Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Take Six Girls

When I told my colleague Annie that I had just finished Laura Thompson’s Take Six Girls, she quipped that you couldn’t make the Mitford sisters up. Born into an aristocratic British family between 1904 and 1920, the girls were many things: talented, beautiful, witty – and scandalous. Reflecting the opposing political currents of the time, two were fascists (Diana and Unity) and one a communist (Jessica), while Nancy became a world-famous novelist and Deborah a Duchess. Only the good-natured Pamela kept a low profile, preferring the slow, quiet pleasures of rural life to the limelight. Packed with comedy and tragedy in equal measure, it’s little wonder that the ‘Mitford Industry’ shows little sign of abating.

The last major group biography of the Mitford sisters was Mary S. Lovell’s The Mitford Girls (2001). Thompson’s book is heavily indebted to Lovell’s but, for my money, is the better of the two. Although her conservatism irksomely shows through here and there, Thompson’s prose is – not unlike Nancy’s – elegant and wry, with keen psychological insight and a good feeling for the eccentricities of the British upper class. Take, for example, this memorable description of the girls’ iconic status:

They are part Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, part Patti Hearst in the Symbionese Liberation Army,  part Country Life girls in pearls, part Malory Towers midnight feasters, part marble frieze of smiling young goddesses. Their significance has become detached from the realities of their own times, and is now a significance of image; as most things are today.

Thompson’s book is useful and pleasurable because it fully situates the Mitfords in their time and place, a polarised society – not unlike ours – shaped by furiously partisan politics and a strengthening far right. For once, too, Unity’s tragedy is given its full human dimension, the Hitler fanatic portrayed neither jokingly nor sympathetically but rather as a complex and rather sad figure.

Of course, though, it is Diana and Nancy – the ‘white and black queen’ of the Mitford girls, in Thompson’s phrase – who dominate the book. Thompson maps out their very different journeys with plenty of revealing detail, charting the darkly fascinating Diana’s all-consuming passion for the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and Nancy’s descent into the hellish illness that would claim her life.

Whatever one thinks of the Mitford sisters – and there is plenty to dislike in their unearned privilege and attraction to abhorrent ideologies – ‘it is impossible,’ as Thompson writes, ‘to find them boring’.

From the Wreck

Humans have always had a fascination for the sea, as well as a fascination for the stars. Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck masterfully brings together these little-understood, far-off places with a truly human story, set in the familiar location of the burgeoning colony of Adelaide.

When a man miraculously survives the 1859 wreck of the Admella, thanks to the efforts of a strange, otherworldly life-form in the guise of a woman, he becomes obsessed with finding her again on dry land. This haunting, lyrical book explores the lengths people will go to when confronted with the unknown, and the universal desire to find one’s place in the world.

Full of spirited, modern characters, this historical-cum-science-fiction novel draws comparisons with Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. I highly recommend that you lose yourself in its depths.

The Anxiety Book

Elisa Black is a health journalist from the Adelaide Hills, who has lived with anxiety her whole life. Recently, she has published The Anxiety Book, which is part memoir, part pop psychology – with Elisa herself as the guinea pig. It is honest, searching and well-researched and contains surprising (and necessary) moments of humour.

anxiety book

She chronicles the course of her anxiety alongside the course of her life, as the one has dictated the other in so many crucial instances. She includes stories from multiple other sufferers, showing that there is no one anxious ‘type’ – one in ten Australians experience it every year. Throughout the book, Black pits her anxiety against hope, and it is this hope of living a life without the effects of anxiety that has led her to share her story.

The book arose from an article in the Advertiser that went viral, in which Elisa wrote about her recent success with a simple vitamin regime, after years of trying to find a solution for her crushing illness. By taking folinic acid alongside some other naturally occurring vitamins, Black has been able to correct an abnormality in the expression of her MTHFR gene. While this treatment does not yet have the research to back it up, for Elisa it has worked when so many other methods have not, and she is not alone.

As in the best memoirs, I came away feeling I had a whole picture of a person; what’s more, the kind of person with whom you can drink a pot of tea and have a good laugh (or cry, as necessary).

Come along to Mostly Books at 7 pm on Wednesday the 8th of June to hear Elisa speak about her experiences. Please RSVP via phone or email – tea, coffee and wine provided on the night.

On ‘liking’ and ‘appreciation’

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Is there a difference between ‘liking’ something and ‘appreciating’ it?

If you’ve read my review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, you’ll know that I enjoyed reading it but thought it lacked substance (especially given how long it is).

This brought me to thinking about something that has been in my head for a while now: the idea of ‘liking’ versus that of ‘appreciation’. What I mean by this is that there can be a difference between liking something and appreciating its literary merits. Studying texts in a school environment for the past few years has made me more aware of this and now I think that I can form and articulate some cohesive thoughts on the subject.

What is ‘liking’ and what is ‘appreciation’?

In my mind, these two terms have distinct meanings and ideas associated with them.

‘Liking’ is when I enjoy something, regardless of whether it has (in my opinion or in anyone else’s) literary merit.

‘Appreciation’ is when I can understand why something is respected or liked by other people, regardless of whether or not I enjoyed reading it.

And on the topic of definitions, I used the term ‘literary merit’ above. To me, this means that a text has inherent value that can be seen by reading critically

Is there a difference between ‘liking’ and ‘appreciation’?

