Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 3)

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 Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning

The Lost Jewels

Author: Kirsty Manning

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2020

The Author

Kirsty Manning is almost a local girl.  She lives with her husband and three children in the Macedon Ranges. However, Kirsty grew up in country New South Wales. Her travels and study have taken her to most of Europe, United States of America, and parts of Asia. Kirsty’s first novel, The Midsummer Garden, was published in 2017 and was followed by bestselling The Jade Lily.

The Lost Jewels, Kirsty’s third novel, is inspired by a true story, the finding of the Cheapside Hoard — “the greatest single collection of Elizabethan and Stuart jewellery in the world” — in 1912.  

The Book

Romance and intrigue; fact blended with fiction; and travel to exotic locations — what more does one need in these locked-down times?

The principle character, Dr Kate Kirby, historian and jewellery specialist, is asked to write a cover story for a luxury magazine on the jewellery hoard discovered at Cheapside, London, in 1912.  An exciting research project, just the antidote Kate needs at this low point in her life

Kate’s research uncovers a complex history of events surrounding the jewels and an unexpected connection between Essie, Kate’s beloved great-grandmother, and the jewels.

Aussie photographer Marcus Holt is assigned to take the photos for the story.  Marcus comes with a reputation and not just for his individual and energetic style; and on this occasion direct from Heathrow he is replete with surfboard and late for their London Museum meeting. 

Writing in third person, Kirsty has given the reader an easy-to-follow multi-layered story. It is woven around the jewels and three women — Aurelia, Essie and Kate — in three eras: the seventeenth century, Edwardian London and present day.  The storytelling mainly switches between Kate and Essie; after all they are family and a lot of the underlying theme is about family.

However, it is through Aurelia that the seventeenth-century possible origins of the hoard are explained. 

After the London meeting, Kate and Marcus jet off to Hyderabad in India looking for the historical influences that have shaped the history of the jewels. 

Eating in quirky, out-of-the way cafés, touring the mines, then a short break in Sri Lanka before Kate heads back to Paris.  It all seems so easy. I loved this little throwaway phrase, “Kate sat at her favourite table at Chez George”, as a way of giving Kate just that little extra sense of social polish. 

The Lost Jewels was an enjoyable, well-paced and entertaining book. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Frank Thompson, June 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

Ballarat Writers online meetings

Ballarat Writers is planning to host a physical meeting in July, but numbers will be limited in line with COVID-19 social distancing regulations. More details about the July meeting will be available after 12 July.

There is, however, the option to join a Members Night (substitute) Group Chat via Zoom. The July Zoom meeting will be held on 20 July, a week before the scheduled physical meeting.

Please see your newsletter or drop us a line here or on Facebook for details if you don’t have them already.

Write Club

While Racers is once more taking dine-in custom, table seatings are limited to one hour, so it’s not ideal for a physical Write Club. Instead, members are invited to visit the Facebook page on Sundays 2-5pm to share writing time and discussion.

Ballarat Flash

Our monthly members-only flash writing contest is proceeding as usual. Please see the website for details.

Words Out Loud

Our friends at Words Out Loud are looking for contributions to a podcast in lieu of their monthly spoken word events. Details at the website.

Tuning in from home

We also have a list of online events and opportunities to engage with the writing community. Please let us know if you’ve come across other great resources.

Tuning in from home

As we maintain our physical social distancing, here are some options for keeping a finger on the pulse of the writing community online.

Most writers centres are offering webinars on craft and industry topics in lieu of face-to-face workshops. Check out Writers Victoria’s offerings at the website.

Online critique or writing races: tap a friend or three and share some words for feedback, or set a date and time to “meet” online to knock out some wordage and share some messages of encouragement. Or pick a contest from our competitions page, get a posse together and brainstorm and workshop each other’s entries.

EVENTS

Dymocks is running online author interviews in its Chapter One program.

The Guardian has a rolling list of streaming events in the arts and literature and welcomes additions.

The Wheeler Centre has new and archived livestreams available at its website.

