so with the arrival in town of an outsider, Twoboy. Twoboy and his brother are down from Brisbane to initiate a land claim which stirs up a hornet’s nest of conflicting interests in the area. Jo is reluctant to get embroiled in what promises to be a messy fight. Twoboy, however, is dreadlocked, devastatingly handsome, heterosexual and apparently single. This is practically a miracle as far as Jo is concerned.

Jo also has to come to terms with her new neighbours, including the farmer Rob Starr, who wears expensive boots and erects fences where none seem needed and Granny Narrung, an Aboriginal Elder who Jo initially dismisses for her old-fashioned and uptight Christian ways.

The book is full of cheeky humour and witticisms, such as when Jo first sights Twoboy coming out of a bookshop and immediately wants to rush in and find out what he bought, ‘… hoping – please, oh please – that it wasn’t Armistead Maupin.’

I enjoyed the way Lucashenko used Bundjalung words throughout the novel. This added richness to the story and a glossary at the back provides a handy reference. Jo is troubled by how little she knows about the spirituality of Bundjalung culture and is wary of the looming peak of Wollumbin. ‘She knew Wollumbin was strong men’s business, and to be avoided at all costs.’ The difficulty of maintaining Bundjalung culture and links to land is an ongoing theme throughout the book. The fraught issue of native title is also handled with honesty and insight.

This book can be enjoyed simply as a well-told yarn, but particularly for those of us who live in this area, it is so much more. Mullumbimby offers a window into the living Bundjalung culture and the meaning of the Country which I found both moving and enlightening. It is also a page turner – highly recommended.

This is my fourth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Literati on the Gold Coast is on this Friday and Saturday! I will be talking about ‘Character Care and Maintenance’ on Friday with Jessie Cole and Paula Weston and on Saturday I join a lovely cast of romance writers – Helene Young, Anna Campbell and Keri Arthur on ‘A Course of True Love’. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you.

It’s a bit of a heart breaker – The Fault in our Stars by John Green

14 Apr

fault in our starsThe Fault in Our Stars continues the phenomenon of successful young adult novels which have been embraced by a broader audience. The novel has shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list and was received with glowing reviews. John Green is also the author of three other bestselling young adult novels.

The Fault in Our Stars is a love story about two teenagers with cancer. With a setup like that, you will probably guess that your chances of a happy ending are not good. Sixteen-year-old Hazel and her boyfriend Augustus bond over a book called An Imperial Affliction, which is about a teenage girl with cancer. Unhappy about the way the book ends in mid-story, they set off to Amsterdam to confront its author and ask him to disclose the ending. While the author is less than obliging, the pair find that Amsterdam is a wonderful city in which to fall in love.

The novel is beautifully written and, on the whole, unsentimental. Hazel and Augustus joke about their ‘cancer perks’, such as being served champagne on the plane even though they are underage. It subtly mocks the stereotypical view of the brave and stoic cancer sufferer. When their friend Isaac’s girlfriend dumps him just before he has an operation that will leave him blind, they head over to her place and throw eggs at her car. The teenagers have a fine line in witty dialogue, which may not be realistic, but does make for good reading, ‘”Ma’am,” Augustus said, nodding towards her, “your daughter’s car has just been deservedly egged by a blind man.”’

Hazel is a sensitive soul whose main wish is to minimise the suffering she causes to others. She is a vegetarian and initially resists involvement with Augustus because she is terminally ill. She doesn’t want to be a ‘grenade’, wrecking his life.

Be warned, John Green is not afraid to break your heart. I cried bucket-loads by the end of this book and did end up feeling a little emotionally manipulated as a result, but that is a petty quibble.  The Fault in our Stars is a thoughtful, original and engaging love story. My teenage son also enjoyed it and you can’t ask for more than that. A movie is on the way so keep the tissues handy for that one.

 

I’ll be at Literati on the Gold Coast on the 17 – 18 May which promises to be an action-packed couple of days, and at Carindale Library in Brisbane on the 19 May.  Never a dull moment, hope to see you there!

 

Review – Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerrilla Knitters Institute By Maggie Groff

23 Jun

Mad Men, Bad Girls etc. Is the debut novel by north coast author, Maggie Groff who has previously written two bestselling works of non-fiction.  The novel is a comedy crime caper set between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.

Freelance journalist Scout Davies works at a desk which ‘overlooks Byron’s main thoroughfare, Jonson Street, where the muse in charge of fabulous things has dropped the biggest fancy-dress party in the world.’ Given a job to investigate a dodgy American cult, The Luminous Renaissance of Illustrious Light, which has moved to the Gold Coast, Scout sets to work.

Scout’s sister Harper (her parents were fans of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) also needs her help with an underwear cutter on the loose in her school. This unleashes a second plot strand of cyber-bullying and school politics. Scout goes on the hunt to solve these mysteries, following a number of clues and red herrings.  Adding difficulty is the fact that Scout is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Naturally this creates difficulties out in the field.

There is plenty of danger and intrigue as Scout infiltrates the cult, coming face to face with its ‘Mystic Master’ Serene Cloud, a man who, ‘in another place, in another colour (would) have made a fabulous Santa Claus.’ Also fun is Scout’s mission with the Guerrilla Knitters Institute, a group that leaves stealthy graffiti ‘yarn bombs’ around the town and her banter with her cat and side-kick, Chairman Meow. I enjoyed the Byron Bay flavour as Scout picnics at Wategos and chats with locals.

Mad Men, Bad Girls is a witty, fast moving romp. It has plenty of great lines and a very sexy love interest in the form of a local cop, Rafe, who is possibly a little too good to be true, but who cares? Neither Scout nor Rafe seem to struggle too much with the fact that Rafe is a friend of Scout’s long-term boyfriend who is currently on assignment in Afghanistan.

The plot motors along with almost all of the strands satisfactorily resolved by the end. We leave Scout in love with two men and with an ample cast of lively characters to explore in the next book, which I believe is in the pipeline.  This is light hearted crime in the mode of Kerry Greenwood. Curl up on the couch and enjoy.

This is my ninth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.