Rebecca Johnson Workshop with Juliet Nearly A Vet

First, some info on Juliet Nearly A Vet children’s series before I launch into my one and a half hour experience hosted by Book Links and Write Links at their centre for children’s literature.


JULIET NEARLY A VET
series by REBECCA JOHNSON

Juliet wants to be a vet when she grows up, but when she decides she needs to start practicing, her wonderful misadventures begin.  With gorgeous illustrations by local illustrator Kyla May.

“Hi! I’m Juliet. I’m ten years old. And I’m nearly a vet!  We’re off on a school camp to the rainforest. Chelsea, Maisy and I are excited about all the different animals we might spot on our nature walks and torchlight treks. Chelsea is NOT excited about the creepy crawlies we might find! I’ve brought my vet-kit along just in case we find any animals in need of help . . .”

Ages 6 – 9 years old
Book info click here


VET CADETS
series by REBECCA JOHNSON

A wonderful series about three smart, funny, animal-loving girls solving mysteries and causing chaos at their country boarding school.

“Abbey, Hannah and Talika are new recruits at Willowvale boarding school’s Vet Cadets program. Mrs Parry, their science teacher, has given each of the girls a chick to raise and train, but not everyone is happy about it!  When a game of horseback hide-and-seek turns into a matter of life and death, rules are broken and the friends’ courage sorely tested. This time, a solution might be out of the Vet Cadets’ hands . . .”

Ages 9 – 11 years old
Book info click here


AUTHOR PROFILE

Rebecca Johnson is an award-winning Australian author and primary-school science teacher who has written more than 100 children’s books.  Her works include the Steve Parish Story Book collection, Juliet Nearly A Vet series, Vet Cadet series, Insect series, and Steve Parish Reptiles & Amphibians Story Book range.

Author info https://rebeccajohnson.com.au/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaJohnsonAuthor/


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ONE AND A HALF HOUR WORKSHOP

Rebecca Johnson spoke about how she became a published author and what inspired her stories.  Her two current series are based on her own childhood experiences, both as a young vet ‘assistant’ and then as a horse-riding teenage animal detective.

Her writing style has allowed her to find the balance between working part-time and writing.  She talked about the importance of verbal pitching in the early part of a writer’s career; know your story and speak passionately about it.

Rebecca was open and honest in all she discussed, particularly the challenges of marketing your first book once it has been published.  On the subject of payment, royalties and earning a decent income, Rebecca felt a book series worked better.

I jotted down a number of points; from having an agent, to evolving your books as your reading audience grows.  Interestingly, in this age of the internet, Rebecca hasn’t physically met Kyla May, her book illustrator.

A fascinating aspect from Rebecca’s talk is her use of a book tie-in and children’s conventions based on her Juliet Nearly A Vet books.  She ordered 1,000 vet kits child-size with working stethoscopes and white lab coats—spectacular to say the least.  And children obviously have a wonderful time learning about animals and caring for their toy pets!


CONCLUSION

My main takeaway from this workshop was “Write what you know, do the hard yards, continually promote your books” as well as attending events, libraries, Book Week.  I applaud Rebecca Johnson for the detail and length of her workshop, and the fact that she happily answered every question.

POSTSCRIPT

A friend of mine, children’s writer Artelle Lenthall, challenged me to nominate 7 of my favourite bookcovers and post one every day for 7 days on Facebook.  I have chosen 7 of my favourite bookcovers from Juliet Nearly A Vet series and will post them at 7.00pm each evening.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Meet Me At The Paragon – A Greek Café Experience #slqGreekCafes

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I attended a special viewing of the Greek café phenomenon ‘Meet Me At The Paragon’.  This new exhibition features the history of Greek milk bars in Queensland and their importance within local communities.

When I entered the Heritage Learning Collections Room on Level 4 of State Library of Queensland, I was greeted by a table laden with food, from savoury snacks to desserts like baklava and sugar-powdered shortbread with drinks on the side.  Heaven!

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Evocative neon. Instead of the usual rows of seats, there were café chairs at round tables, such a nice touch. Guests were also given take-home gifts, and in my first photo you can see a fridge magnet, postcard and a traditional small paper bag of mixed lollies.

‘Meet Me At The Paragon’ explores the creation of American-style cafés which helped Greek migrants of the early to mid-1900s to start a new life in such a different land. The Paragon Café in Dalby, Queensland, was a meeting place for all ages to enjoy a malted milkshake or a sweet treat. The State Library of Queensland invited me to experience The Greek Café Phenomenon and learn true stories of the families who owned and operated them.