The Garrett presents regular interviews with “writers on writing”.

The First Time Podcast talks to writers and industry insiders about first-time publications.

Bendigo Writers Festival is running a Backstory program of writer interviews.

Emerging Writers Festival is online 16-23 June.

Mildura Writers Festival is online 17-19 July

Melbourne Writers Festival is going online in August.

Adelaide Writers Week has made many of its events from this year available online.

The Queenscliffe Literary Festival has had to cancel, but is running an online book club.

The Facebook group Writers Go Forth. Launch. Promote. Party. is promoting writers, especially those whose new books and launch events have been disrupted by COVID-19.

The Social Distancing Festival lists online activities by artists from around the world.

More festival news at this calendar

WORDS

Writing prompts and other cool material with which to while away lockdown couresty of Suleika Jaouad

Melbourne Spoken Word is running a channel on Twitch for live poetry readings with plenty of open mic opportunities. It also has an audio journal, Audacious, of spoken word and poetry from various gigs.

Hundreds of free audio books on Audible

Favourite kids books read by famous actors at Storyline Online

Poetry readings at Poetry Unbound

Ballarat’s Megan J. Riedl is sharing daily ‘Pandemic Poetry’ on her Facebook page

Come across great online content to help inspire your writing? Please share it with us so we can spread the good word! Leave a comment on this post or email publicty AT ballaratwriters.com

BONUS CRITTERS: At the risk of distracting from writing time, Melbourne Zoo is livestreaming footage from some of its animal enclosures – including penguins and OMG snow leopard kittens!

Members’ book discounts

If ever there was a time for saving money on books, this could be it (who are we kidding? It’s always the season for buying books, right?).

So members, please remember that these businesses are supporters of Ballarat Writers and offer a 10% discount if you show your current membership card.

March members night cancelled

In light of current advice about trying to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-1), the committee has cancelled the members’ night scheduled for next Wednesday, March 25.

This is a blow for our members and our venue, but the committee feels the response is appropriate at this stage of the crisis.

The committee also suggests Sunday Write Club gatherings might best not be held in a shared space, given the importance of keeping a social distance at this critical time in the mitigation effort, but online options, such as writing at a common time and sharing word counts, could be investigated.

BW’s friends at Words Out Loud have also cancelled their March event, scheduled for March 19 in Creswick, and are taking a watch-and-see approach to the April event, back in Ballarat.

Likewise, BW will follow expert advice over the coming weeks in deciding whether April’s members’ night will run as scheduled.

The flash fiction contest is open for voting and will be announced at the usual time, and a contest for next month will be run as usual.

Useful links:
Further information about COVID-19 in Australia is available at the federal government website.

Arts practitioners who have lost work or are feeling the strain can get information at I Lost My Gig.

March Words Out Loud – cancelled

Sadly, due to advice about social distancing in the fight to contain COVID-19, Words Out Loud has cancelled the March 19 event in Creswick. It hopes to be back in action at its new base in Ballarat for the April edition, but that will depend on coronavirus developments.

Please see the Words Out Loud website for more information.

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

July Words Out Loud

Words Out Loud takes ‘a shot in the dark’ as its theme for July.

Wordsmiths are invited to explore the theme or simply ignore it altogether.

This is a great opportunity to road test new material, celebrate a success or share some inspiration, or simply enjoy a diverse range of spoken word — poetry, prose or storytelling; read or recited; your own work or someone else’s. Performances are limited to 5 minutes each. Sign up on the night.

Date: Thursday July 11

Time: doors open about 6.30pm, words from 7pm

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Lee Kofman: Writing Compelling Characters and Dialogue

Ballarat Writers Inc is proud to announce that this year we have secured Lee Kofman as judge for the Southern Cross Short Story Competition. Lee will also be presenting a 4-hour workshop on “Writing Compelling Characters and Dialogue”.

This workshop will be held from 1pm – 5pm on Sunday 7th July 2019 in The Printers Room in the basement of Sebastiaans 58–60 Lydiard St N, on the corner of Mair Street, with entry from Mair Street.

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