The Laughing Kookaburra can be identified immediately by both plumage and call. The cackling laugh is often used in scary jungle movies.
Laughing Kookaburras are found throughout eastern Australia. They feed mostly on insects, worms and crustaceans (like the yabby crayfish above) although small snakes, mammals, frogs and birds may also be eaten. Prey is seized by pouncing from a convenient perch. The meal is eaten whole, but larger prey is killed by bashing it against the ground or tree branch.
The kookaburra photograph (above) was taken at Crows Nest, located 44km north-east of Toowoomba on the Great Dividing Range, Queensland. It is one of the larger members of the kingfisher family with a wingspan 64cm-66cm (25in-26in).
I have always loved keen-eyed, stocky little kookaburras. Suburban kookaburras living in parkland sometimes loiter around barbecue cooking areas. They are not dangerous birds and rather stand-offish but I would not encourage them with human food. That powerful beak is better suited to nature’s diet.
Laughing Kookaburra feathers are generally off-white below, faintly barred with dark brown, and brown on the back and wings. The tail is more rufous, broadly barred with black. There is a conspicuous dark brown eye-stripe through the face, like an old-fashioned burglar mask.
My grandfather was an artist, woodcarver and bespoke furniture maker, and he designed and cast this laughing kookaburra (above) in a plaster mould. After hand-painting the kookaburra, he framed it in the minimalist style of 1960s. Both he and my grandmother (a needleworker extraordinaire) created Australian designs when many things were influenced by British and European artisans.
The kookaburra’s scientific name is Dacelo novaeguineae but the name ‘kookaburra’ is generally believed to be derived from the original term ‘grab a stick’ or ‘gougou garrdga’ in Kamilaroi/Euhlayi language.
Group kookaburra calls are best heard in early morning and at dusk, and are crazy loud if you are standing under their tree.
A group of kookaburras is called ‘a riot of kookaburras’ because of the raucous noise.
Studies have shown that kookaburras pair for life. The nest is usually a bare chamber in a naturally occurring tree hollow. The breeding season is August to January and every bird in the family group shares parenting duties. The ideal set-up really.
The literary equivalent of a supernova, sheer plotting brilliance, mind blown!
The Trolls are looking hungry and humans are on the menu. In besieged Cornwall, unhealthy scenarios are playing out and Jennifer Strange, Court Mystician to the Kingdom of Snodd, does not like it one bit.
Jennifer is always cool under pressure and prepares to take action, indeed it is her destiny. She is joined by her best friend Tiger, the sword Exhorbitus, a VW Beetle with links to her past, and a Quarkbeast. Meanwhile megolomaniac Mighty Shandar is a sorcerer out to conquer the world and needs another Quarkbeast to do it.
Jennifer hopes the Button Trench will hold back the ravenous hordes and that Mighty Shandar will back off. He ain’t gettin’ her Quarkbeast that’s for sure.
Unfortunately even regular characters Lady Mawgon and sorceress Once Magnificent Boo are floundering to find ways to thwart the ever-expanding evil. Drooling Trolls are multiplying daily and Mighty Shandar’s over-inflated ego expands by the minute.
In the mix are—Royal Princess Shazine Snodd in a commoner’s body whom glamour boy Sir Matt Grifflon is keen to marry; Mighty Shandar’s obsequious assistant Miss D’Argento; the two delightful reconnaissance dragons Feldspar and Colin (I learned how dragons make flames) plus integral quirky characters throughout. The likes of Kevin Zip and Full Price add to the story and you will probably recognise their personalities whether or not you have read the other books. But as the ubiquitous footnotes hint, read the other books!
Just as The Big Bang Theory song says “Maths, science, history, unravelling the mystery…” this book has it all, from subtle throwbacks, movie references, intertextuality, the Chrysler Building, to a very different type of submarine Bellerophon. I was surprised by an unexpected, unnamed Special Guest appearance—breaking the fourth wall—I would love to say who and why but in respect to spoilers I will abstain.
Over the years, author Jasper Fforde’s signature wit has given his readers a slightly skewed look at locations in Wales but this time it’s Penzance where Bergerac TV actor John Nettles has become an icon, venerated with a bronze statue in the town square. Jennifer ponders her life as she strolls through beautiful Morrab Gardens.
+Jasper Fforde will be in North Cornwall for the Book Festival 24-25 September 2022+
I think Royal pomp and circumstance take a bit of a pounding in this Dragonslayer plot, so the unscheduled appearance of Molly the Troll is a zany twist. As Jennifer says “I can’t think of much that isn’t weird about all this.” The wizard Great Zambini says “Bigger and bolder than anything you can imagine” and he’s right. Jennifer knows a reconnoitre is needed so she and the dragons set off on a dangerous mission with devastating results and further repercussions.
The Great Troll War is the ingenious fourth and final book in The Last Dragonslayer series promoted at young adult readers but I believe it sits nicely in that unique niche reserved for novels devoured by all age groups. Those interested in a retro-present-day twist on believability, tweaking the norm and perhaps even glimpsing into the future while grounded in the everyday.