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This old poster is pretty self-explanatory. When I was small, I remember my mother buying me a small ‘brick’ of Peter’s ice-cream wrapped in white wax paper and sandwiching it between two square wafers. Crunchy and creamy at the same time! I think that Smak ice-cream stick is hilarious; at first I thought it said Smoke because it looks rather like a cigarette.

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Isn’t this incredible! When I was a kid, we owned a small single milkshake mixer with an aluminium cup. We had paper straws so needed to drink fast before the straw started to collapse. The taste was cool, creamy and delicious. This machine can mix times-three!

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My memories of drinking in a milk bar are hazy but I recall tall glasses of foaming milk and strawberry ice-cream.  This photograph of Christie’s café (Brisbane) spanned a whole wall and people took selfies which looked like they were really there #slqGreekCafes

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Here is the informative Curator who guided us around the exhibits.  In this room there is a cute waitress’ pinafore preserved in a glass case.  It appeared to be made of heavy white cotton and in excellent condition considering its age.  I doubt the wearer managed a full day’s work without getting a small stain or two!

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Lollies is an Australian word for sweets. Bulgarian Rock, Peanut Toffee, Turkish Delight, all kinds of confectionery were arrayed in long glass cabinets to dazzled customers as they walked into a Creek café. Can you imagine the delicious aroma! Most cafés used their own ice-cream for their sodas and sundaes.
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This looks like a scientist’s portable lab! These tiny bottles of Blue Ark Essences are housed in a briefcase-style case. The essences were concentrated fruit flavours and used in soda drinks, milkshakes and confectionery.

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This Golden Gate Café had a quaint yet welcoming shopfront.  In the Golden Gate Café in Winton, Australia, a passing sailor left behind a macaw which became the lifelong companion of the proprietor.  Or so the story goes.  Brisbane, Australia, was a base for American servicemen during World War II and signs like this made them feel welcome.

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Aren’t these three dudes handsome!  Unfortunately I did not get the gentlemen’s names nor do I know where their portrait was taken.  I viewed them in the White Gloves document section of the exhibition.  Later I discovered one fellow is the uncle of Chris Zavros.

I met Greek women  who shared their own delightful stories, and I strolled along rows of black and white photographs of beautiful Greek weddings and Greek families at work and play, a long time ago.  The country towns which had Greek cafés ranged throughout Queensland.  It would have been nice to say all the buildings are still standing several generations later—still, it is wonderful to see donated ephemera, to have their legacy remembered today.

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‘Meet Me At The Paragon’ runs for six months and there are more Curator talks planned (see website below) and a Brisbane Greeters walking tour.

Of course, many more items are on display, including monogrammed crockery and audio and video information I enjoyed the memorabilia which fuelled my inner historian.  This exhibition is suitable for everyone!  It would appeal to Greek genealogists, those interested in café culture trends, and anyone who has ever sipped a milkshake.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Brochures resemble café menus on the polished wood table of a banquette where people can sit and reminisce about burgers and banana sundaes.

Find out more from State Library of Queensland
https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/meet-me-paragon
and
http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/2019/10/02/american-bar-brisbane/

Toni Risson Greek Cafes in Australia Aphrodite Bookcover

Further reading from curator and author Toni Risson
https://tonirisson.wordpress.com/
and
https://greekcafesinbrisbane.wordpress.com/author/tonirisson/

My Tree Orchid with Pink Flowers

Trees are dropping leaves to survive and the ground is like iron.  Just the other morning I watered my Dendrobium orchid and the long buds were tightly closed.  Drought conditions have sent the ants in all directions in search of sustenance but even they were absent.

In the afternoon I returned from lunch with friends and à la voile!  There was my tree orchid in full bloom!

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Springtime is not properly acknowledged in my garden until this orchid flowers.  It is always my September spectacular.

Australian orchids tend to be small, for instance the Cooktown Orchid which is the floral emblem of Queensland, but this species is large and robust.  The dull afternoon light does not do justice to its display.

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A semi deciduous pink-flowering orchid, it is ‘probably’ native to Australia, a Dendrobium Nobile, and in this case has been grown as an epiphyte – tree hugger.  It has been in the family for over forty years and needs basically no care at all.  The blooms have a very faint fragrance.

Why I say ‘probably’ native to Australia is because I always thought it came from the Pacific region.  In fact, originally its forebears came from northern India/southern China where it would have been quite used to extremes in temperature.