In terms of dictionary definitions, there most certainly is a difference between ‘liking’ and ‘appreciating’ something, but dictionary definitions aren’t the point of me thinking about this question. I am more interested in asking whether a distinction can be made, and, perhaps more importantly, if one needs to be made between these two terms. The latter question is very much subjective, but I think one that is still useful to ask.

Festive Five gift book list #1

The silly season is creeping up on us again – and what better gift for the loved ones on your list than a wonderful, well-chosen book!

Over the next few weeks we will be perusing our collection in-store, and posting some of our top picks here to help you choose. New releases, old favorites, food for thought and fuel for laughter, there’s something for everyone!

Here is our first list of five, to get you started:

1. For Foodies:
Inspire your aspring chef with NOPI by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramuel Scully

NOPI, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramuel Scully

“In collaboration with NOPI’s head chef Ramuel Scully, Yotam’s journey from the Middle East to the Far East is one of big and bold flavours, with surprising twists along the way.”
Suggested by Kate

2. For the young and young-at-heart:
Enchant their imaginations with Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall – a true story filled with wonder!

Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall

Truth is every bit as delightful as fiction in this fascinating, adventurous and sweet story of the real-life bear who inspired A.A. Milne to create Winnie-the-Pooh. Warmly told by the great-great grandaughter of the war veterinarian who adopted ‘Winnie’, and beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
Suggested by Robin

3. For the creatives in your life:
9780500500521Get their stitchin’ fingers itchin’ with The Craft Companion, by Ramona Barry and Rebecca Jobson

Craft has transcended the domestic and is now thriving in every creative sphere – food, fashion, fine art, architecture and more! The craft revival shows an increasing appreciation of community and DIY approaches to life. From embroidery and felting to collage and macrame, The Craft Companion features over 30 new and old crafting techniques. Each chapter looks at the evolution of a craft, contemporary artists working with the medium, as well as tools and techniques to get you started – plus a project you can do at home.
Suggested by Kate and Robin

4. For the wanderlusty:
Dazzle their senses with Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World
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The breath-taking photography in Beautiful World will take you to the planet’s most magnificent places. Thought-provoking insights into these incredible scenes will leave you in awe and with itchy feet.
Suggested by Kate

5. For the story lover:
An extraordinary re-imagining of King David’s rise to power and fall from grace in Geraldine Brooks’ The Secret Chord

Part legend, part history, all drama and richly drawn detail; with stunning originality, acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks offers us a compelling portrait of a morally complex hero from this strange and wonderful age.
Suggested by Ben


And now we’ll stick our noses back into the fabulous range of books in-store to put together our second Festive Five gift book list! Happy reading until then!

 

‘An Ordinary Madness’ – Lorna Hallahan Launches ‘The Anchoress’

Two weeks ago, Robyn Cadwallader’s amazing book The Anchoress was launched at Dymocks in Rundle Mall. I was unable to be there on the night, but a friend was kind enough to email me the beautiful speech that Lorna Hallahan delivered. It impressed me so much that I asked Lorna if we could republish it here, and she has kindly granted permission.

The Anchoress by Robin Cadwallader: launched!

Good evening and welcome.

I’m going to do things in three moves. I’ll do the first and then explain the other two.

Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge that we meet this evening on Kaurna land, and to pay my respects to Kaurna elders past and present.

I’m going to address all of you gathered here and I’m going to talk about what I think of The Anchoress. Then, Robyn, I want to address you directly.

The AnchoressThe Anchoress starts as such a claustrophobic tale. Take yourself back eight hundred years and find yourself in a room no longer than ten small paces and half that width, with the door nailed shut, a small hole or squint through which to view the Mass, a door to a similarly shut-off maid’s parlour and a heavily curtained window through which you can speak only to other women and a couple of designated men. Imagine committing yourself to live like that for the rest of your life. Imagine that you are seventeen years old. Imagine that many of your memories of your early life are filled with loss, sorrow and fear.  When I got to here I realised I was scarcely breathing, not because I was captured by the thrill of the story but because I was captured. I invite you to also be captured. And I promise I will deliver no spoilers. Continue reading ‘An Ordinary Madness’ – Lorna Hallahan Launches ‘The Anchoress’

Deeper Water

cov_deeperwaterIt is hard to believe that Deeper Water is only Jessie Cole’s second novel. Her prose is assured and graceful as she expands the ripples of a stranger’s arrival ever wider across a remote New South Wales community. Cole explores issues of family, identity and environment in a story that swells slowly but surely towards overflowing its banks.

Mema’s family have always been on the outskirts, both physically and emotionally. She now lives alone with her mother, with brothers and fathers conspicuously absent. The two women exist in a simple, silent routine, carrying out farmyard duties on their property, until a car runs off a bridge in a flood. Mema is forced to expand her horizons beyond her innocent, rustic lifestyle. We develop an intimate understanding of this naïve, gentle and caring individual who discovers a depth of feeling within herself that she never thought possible.

This is a novel of truth, power and beauty, soaked through with a lush sense of a place that is truly Cole’s own. It is the best Australian book I’ve read this year; sensual, evocative and broad in scope, it is definitely one to lose yourself in.