Find out the truth about the orphanage and Jennifer’s absentee parents, what role buttons play, and how not to recruit warriors. Oh, yes, stay away from creepy Hollow Men. I loved the chunks of humour and lightbulb moments as strategies are worked out amid the ever-present whiff of disaster and universal annihilation.
At the heart of The Great Troll War Jasper Fforde has written a relatable fantasy sci-fi story about the power of friendship and trust, with strong messages on clear-thinking and using available knowledge to work out the best, most logical and kindest way to end a war before it starts.
Jennifer certainly has a tough job.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
The Last Dragonslayer synopsis for the series below:
The Last Dragonslayer (2010) In which we meet Jennifer Strange, learn about Kazam and a Dragon is despatched but not without magnificent events that lead on to a Big Magic.
The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011) The King wants to control magic and use it for his own ends, but Jennifer and Kazam will not let that happen, and we learn what may happen if Quarkbeasts collide.
The Eye of Zoltar (2013) Jennifer goes on what is emphatically not a quest in the Cambrian Empire. She finds the mysterious Eye of Zoltar and also learns a thing or two about Jeopardy Tourism.
The Great Troll War (2021) A ramshackle band of humans hold out against the Troll invaders led by Jennifer Strange. An evil mastermind is plotting a dastardly plan, and all seems hopeless. Or is it?
Special Features section on the website has details about each book, places to order it, and a host of extra information. None of Jasper Fforde’s books have a chapter 13. You can read more on his website: FAQ
Some of the nominees are dinosaurs. My family has always been fascinated by dinosaurs. From books, movies, kids series to figurines, they have loomed large in our home for many years. Now Queenslanders of all ages have the opportunity to help choose the 10th official State emblem, a fossil—it doesn’t have to be a dinosaur.
Choosing a Fossil Emblem
There are 12 fossil candidates lined up for the honour of being our State’s newest emblem. “Did you know in the Early Cretaceous Period, inland seas covered much of Outback Queensland? This means that Queensland has some of the most exciting fossil museums, dinosaur trails and discovery centres in the world, including the internationally renowned fossil sites of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area.“
“Outback Queensland towns like Hughenden, Richmond and Winton are on Australia’s Dinosaur Trail, and many other Outback areas such as Eromanga, Eulo and Quilpie regularly attract fossil hunters and dinosaur lovers.”
All Shapes and Sizes
I am surprised that as well as featuring large prehistoric creatures, the endearing platypus is on the list, and Lovellea wintonensis, the oldest known permineralised fossil flower (which dinosaurs munched on).
Select your preference for Queensland’s newest fossil emblem—
Visit the website View the illustrations Read the history Click a million years in the making!
Many people read more than one book at a time and I have been doing this for several years. If one book is slow or doesn’t capture my immediate interest, I switch to another one. Plots and characters never seem to get confused because I usually read different genres.
And I always like to finish a book!
Watch out for a special blog post for my 100th Book Review. This milestone took me by surprise. I have many more reviews on Goodreads but I personalise my blog post reviews.
Have a quick look at Fantastic Fiction, my favourite go-to resource:
“Water Dragons are one of our most frequently encountered lizard species here in South East Queensland. They thrive just about anywhere, particularly around water sources of varied descriptions where they usually can be found in good numbers and they don’t mind the presence of people.”
“They feed primarily on small spiders and insects but will take other small vertebrates on occasion.”
Heads up… Brisbane’s longest-running Book Fair is coming soon! The UQ Alumni Book Fair will be spread over four glorious days in April/May 2022 with heaps more than text books.
This annual fundraiser is a much awaited event for Brisbane booklovers. Based at the University of Queensland, St Lucia campus, there is something for every reader and collector.
I’ll be going with a BIG carry bag!
The Book Fair is organised by volunteers who harness their love of books and generously donate their time to help raise funds to support researchers, educators and residential scholarships for UQ students.
Come along to the Book Fair for a huge range of—-
Pre-loved books of every genre for every age group
Occasional photographs, print or piece of memorabilia
Special Family Day for young readers
The Rare Book auction is biennial and next event is 2023
Register now White Gloves talk on rare Australian books at UQ Fryer Library.
My special guest Cate Whittle, author, teacher, speaker, offers her advice and experience on how to fine-tune your manuscript before submission to a publisher.
Cate’s literary expertise covers workshops, writing courses, book launches, school visits and video tutorials—watch out below for her special MANUSCRIPT ASSESSMENT offer—but first sit back, relax, read
‘On the Fine Art of Sending Your Book Baby Out into the World’
Congratulations! You’ve made it—from those first tentative words that broke the curse of the blank page, to the carefully woven ending—you’ve finished your book!
First – bask.
This is an important moment and really deserves celebrating. So many would-be writers never get this far. So celebrate.
