Sunday, July 27, 2014

"The Family Frying Pan" by Bryce Courtenay

I borrowed this audio book from the local library and listened to all 7 CDs over the course of the weekend. I really enjoyed it...and think I may even have appreciated it more as an audio book than if I had tried to read it myself, as the narrators did such a great job of bringing the characters voices to life, complete with Russian accents.

This is really a collection of short stories that are all woven together, and although I generally am not a huge fan of short stories, I really enjoyed this book and the way the different short stories all linked into the overarching story. The book follows a group of refugees trying to escape Russia during the time of Tsar Nicholas II, fleeing for different reasons and united only by chance and circumstances on the road. Each night when they gather around the fire and cook up whatever scraps they have managed to gather during the day for their meagre meal they take turns sharing their stories of their past lives and how they ended up where they are now. It's often heartbreakingly sad, but some of the stories are full of beauty and capture the very best as well as the worst of human nature. For anyone who has read it, the story of Cleopatra's cat is one of my favourites. Apart from enjoying listening to this tale, I also learned little snippets of interesting Russian history. I really like novels that have some aspects of truth and history embedded in them as it makes the stories more realistic and I also learn something at the same time. Bryce Courtenay's books always seem to be very well researched and full of little details from history... I don't think I've ever read a bad book by Bryce Courtenay and this was not an exception.

Started listening: 26th July 2014
Finished: 27th July 2014
My score: 8/10
Aussie Author Challenge stats: Male author, Fiction, Short (linked) stories, historical fiction.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"All that I am" by Anne Funder

Started reading on 21st July 2014 as part of the Aussie Author Challenge. My review will appear here once I've finished reading the book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"The Undesirables" by Mark Isaacs

I am reading this book as part of the Aussie Author Challenge. It is a non-fiction book, written by an Australian who worked for the Salvation Army inside the Nauru detention centre providing humanitarian aid to the men interned in the camp. It is meant to be an eye witness account describing what really goes on behind the doors that our government seems to be doing it's best to keep closed to us. I'm quite disturbed by some of the recent accounts of how the Australian government is handling asylum seekers attempting to reach our country by boat, and this has prompted me to find out more, and to pick up this book, which I'm sure will not be light or easy reading.

I found this book to be compelling reading. I wish all Australians would read it, to gain insight into how our government has been (and still is) treating asylum seekers. This book does not lecture the reader in any way, it does not side with either the Labor or Liberal side of politics, it just provides a personal account of an aid worker in the Nauru detention centre over 5 separate rotations. The book is written in a style that is down-to-earth and easily relatable, with lots of explanations of policy, laws and rhetoric surrounding the Government's treatment of asylum seekers. The author brings to life the real human stories of many of the men detained indefinitely on Nauru, giving insight into different cultures, the horrors many were fleeing, the journey's they made in attempts to get to Australia, how desperate they were to even consider getting on one of those boats to seek asylum. It also details the often inhumane conditions they are being kept in, the despair of not knowing what their future holds, the mental illnesses arising from their treatment and living conditions, the riots, the hunger strikes, the suicide attempts. Yet it is not all depressing, the book is full of beautiful, poetic, heartbreaking moments, men finding joy in the most miniscule positive occurrences, the friendships formed between the detained men and the author.
For me, this book was gripping and I could barely put it down. Personally I am appalled at what I have discovered by reading this book, and am now actively looking into ways I can help asylum seekers or refugees in my community...or to advocate for fairer policies relating to their detention and processing. I can no longer in good consciousness turn a blind eye to what is being done by our Government to innocent and desperate people seeking our help.We are supposed to be the country where everyone gets a 'fair go', but nothing could be further from the truth for many of these asylum seekers.

Started reading: 16th July 2014
Finished: 21st July 2014
My score: 10/10

Here is a recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald about "The Undesirables" that you might also want to read. 

Aussie Author Stats: Male author, New author to me, Non Fiction genre, First published in 2014