Tag Archives: library

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

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!

 

Masculinity, sexuality and tenderness – ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ by Jessie Cole

19 Jul

A crashed car on a country road, a fragile young woman and man who collects broken things… These are the elements which introduce Jessie Cole’s debut novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Vincent is something of a drifter, a handyman on the cusp of forty, unpolished, but tender. From the moment he stops to help the young woman he finds sitting beside her crashed car, his life takes a new direction. Rachel, brittle and grieving, returns to Vincent’s house and a strange and intense relationship develops between them.

Vincent’s daughter Gemma is sixteen, and entering the unknown land of male and female relationships. She wonders how she can spend all night talking to a boy and then, ‘at school he acted like he’d never seen me before…’ Gemma has watched Vincent move from woman to woman in the town, always choosing ones with, ‘a half-crazy edge’.  ‘I used to wonder what it was about my dad that attracts these women… But lately I’m thinking maybe I should be worried about what it is that he needs from them.’ Gemma watches with apprehension as the dynamic between Vincent and Rachel changes.

The story is told from the alternate voices of father and daughter. Both voices are strong, distinct and totally authentic. There are some beautiful moments between Gemma and her father such as when Vincent tries to tell her how he feels about Rachel. ‘…I can never explain it, and the more I’d try the weirder it’d sound.’ All three characters struggle to communicate their feelings – the gaps between what they say and what they feel ring loudly.

Set in an isolated valley in the Northern Rivers, the novel explores themes of masculinity and sexuality, communication and miscommunication. In the style of writers like Tim Winton, it is a tense and gripping portrayal of the current that lies beneath relationships in the smallest of towns.

The theme of male violence also pervades the book. Vincent, though compassionate and principled, is quick to anger. I read the book with a knot of apprehension which grew as the story progressed. But what touched me most was its quality of transience. As Vincent reflects, lying next to Rachel, ‘I lay there, still and quiet, knowing that nothing lasts forever, but sort of hoping that it could.’

This is a novel you’ll read quickly and then wish you’d read slowly because you don’t want it to end.

 

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

 

Join Jessie and I in conversation at Lennox Head Library 10.30am on the 24th of July or Lismore Library 5.30pm on the 26th July. Free events. All welcome.

Or, otherwise at the Byron Writers Festival 3-5th August.

Hope to see you there!