While you are celebrating, the manuscript is resting.
You know that.
And you know that you come back to it with fresh eyes to read through and self-edit to make it the best you possibly can. And you know that there will be a multitude of drafts before you say, ‘This is it!’
And then you send it out to the likeliest looking publisher or three?
This can be the falling point for soooo many little fledgling books.
For its first forays out of the nest, there are so many things you can do before you subject it to the scrutiny of an actual publisher.
Allow me to make some suggestions.
Let me call this Levels of Editing.
It is up to you whether you employ all or some of these levels of editing—or whether you feel happy to trust to yourself in some regards—and certainly, you will be editing with your publisher if your work is acquired by a traditional publishing house, but it is always good to be close to all the way there before you approach a publisher. And if you are self-publishing… you’d be well-advised to spend the money.
Was your self-editing.
Focus in on structure and consistency, make sure your opening grabs the reader and your writing flows easily and is paced well. Look at tension and relief. Are your characters believable? Does the setting work? Is your ending satisfying—and does it work for your genre?
Might be your Mum or a Trusted Other.
This is usually good for a feel-good glow (which is great for your confidence), but do not pressure this relationship with a request for honesty. Do not. Enjoy the feel-good glow and move to the next stage.
Your critique group.
Yes, join one. Participate. I cannot recommend more highly this collegiate learning and sharing. Even J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (peripherally Dorothy L Sayers) and those other guys who no-one remembers, all benefited from sharing their work in their Inklings literary circle.
But be aware that this, too, has its limitations. Perhaps you do not work in the same genre so they may not understand all the tropes and symbolism in your text (I speak—lovingly—from the experience of teaching my critique group friends about fantasy). Perhaps you are all learning together. Perhaps your critique partners are unwilling or unable to offer critical feedback.
Where to from here then?
Strictly speaking, this is NOT editing per se. This is where a reader with some experience goes through your manuscript and offers feedback as objectively as possible (although not entirely—reading anything is a subjective and individual process).
A good manuscript assessor will provide a general commentary on:
* Voice, point of view, description, and setting
* Punctuation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary
* Anything you have specific queries about (e.g. does my opening hook work?)
A manuscript assessment can be completed on a partial text (I offer commentary on the opening three chapters and a synopsis) to keep costs down, or on a complete text. This is your impartial reader who has some experience in the field, giving you their reaction to your book.
Manuscript assessments are often offered by editors as a first pass through your story, to let you know whether you are ready to go further. Published writers, or established teachers or librarians with a strong background in the literary process.
It’s a good starting point without investing a huge amount in the early stages of polishing your text. You should come away with some good ideas about how to develop your work further. Sometimes you can enter into a story coach arrangement with your assessor—but this is a whole extra field.
This is like engaging a manuscript assessor several times over a period of time, reworking and reassessing scenes together to make sure that your story is powerful and ready for the next stage of editing. Check with your manuscript assessor if they are willing to enter into such an arrangement before you start.
N.B: If you are writing non-fiction, this is the level where you might seek out a professional content editor to make sure your information is correct and presented in a way that flows.
Working with a manuscript assessor or a story coach gets you ready for the hard stuff. From hereon it can get intense!
Similar to a manuscript assessment but at a deeper level, this is usually undertaken to evaluate your characters, plot, and setting, and ensures that your narrative flows smoothly and your scenes work to move the story forward. It will look at how your chapters sit and whether they could be arranged differently to make the story more powerful.
This is a skilled task that is best done by a trained professional editor. You may have already engaged an editor for your first assessment, but often this is an opportunity to let another set of eyes go through your work.
Line editing evaluates and offers corrections for the tone, style, and consistency of your work. While a good line edit will also check basic spelling, punctuation, and grammar, for a more complete overview of these mechanics of writing you would be moving to a copy edit.
Again, this is a job for a professional editor. This is all about your spelling and punctuation. This is all about getting your grammar correct. This is all about your word choices (do you need adverbs or will a stronger verb make your writing tighter?), how you lay out your text (paragraphing), minimising repetition or jargon, and weeding out redundancies.
All without losing your voice.
Except proofreading is also NOT editing. By the time you are proofreading all that is done. This is like a final going over to make sure you have dotted all your Ts and crossed all your Is…
This is checking formatting and consistency one final time, and finding those last minute, glaring typos. You can stick to your professional editor for this—or find yourself a professional reader. Your manuscript assessor might be good for this, but make sure they know it is a proofreading exercise. Now is NOT the time to come up with suggestions for a whole different structure.
While all this has been happening, I’m sure you have been researching your publishers for the right fit. Don’t forget to check their submission guidelines and follow their rules—and now you can press GO.
Good luck! May your fledgling fly true and straight and find a home out there (whether you go via a traditional publisher or decide to go Indie).
Thank you, Cate, for such enlightening information! ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Personal note from Cate
In the spirit of celebrating 61 Years Since 1961, I’m currently offering manuscript assessments at only 61% of my usual going price.