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Then I discovered hybrids have been produced.  These can be subdivided into two types, the ‘English’ and ‘Japanese’ type, and later I read this historical document courtesy of The Shambles, a country garden at Montville in south-east Queensland:

Dendrobium nobile  Reliable soft cane epiphytic orchid.  We have many unnamed flower colour varieties from mauve, pink and white range.  A trouble-free orchid flowering in spring.  Introduced to Britain c.1836 by Loddiges’ Nursery.  Requested from Loddiges’ Nursery on 1st February 1849 for Camden Park NSW Australia and obtained from them, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in that year.  India www.qos.org.au 1A.1885, 13.1900/1,15.Camden Orchid walk, West Garden, near back stairs, Blue trellis garden, Rain forest walk.

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After reading the Wagga Orchid Society PDF (link below) and using a bit of guesstimation, years later my orchid could have been transported from the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia, on consignment to a Brisbane plant nursery.

I now look at my tree orchid in awe and wonderment – such a lineage.

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The following shot was taken a few days later in much better sunlight.  There was a bee hovering around but it refused to be photographed.

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Gretchen Bernet-Ward

P.S. If you are interested in lovely flowers and picturesque settings in rural countryside, I can recommend a visit to the website and blogspot of The Shambles country garden, Montville, Queensland.

https://montvillegarden.com/
https://montvillegarden.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/montvillegarden
and further reading
http://waggaorchidsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Dendrobium-nobile-orchid-growing.pdf

The Shambles Monsieur Tillier Rose
The Shambles and ‘Monsieur Tillier Rose’

Fear of Joining Goodreads

Yes, fear that I will become addicted.  Fear that I will push myself to read a gazillion books a year so I can frantically, faithfully rate and review them.  Fear that I will get hooked on groups, authors, discussions, surveys and polls—or even worse, a bestseller—and thus lose my individuality.

Books Book Shelf 20

What if I was swamped by a wave of literary-ness which swept away my identity and I became a book character, never able to reach the shores of reality,  adrift in a choppy sea of font and words, desperately swimming towards the final chapter so I could beach myself on that last blessed page?

It didn’t happen.

I know this because I have finally joined the ranks of Goodreads readers.

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Why did I join?  Because I was caught, hook, line and sinker by a single author and her book ‘The Rose and The Thorn’.

In August 2019, I posted my very first Goodreads review on Indrani Ganguly’s historical novel (also here on my blog) and the Hallelujah choir sang.  That was it!

I think I shelved about twenty books in one hit.  Then about thirty, then more, and before I knew it I was writing reviews; albeit after I sussed out their (ssshh, whisper here) rather archaic system.

Without fear, without favour!  I am part of Goodreads for better or worse!

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So far I have followed a couple of authors I enjoy, and a couple of groups which seem relevant to my reading tastes.  I encompass miscellany, similar to my blog, so I am open to your book reading suggestions.

Take a peek, you may find the same book we both have read . . . but will our rating or review be the same?

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101014600-gretchen-bernet-ward

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Winners Society of Women Writers and Estelle Pinney Short Story Competition 2019

Congratulations to the successful writers listed below.  I am still dazed at my accomplishment, a double dip! The two short stories I submitted have been close to my heart for some time and it is truly wonderful to have them recognised.

The Estelle Pinney Short Story Competition is Australia-wide and I am the only member of Society of Women Writers Queensland to win honours this year.  Such a privilege!


 

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Prizes:

1st Prize:  ‘Baby’ by Jean Flynn (Victoria)

2nd Prize:  ‘Tram 86’ by Melanie Persson (Western Australia)

3rd Prize:  ‘Remnants of Miriam’ by Gretchen Bernet-Ward (Queensland)

Three Highly Commended:

‘One Hundred Year Old Feet’ by Margaret Ogilvie (South Australia)

‘Mero in the Library’ by Gretchen Bernet-Ward (Queensland)

‘Not Everything is Cut & Dry’ by Maree Gallop (New South Wales)

Three Commended:

‘Portraits’ by Megan Hippler (Queensland)

‘The Lies of Love’ by Jo Mularczyk (New South Wales)

‘The Birthday Present’ by Lynne Geary (Victoria)

 

(Award certificates below)


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The competition judge, Lauren Daniels, is director of the Brisbane Writers Workshop.  Lauren is a qualified editor, author, mentor and trainer of professionals, academics, writers and editors.


 

I would like to thank the President and Committee of  Society of Women Writers Queensland Inc and acknowledge author Estelle Pinney for her ongoing encouragement via this competition.  It is a morale boost to have my work recognised and financially rewarded.

