Tag: book review

Book review: Beloved: a Word Banquet by Amy Tsilemanis

Author: Poems by Amy Tsilemanis with images by the late Susie Surtees

Publisher: Amy Tsilemanis

Book Design: Tiffany Titshall

Year: 2020

Genre: Poetry

ISBN:  978-0-646-82011-8

Cover of Beloved: a Word Banquet

The Author

At the time Ballarat’s Word Banquet was running, Amy was a PhD student at Federation University working across the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) and the Arts Academy. This research was based on her practice as curator at the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute (2016-2019).

In 2019 she was nominated for the Ballarat Heritage Awards‘ inaugural Mayoral Award for emerging heritage and design practitioners

Amy has always loved storytelling and creating unique, beautiful and thought-provoking things. She loves making ideas happen through innovative projects and events.

Amy is based in Ballarat and is involved with curation and research on various local projects around arts, culture and heritage.

Word Banquet

Word Banquet was a monthly literary discussion group run by the late Susie Surtees with assistance from Amy Tsilemanis at the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute in 2018: “a participatory experience with other lovers of the words and ideas that move, inspire, and change us”. 

The Book

They say good things come in small packages. This book is more than a simple book of prose, it is a commemorative item, desirable and collectable. Beautifully presented, from the hard cover with the symbolic image of ginkgo leaves to the luxurious, thick pages, it is a tactile delight. Beloved: a Word Banquet is an apt title for a book in memory of friendship and kindred spirits.

I must admit to a slight bias, having attended three Word Banquet sessions and thoroughly enjoying each of them.  They opened the door to a richer world.  This book perfectly captures the mood and sentiment of those relaxed, civilised conversational events.

Beloved: a Word Banquet is to be launched online on 1 August, 2020; see the Facebook event for details

The images in the book are a mixture of symbolism, memory, and natural beauty. The cover image of ginkgo leaves with their soft rain-laden colours and association with peace and duality is a testament to how Susie viewed the world.

The images and writing are informed by deep philosophical understanding, years of reading, learning and research.  Amy’s poem for May I found particularly resonant for its observations of the social impact of advancing technological communications.

To me this book speaks of a richer life, where ambition is not about possession and power but for learning and love. Communication, through words and images, transcending place and time, but always with respect and consideration for others.

I am glad to have this book – a beautiful memory.

Reviewed by: Frank Thompson, July 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

Book review: The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal

Title:                The Deceptions

Author:            Suzanne Leal

Publisher:        Allen & Unwin, 2020

Suzanne Leal has published two previous novels—The Teacher’s Secret and Border Street.

She was the senior judge for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards from 2017 to 2019.

Suzanne is a lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law.

This current novel, published in 2020, is a work of fiction. However, it was inspired by a story as told to Suzanne by her neighbour, who, along with his wife, was a Holocaust survivor.

The novel centres on the main character Hana, who tells of her life and experiences as a young Jewish woman during the Second World War. She lives with her family in Prague, then is interned in a Jewish ghetto in Theresienstadt.   There she meets Karl, a Czech gendarme, who has been assigned to the camp. This event leads to catastrophic changes in the direction and outcome of Hana’s life.

From this premise, the story moves back and forwards over time and countries, as Hana’s life, and the family she creates, evolve.  No one person is left unscathed by their life’s experiences.

The novel brings together the present and the past, when the titular deceptions are finally disclosed, and the repercussions for all are tragic.

The author has taken a story of the Holocaust and written a novel that is gripping. It is not an easy read. Suzanne Leal has written in graphic detail life in the concentration camp to which Hanna was eventually sent. It opens our eyes to the horrors experienced by so many millions of people, and the long term effects of the war on extended families. 

It is confronting, but these stories need to be told, and Suzanne Leal has certainly done that in The Deceptions.

Reviewed by: Linda Young, July 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

Book review: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson

Author: Leah Purcell

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia, 2019

the drover's wife by leah purcell

Leah Purcell is an award-winning writer and has a background as a playwright, actor and film producer amongst other achievements.  This novel has been adapted for film, which is slated for release this year.

This historical fiction novel, based on a short story written by Henry Lawson, provides a stark sense of our history, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Set in the late 1800s, The Drover’s Wife tells of the harsh and almost impossible conditions that were endured during white settlement. The plot focuses mainly on Molly Johnson who, with her children, waits for her husband to return from months away droving. They live in an isolated hut in the High Country where, with the help of her eldest son, Danny, Molly and the children survive and cope on their own, including the birthing of a baby.

A visitor arrives unexpectedly. Yodaka is keen to be away from civilisation and begs time to recover from the injuries he’s received on the run. Eventually Molly discovers that Yodaka is the holder of knowledge that Molly eventually understands.

The book depicts the best and worst of human behaviour: cruelty, degradation, humour, love and a will to survive. The intriguing plot invites the reader to travel in the shoes of the tenacious and suffering Molly Johnson, the drover’s wife.

This story lingered in my thoughts for weeks after finishing the novel and I quickly fell back into the emotive ambience of the book while writing this review. I loved the book – it made me think yet again about colonisation and our (I’m a white Australian) role that has never been fully owned up to. The writer integrated and treated the issues of women and their place in history and society with clarity and directness.

Thanks, Leah Purcell. I couldn’t put this book down.

Reviewed by:

Heather Whitford Roche, Jan 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

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