This offer closes on 3rd April 2022, BUT if you have something in the wings and would like to purchase an assessment at this price and take a rain check on the assessment until you are ready, just drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m currently offering an assessment on the first three chapters (to 10,000 words maximum) on your Junior Fiction (which probably shouldn’t be this long!) or Middle Grade manuscript for AU$110. Alternatively you can contact me for my price schedule for a full manuscript.
Any questions? To find out more ‘On the Fine Art of Sending Your Book Baby Out into the World’ contact Cate email@example.com
Welsh author Charlotte Williams created a gripping, atmospheric crime novel of high emotion and psychological fear. Written in 2014 ‘Black Valley’ is the second book in the Dr Jessica Mayhew series, a literary symphony of tension, dark imaginings and worst possible scenarios.
A phobia I have was triggered and at times I almost stopped reading. However, I was Reading For Wales and I felt I owed it to the author and the character, psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew, to see it through to the bitter end.
Jess consults with a new patient Elinor Powell, an artist who seems fragile but in fact is quite annoyed at her twin sister Isobel, angry at her famous mother’s sudden and suspicious death, and quite demanding of Jess’s time.
Soon after the consultation, Jess’s best friend, straight-talking Mari, gives her an invitation to attend a private art viewing at the Cardiff art museum. Unwittingly Jess meets Elinor and her circle of friends from the Welsh arts scene. Particular focus is on the emergence of reclusive ex-miner Welsh Valley’s artist Hefin Morris who is touted by art dealer Blake Thomas and handsome art critic Professor Jacob Dresler as ‘the most exciting painter working in Britain today.‘ Jess queries their promotional hype.
The Hefin Morris artwork has strong depictions of the aftermath of destruction at the closure of the mines. A recurring theme echoes through the book ‘The crumbling of the infrastructure, the moral and spiritual vacuum created in the wake of that implosion, a landscape that bore silent witness to the ravages of coalmining – the heritage of the Rhondda. The abandoned landscape becomes a character in its own right’.
Jess is a newly separated single parent struggling with her estranged husband, and two daughters who live with her, but nevertheless she hits it off with Jacob Dresler. They hook up and become a couple, going out together and then away for the weekend to Twr Tal, Tall Tower, in the valley of Cwm Du, Black Valley. Atmosphere plus! But that’s when events go badly wrong and there is a death. Who is responsible for the tragedy? Jess has niggling fears that her new friends are not who they seem.
Against her better judgement, one thing quickly leads to another and Jess becomes a therapist-turned-detective. She calls DS Lauren Bonetti for guidance as she is slowly drawn into Elinor’s twin-dynamic world of manipulation. Circumstances spiral out of control while tension escalates and Jess is put in a very dangerous situation.
I was still not sure who was good and who was bad and what would be revealed as the story advanced to the final chapters. There is a section where the action is a bit contrived and I wondered if Jess would do such a silly thing considering her work ethics, but events quickly moved forward.
The ending appears inconclusive—but wait, there’s more. And it is certainly chilling how closure is drawn contrary to reader expectation. ‘Black Valley’ would suite a crime club or reading group interested in discussing trust and relationship issues.
Interestingly a second ‘Black Valley’ edition has the same bookcover as my copy and publishers Pan Macmillan have the date 2018 with Jessica Mayhew’s client as Pandora Powell not Elinor.
Throughout my copy of the book, Jacob Dresler is just called Dresler but there is a chapter inconsistency where he is only referred to as Jacob. Perhaps the book has been re-edited and re-released. Whatever: I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping narrative!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
My thanks to Book Jotter, Paula Bardell-Hedley, for instigating #Dewithon22. This is the fourth year I have participated and each time I have read eye-opening, unforgettable books set in Wales. Actually I have a couple more to read before the end of the month. Will I make it?
FYI:The House on the Cliff is the first book in the proposed Jessica Mayhew series if you are considering reading either for #Dewithon22.
What a rip-roaring, no holds barred non-fiction account of living, working and being Welsh from 1485 to 1914. Questions like “Should Henry VII be a Welsh Hero?” and interesting historical facts I did not know like “The Rebecca Riots”. This comes under the heading “Were the Welsh people Troublemakers in the 19th Century?” but I think they had good cause to rebel.
Another section explains why William Morgan’s translation of the Bible into Welsh in 1588 was a turning-point for bilingual Wales, keeping their language alive.
Stuart Bromfield, Euryn Madoc-Jones and University of Wales Press have compiled this historical overview for school use. Five hundred years over 175 pages with notes for students and teachers. Illustrations, paintings, drawings and photographs create an excellent visual guide to the standard of living for both rich and poor.
Royal taxes, crime and punishment, and the struggles of ordinary people to make a living and put food on the table are not glossed over. During the winter months, women gathered to knit woollen stockings. According to Thomas Pennant (1777) there was a good market for them.