In the spirit of giving, I have donated my prize money back to the Society.  It may help a new member, or go towards a workshop at Bribie Island Writers Retreat, or perhaps an event with cake!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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Society of Women Writers Qld Inc

‘Fallen Angel’ 100 Word Drabble

 

Wild birds are squawking in the gum tree and I see movement in the grass below.  A bobbing head, something is amiss.  I open the kitchen door and step outside. With a sudden, strong flap of its wings, a goshawk rises from the ground in a cloud of grey and white feathers. Not an angel fallen to earth but the death of a white-headed pigeon.  A flotilla trails the hawk into the distance as I walk up to a pile of fresh feathers, no body, only feathers. It is springtime and the hawk has young to feed.  GBW © 2019

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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Brisbane Writers Festival Notes Part 3

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‘The World Turns’ by Michael Parekowhai. In his bronze casts, the small native water rat, the kuril (seen near the 5-metre tall elephant) is the hero. Along with the traditional Aboriginal custodians, the kuril is one of the caretakers of the land on which Gallery of Modern Art and this sculpture stand beside the river.

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear.  First, Jasper Fforde ‘Book Club’ up close and personal on the River Deck at State Library of Queensland, commencing at the civilised time of 10am.  I only managed one rather dull photograph because I didn’t feel comfortable breaking the reverent atmosphere.  Other times, it’s just not polite.

I waited with a friendly group of fans (all with different favourite books) as savoury snacks, cheeses, fresh fruit and small packs of mixed nuts were being put on low tables between an eclectic selection of chairs.  I watched the bar staff setting up with wine and soft drinks.  Scatter cushions were put on long low bench seating and I had my eye on a nice cosy corner.

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Left to right – book reader guest, Jasper Fforde, moderator, on the River Deck at State Library of Queensland looking across the Brisbane River towards the city.

Guest-of-honour Jasper Fforde talked about his 20-year career working in the film industry with some big names before he decided to write full-time.  He has 14 books under his literary belt.  These books are called post-modern, sort of parallel universe crime novels; he takes our world and tweaks it.  For example, Spec-Ops Thursday Next lives and works inside books, and in ‘Early Riser’ the Welsh population hibernate throughout winter with strange dreams and unsettling encounters.  Have a read of this New York Times review.  Jasper discussed his writing style, his books, and forthcoming standalone ‘The Constant Rabbit’.

Unfortunately I do not remember the name of our moderator, I know she taught creative writing.  She kicked off the Q&A session for us but we were a rather sedate bunch so no fierce debates ensued.  I asked Jasper about the gender ambiguity of Charlie Worthing in ‘Early Riser’ and how it was questioned on social media, adding it must have been difficult to write but it works.  The closest example mentioned was Virginia Woolf and ‘Orlando’ which contains gender androgyny.

As we sat and snacked and sipped, the view across Brisbane River towards the city was ever-changing.  CityCat ferries, a police patrol boat, the Kookaburra Queen paddle wheeler, and a jet boat or two cruised by, almost like a continually scrolling film.

Time was up!  All too soon it was over and I was smuggling a packet of mixed nuts into my bag for later.  I decided to get serious with the bookshop and purchased the items you see below.

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You know what happens, you go in browsing the books and next thing you are looking at all the book-related paraphernalia. Saw this book lover’s mug and couldn’t resist buying it. Happily, it features most of my favourite classics but it is a big mug and so far I haven’t been able to finish a full beverage.

Last item on my agenda, last but not least, was the Closing Address ‘This Way Humanity’.

Soon evening and 5.30pm arrived, as did the audience who piled into The Edge auditorium to hear Jasper Fforde’s closing words on a pretty heavy topic.  He delivered a personal 40-minute speech, going straight to the heart of the matter, raising pertinent questions on our future.  He gave examples about past, present and Little Daisy as yet unborn but what of her future.  Thoughts on where humanity is headed and the universal importance of literacy and book-reading and how we must dare to ignite and explore our imagination.

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The Edge auditorium, the audience hushed as Jasper Fforde delivered his 40-minute closing address entitled ‘This Way Humanity’.

To be honest, I couldn’t absorb all of the closing address, a thought-provoking mixture of insights and humour, and I’m hoping it will be available online for everyone to read.

By now I was getting hungry.  After a stroll through South Bank Parklands with family, we dined at the delightfully casual South Bank eatery Hop & Pickle where I had a super-duper fresh fish supper.

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After the Closing Speech, a stroll through South Bank Parklands and a relaxed dinner at Hop And Pickle on Little Stanley Street. “Proud purveyors of pub gastronomy”

On the walk back to the bus station, we bought sweet treats from Doughnut Time.  Yum!

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Walking back to the Cultural Centre bus station and just happened to spy the hole-in-the-wall Doughnut Time. Exotic delights with gorgeous names and way too much sugar and spice and all things nice. Yes, they did make it home before being devoured!