I bow in respect to the forgotten women “hauliers” who hauled materials from the pit face, removed coal from stone, and used large axes to break up iron stone at the surface of the mine. And I am very grateful that I never had the laborious job of five year-old “trappers” who opened and closed the pit doors all day. I hope food and a hug awaited them at the end of each gruelling day.
The industrious slate quarries, coal mines, copper and iron industries are mentioned in grim detail; such dirty, dangerous work and ultimately the rich got richer while the workers died of cholera, malnutrition and lung disease. Then the mining industries collapsed: people and landscapes bore witness to the ravages created by two centuries of coalmining.
Every country has a sad past, but the Welsh rose above it. Fellowship was strong, art and leisure time increased, choirs created “The Land of Song” and rugby players excelled. Education, religion, literature, music and the inevitable politics flourished.
Of course, citizens have their own view of their country which may differ but this book satisfied my curiosity. It has made me more aware of the Welsh families who travelled across the seas to Australia in search of a new life. Ipswich City, not far up the highway from Brisbane City, has strong Welsh ties—but that’s for another day.
Excerpt from UWP website by Natalie Williams Director, University of Wales Press
“We are publishing two celebratory titles to mark our first 100 years; The History of Wales in 12 Poems by M Wynn Thomas and Dychmygu Iaith by Mererid Hopwood; re-sharing the first articles of the Press’ journals, as well as hosting a very special Centenary event in the Senedd, and events at the Hay Festival and Eisteddfod Genedlaethol during the summer.
“Our Centenary year 2022 will also see a very special announcement – the launch of a brand new imprint to serve a trade (non-fiction) readership. The imprint will offer fascinating and engaging stories, aimed at a global trade audience, with our distinct Welsh perspective and flavour. Our first books publish this year, with news and updates in the coming months until the formal launch in the Autumn.”
I think their History of the Press is well worth reading. And, of course, University of Wales Press has hundreds of books you can buy and read during #Dewithon22.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
My thanks to Book Jotter, Paula Bardell-Hedley, for instigating #Dewithon22. This is the fourth year I have participated and each time I have read eye-opening, unforgettable books set in Wales. Actually I have a couple more to read this month!
The origin of the word pikelet stems from the Welsh bara pyglyd or pitchy bread, which was a dark, sticky bread. The word spread into England and was anglicised to Pikelet.
Very easy to prepare and cook, pikelets are traditionally small yet a similar version to pancakes.
Gradually the basic pikelet recipe travelled far and wide through the world, adapting to different ingredients and varying from family to family.
1 egg 1 cup self-raising flour 1/4cup sugar 1/2 cup milk One drop vanilla essence – optional
First beat the egg then add flour, sugar, milk, vanilla essence. Combine all ingredients and mix lightly and evenly. More ingredients can be added to batter for preferred consistency. Tablespoon mixture onto a greased, heated frying pan or griddle. Cook until pikelets rise and turn light brown, flip once.
Pikelets are cooked plain then served with a topping while hot and fresh.
My photograph shows a rather lavish topping needing a knife and fork. Pikelets are normally finger food topped with jam and cream, or buttered, or a squeeze of lemon and dusting of icing sugar.
Children have been known to colour the batter with food dye for a holiday event.
Study Reading Wales #Dewithon22 Reading List—eat, read, enjoy!
The Owl Service by Alan Garner was a totally unexpected read for me. For a start the title does not refer to a Harry Potter-style owl delivery service. First published in 1967, I read the 2017 50th Anniversary Edition and had to adjust my thinking.
Winner of the Carnegie Medal and The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, Alan Garner’s story is set during summertime in an old house in a picturesque Welsh valley. There is a wonderful introduction by Philip Pullman and The Observer writes ‘Remarkable… a rare imaginative feast, and the taste it leaves is haunting’.Susan Cooper adds ‘The power and range of Alan Garner’s astounding talent has grown with every book he’s written’.
Okay, let’s get the owl service bit out of the way. It refers to a dinner service (plates) long hidden in the attic above young Alison’s bedroom where she is convalescing from a tummy bug. From the moment she sees them, she is besotted with the curious floral owl pattern and begins to copy them onto paper, cutting and folding them into tiny owls, little realising her actions will unleash events that affect several lives. Thus the atmosphere gets a little bit odd as ancient mythological forces seem to stir in the Welsh countryside.
Teenagers, Alison and her stepbrother Roger, and local lad Gwyn feel the vibes but only the caretaker Huw Halfbacon seems to understand it. The youngsters devise ways to get hold of all the owl plates because Gwyn’s mother Nancy, the cook, is horrified at their discovery and warns the children off. Too late, of course, and gradually they become not only secretive but snippy-snappy with each other and resentful of arrangements they have no control over, mainly their parents. Adult dad Clive seems to be the only calm one.
Added to the owl mystery is the local legend of a man who takes another man’s wife Blodeuwedd, a woman made from flowers. Retribution involves a rock and a spear which supposedly speared straight through the rock killing the man.
After a swim in the river, Roger discovers this rock with the hole: the Stone of Gronw. He’s an amateur photographer (think rolls of B&W film and F-stops) and muses over the paradox as he lines up trees on the horizon. This significance (and others!) was lost on me. What were the odd sounds like scratching, the motor bike, villagers mumbling or even Huw’s strange pronouncements?
Amazing artwork is found hidden in the billiard room of a dairy shed conversion. Behind the pebble-dash wall is a vision of womanly loveliness or perhaps evil? The trio are uneasy. Is it payback for that bygone grievance? Is floral Nature emerging to take revenge? The most puzzling question is what roles do the paper owls play and why are they vanishing? These vignettes do not bode well and I was floundering for a rationale, trying to conjure an explanation. Is it that the clues are merely to mislead the reader? (Here I pause thoughtfully to study the subtext, slowly untangling it)
As tension mounts within the families, Gwyn likes Alison and he fights with his mother who wants to leave. I kept wondering where things were heading. The way is not clear-cut. At times I found the writing style difficult to get into and emotionally overwrought. Alison is the mercurial girl and Roger the snobbish boy; cruel things are said, especially to Gwyn and eventually he cracks under pressure. Huw watches on… this is where things get fast and furious and brilliantly captures the angst, the rain, the mountains, the desperate urge to escape.
The awe-inspiring Welsh setting, and the subtle way author Alan Garner has subverted the norm, is intriguing. Garner actually stayed in the valley where he based his story, using ‘an expression of the myth’ the legend of mythical woman Blodeuwedd and he carried out extensive research—even the owl plates are real, designed by Christopher Dresser sometime between 1862 and 1904.
The characters are fleshed out by their dialogue alone (not Welsh) and everyone plays their part—perhaps leaning towards a stage play ensemble. Indeed The Owl Service was made into a Granada Television series of the same name in 1969, and was dramatised for BBC Radio 4 in 2000. (Wikipedia facts behind the book)
Another Welsh fantasy novel of the 1960s written by Susan Cooper Over Sea, Under Stone indicates that Young Adult fiction in general began to thrive in this decade as books were being published and marketed expressly at teenagers.
I would suggest The Owl Service rating as mild fantasy with a psychological twist. It is certainly a literary milestone, although I did wonder if millennial teenagers were reading it. In my opinion, this story is more suited to those who have lived through the no-internet era. Enjoyable, yes, but far removed from the type of graphic and immersive YA fantasy novels published today.
I like relativity and quantum theories because I don’t understand them and they make me feel as if space shifts about like a swan that can’t settle, refusing to sit still and be measured; and as if the atom were an impulsive thing always changing its mind.
This will be my fourth Reading Wales #dewithon and I am excited at the list of Welsh authors and poets which Book Jotter has assembled to tempt our reading taste buds.
Source one book, source ten! Create your own list! See my list! Join in Reading Wales!
Currently I have six books on a waiting list at my local library because it will be easier to collect them rather than hanging around waiting for an interstate or overseas parcel delivery.
I hold Covid-19 responsible and also a catastrophic flood which swept down the Queensland coast, through my city of Brisbane (everything is still soaked) and pounded coastal New South Wales before heading towards Sydney. Notice how I worked in the word ‘Wales’?
A MESSAGE FROM THE CREATOR BOOK JOTTER, PAULA BARDELL-HEDLEY
Welcome to the fourth Reading Wales celebration (aka Dewithon 22), a month-long event beginning on Saint David’s Day, during which book lovers from all parts of the world are encouraged to read, discuss and review literature by and about writers from Wales.
For more in-depth information on this reading jolly, head over toDHQ (Dewithon Headquarters), and to see what’s happening this year, please follow this link. You can also share your thoughts and posts on Twitter by using the hashtags #dewithon22 and/or #walesreadathon22.
visit DHQ Reading Wales Dewithon22 websites below.
click‘On Our Shelves’ to browse Dewithoner’s suggested reading list.
source books relating to Wales from library, bookshop, online.
post a book review and tell everyone!
N.B. Dewithon22 reading includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, in fact anything with a significant link to Wales.
What have I ambitiously chosen and which are available to me?
The Owl Service by Alan Garner was too tempting, so I’ve added it to my list. The Guardian says “…the plot is very gripping and slightly creepy.” AVAILABLE in my local library.READ
Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams – past winner of the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year, an autobiographical story of a Welsh-African mixed-race woman who brings her unique qualities to the story, transforming it into a lively and living account of her life. ON ORDER.
I’m keen to get started 😀 and already made some headway!
My thoughts are that I will eventually read them all—perhaps not all in March—and I am looking forward to having my mind held captive by the literati of Wales. When I put down the books and walk Terra Australis again, my reviews will be either here or Goodreads.
Looking forward to reading about what you are reading!
As we gardeners in the other half of the world, the southern hemisphere, bid a fond farewell to summer, I thought about some of the natural highlights around me.
The coffee bean tree is laden down with green berries. The agapanthus flowered abundantly for the first time in four years. The lawns are lush, the weeds are going feral. Every garden is flourishing, flowers and green foliage abound. Shrubs, hedges and trees are taller and their leaves are broader. Insects are so noisy the sound gets inside your head.
It has been a smorgasbord of a summer for the plant, animal, bird, reptile and insect domains in my suburb. Oh, and I just found out that snails are from the phylum Mollusca family. I am loathe to mention the toads but they relish the dampness at night courtesy of La Niña.
The Orchard Butterfly is our biggest and today I spied a huge one drying its wings during a brief respite between showers before fluttering free from the mandarin tree.
Scrub turkeys are getting bolder, scratching garden beds and terrorising cats. Birds generally are spoilt for choice when it comes to food and where to build a nest. But like homemakers everywhere, they have to make a good decision. The eagle-eyed hunters are watching, waiting, taking their time. Even the possums are walking more leisurely across our roof.
Actually the agapanthus have already been and gone. There was a sea of them in the back paddock but due to a computer malfunction those early photographs are not available – c’est la vie.
Birds sing at 5am, grasshoppers hop, lawnmowers til noon, cold drinks and ice-cream for arvo tea, pray for a cool breeze, clothes stick to skin, a quick swim, a light dinner, air-con fades away, windows open to humidity, can’t sleep, hoping no holes in the flyscreen, late summer storm rattles the house, memories rattle through my mind.
As the Australian pop rock band GANGgajang so lyrically sang:
“Out on the patio we’d sit, And the humidity we’d breathe, We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields. Laugh and think, this is Australia.”
Australian summertime will soon hand over the weather to autumnal March. Cooler maybe, my advice is still wear a hat and sunscreen. Speaking from experience, I personally would not participate in a fun run unless it ends at the local swimming pool. Afterwards I would never ever eat greasy takeaway food. Ah, but those hot chips with salt and vinegar…
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
** NEWSFLASH ** As I proof-read this post the city was already soaking from heavy rain and now the wet weather has continued in earnest. Day and night torrential rain has fallen, flooding large parts of Brisbane and South East Queensland causing major havoc to housing, business, roads, rivers and creeks. Sadly lives have been lost. About an hour ago we had a power failure. It is drenching, pounding rain, the air is humid, the sky dull grey. From overflowing guttering to washing away bridges, fast flowing flood waters are powerful and dangerous, carrying a multitude of unseen debris. Stay dry, stay safe. As the saying goes “If it’s flooded, forget it”. GBW 2022
King Anne by Ethel Turner was published in 1921 and my great aunt gifted this novel to her sister, my paternal grandmother, at Christmastime in 1922 after she had first read it. Many years passed by and when Grandma thought the time was right she passed King Anne on to me.
Unfortunately at that time I was not the least bit interested.
British-born Australian author Ethel Turner (1870-1958) was a novelist and children’s literature writer. She wrote over 30 books and collections of short stories and verse, mostly centred around girls and for girls. King Anne was Turner’s thirty-sixth published work.
Perhaps because I didn’t quite get into her first novel, the epic family saga Seven Little Australians (1894) of which NSW State Library holds the original hand-written manuscript, I therefore gave pseudo-royal King Anne’s weighty tome (as it seemed to me at the time) a wide detour.
The bookcover faded and King Anne languished for many, many years on the family bookshelves, sandwiched between ancient copies of Kidnapped, Pilgrims Progress and Wind in the Willows, and enduring several moves until by some quirk of fate I reached for it today February 2022 when my great aunt and grandmother would have read it one hundred years ago. (Shivers)
I have no memory of the storyline. Now I WILL have to read it!
First I shall create a pictorial and some background information—
The book has foxing and is not in good condition but you can see the etiquette of the time. Written in brackets underneath ETHEL TURNER is the abbreviation Mrs coupled with her husband’s name thus Mrs H. R. Curlewis. Herbert Raine Curlewis was a judge.
The frontispiece and three illustration plates are beautifully rendered, showing family life at the time. They are miniature works of art in their own right, sometimes removed and framed by the book owner. The far right image was adapted and embossed on the front cover of King Anne.
The artist has not been acknowledged and from online booksellers information you can take your pick. Possibly Harold Copping, and it seems A.J. Johnson‘s small-format illustrations were later replaced by full page works from J. Macfarlane. Each had illustrated books for Ethel Turner.
Inside the back leaves of King Anne (you leaf through a book because the pages are called leaves) under the heading Charming Stories by Isabel M Peacocke – another author of similar genre – there is a rather ambiguous book review of My Friend Phil (1915) from a Queensland Times reviewer which reads “… without doubt the best since Ethel Turner took the reading world by storm with her ‘Seven Little Australians’…” poor Isabel M Peacocke.
The difference between the size and weight of these two books was misleading until held in my hands. Natasha Pulley’s The Kingdoms is a slimmer volume with a lighter bookcover and thinner pages compared to Ethel Turner’s bulky King Anne with its fabric-over-cardboard bookcover, cotton stitching and stiff parchment-like pages. The modern publication is 200g heavier.
Australian author Ethel Turner booklist:
Seven Little Australians (1894) The Family at Misrule (1895) Story of a Baby (1895) Little Larrikin (1896) Miss Bobbie (1897) Camp at Wandining (1898) Gum Leaves (1900) Three Little Maids (1900) Wonder Child (1901) Little Mother Meg (1902) Raft in the Bush (1902) Betty & Co (1903) Mothers Little Girl (1904) White Roofed Tree (1905) In the Mist of the Mountains (1906) Walking to School (1907) Stolen Voyage (1907) Happy Hearts (1908) That Girl (1908) Birthday Book (1909) Fugitives from Fortune (1909) Fair Ines (1910)
An Orge up to Date (1911) Apple of Happiness (1911) Fifteen & Fair (1911) Ports & Happy Havens (1911) Tiny House (1911) Secret of the Sea (1913) Flower O’ the Pine (1914) The Cub (1915) John of Daunt (1916) Captain Cub (1917) St Tom & The Dragon (1918) Brigid & the Cub (1919) Laughing Water (1920) **King Anne (1921) Jennifer, J. (1922) Sunshine Family (1923) (with Jean Curlewis her daughter) Nicola Silva (1924) Ungardeners (1925) Funny (1926) Judy & Punch (1928)
**King Anne is Number 36 on this list and according to the list in my book (photo above) this was her 21st novel.
Ethel Turner’s literary works have been largely forgotten but she, and a handful of other women writers, paved the way for Australian books for Australian children. My grandparents were educated with, and read, British books, so I admire Ethel Turner’s achievements. The following websites make interesting reading – GBW.
Tea With Ethel Turner by author blogger Rowena (link below) is exceptionally well written and researched. On my own research, so far I have found scant reference to King Anne.
Important Addendum: Australian Women Writers Challenge The Early Years is concentrating on past Australian women writers of all genres who were published then faded away. AWW have restructured their blog to highlight the writing of earlier Australian women; works published 50+ years ago. If you happen to find and read a forgotten gem, AWW would be interested in your book review.
I will be posting my King Anne review in due course. In the meantime, perhaps YOU might find another first edition little-known Ethel Turner on your bookshelf?
What can you see? What can you surmise from this scene? Is it in suburbia or the mountains or maybe near the sea?
Can you name the trees? Or guess the potted plants? What time of day, or time of year, do you think the photograph was taken?
And who might live there? Who owns those gumboots?
You could write a short story about someone who walks out onto this balcony. Perhaps it’s the home of the Capulet family? There is a good reason why Juliet walks out onto a balcony.
Valentine’s Day is nearly here! Imagine an alternate ending. A happy, sad, good, bad or exciting scene… Writers, write about it in your own hand! Put it in an envelope and present it to your loved one.
❤️ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Postscript: I will write my own version on traditionally the most romantic day of the year 14th February 2022.
Summer January 2022 and Queensland has been blessed by La Niña (or buffeted by her) experiencing high winds, thunder, lightning, pelting tropical rain, flooding rivers, and vigorous plant and wildlife growth.
Plus an unexpected visit of tsunami waves from Tonga’s cataclysmic volcanic eruption. I actually heard the deep eerie rumbles. The sound crossed the Pacific Ocean to arrive thousands of kilometres away in Brisbane. Next morning the sunrise had a golden orange hue, created by volcanic ash fallout. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Kingdom of Tonga and Pacific island nations, and to aid, search and rescue teams during the difficult and heart-breaking times ahead.
For now, I sit on the verandah in the humidity watching the raindrops fall on damp leaves and recall James Whilt’s imaginative poem ❤️ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
James W. Whilt
Here in the deep tangled forest All is quiet and still, While far to the west the thunder, Re-echoes from hill to hill.
And the lightning’s flash, ever vivid, In great gashes knives the air; The rain comes down in torrents, A deluge everywhere!
Bathing the heat-sick flowers That they may bloom once more; Painting the grass a greener hue, That grows by our cabin door;
Making the pastures fresher, For the cows and shepherd’s herds, Making the pools by the road-side — Bath tubs for the birds.
Then the thunder peals louder and louder, Firing its shrapnel of rain. The clouds charge after each other, And the drouth is defeated again.
Then through a rent in the clouds The sun’s searchlight casts its ray, And the Rain-God looks over the valley And sees the result of the fray.
And as He sees his conquest, His victory’s flag is unfurled, In a beautiful coloured rainbow — He is telling all of the world.
What a victory was his, what a triumph! It’s flashed down the Milky Way, Then the sentinel stars dot the heavens, And the dew-drops sound taps for the day.