As you can see, I attended morning and evening events over the four days.  I travelled by council bus to and from each event.  That adds up to 10 bus trips of approximately 45 minutes duration each.  Yes, tedious, but I saved on parking fees and had a relaxing read during the journey.  Sometimes the bus was almost empty and on the last night it was packed so I stood up the whole way.

My visits were concentrated on one author (as you would have deduced!) yet each event was varied in presentation and content and I am very happy with the outcome.

I started my journey in the early morning with a smokey orange sky over the city.  Here is the same spot four days later looking twinkly in the late evening as I say goodbye to Brisbane Writers Festival for another year.  Safe travels, Mr Fforde.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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The Ending – nightlife – view from South Bank footbridge, looking across the river towards Brisbane City.

Novelist Marguerite Yourcenar said…

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Marguerite Yourcenar, or Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour, was a French novelist and essayist born in Brussels, Belgium, who became a US citizen in 1947. Winner of the Prix Femina and Erasmus Prize, in 1980 she was the first woman elected to the Académie Française. Her most notable work is historical novel “‎Mémoires d’Hadrien” (Memoirs of Hadrian) and I have read “Denier du Rêve” (retitled A Coin in Nine Hands) set in 1933 over one day in Rome where a ten-lira coin passes through the hands of nine unusual people https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marguerite-Yourcenar The flower buds are Dianella caerulea (commonly known as the blue flax-lily) which turn into small green then purple berries and it grows in a terracotta pot near my kitchen door. GBW.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Brisbane Writers Festival Notes Part 2

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The Beginning – dust haze – view from South Bank footbridge, looking across the river towards Brisbane City.

This morning dawned an apocalyptic orange, heavy with outback smoke and dust.  Gone was the bright blue of springtime.  As I neared the city, gusty winds swirled around, making it difficult to know whether earth particles were coming in or being blown away.  Blinking dry eyes, I photographed the pallid light which struggled to illuminate the city skyline.

I was pretty annoyed at the weather’s bad timing.  With thousands of people, both local and international, converging on South Bank for the Brisbane Writers Festival, it made outdoor conditions uncomfortable.  I spared a thought for the farmers and those suffering terribly as bushfires rage across Queensland. We need our wet season now!

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View of Brisbane City from council bus window, the morning light seemed lifeless, glazed in outback dust as the 2019 drought worsens.

I was trying not to hurry.  I could taste the dust as it rasped in and out of my lungs.  Nerves and excitement made me shallow breathe, this was the first morning event at Brisbane Writers Festival.  After a quick swig from my water bottle, I headed towards State Library.   “Slow down”, I chided.  “Take a photo of the whales”.

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Life-size adult Humpback Whales and calf in the walkway of Queensland Museum, Brisbane, with complex underwater songs. The Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) occurs in all oceans of the world. Herds migrate along the Queensland coast between winter breeding and summer feeding grounds. This species was given complete protection by the International Whaling Commission in the southern and northern hemispheres. Today, the eastern Australian Humpback Whales show signs of strong recovery from commercial whaling. “Save The Whales”

After my paper ticket was beeped, I entered the Queensland Writers Centre rooms, oh, the joy of filtered air.  I settled into a well-designed (and comfortable) white upholstered chair ready for “Writing Futures”.  Placed in front of me was a bowl of sweets to fortify and information to read.  Two people were already standing beside a whiteboard.  One was the QWC spokesperson and the other was UK author Jasper Fforde.  He was about to give us a three-hour almost non-stop workshop based on his “narrative dare” principle.  Pens, paper and iPads were certainly worked overtime!

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I tiptoed past the Zen garden so as not to wake the sleeping rocks or disturb the gravel waves.

On arrival next day, a more pleasant day, I turned the corner and there was the solid, colourful comfort of Angel’s Place, a 7.5metre high dome structure which features a print of an original artwork created by artist Gordon Hookey.  Angel’s Palace is a multi-disciplinary collaboration that represents the voice of Indigenous Australia and celebrates Aboriginal storytelling and literature in a powerful experience for audiences.

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Angel’s Place on Maiwar Green outside the Gallery of Modern Art where special performances of Carpentaria were held throughout the Brisbane Writers Festival from panel discussions to secrets of the land.
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Angel’s Place, Brisbane Writers Festival, where ancient stories are told about Carpentaria. Here lives the spirit nest of the ancient serpent, a creature larger than storm clouds, who came down from the stars. On top of the snake’s spirit nest lies Angel’s Palace, the home of Angel Day. Look closely…

While I was photographing Angel’s Place, I heard a cultured Englishman’s voice behind me, asking a question about the dome.  I recognised that voice!  Sure enough, when I swung around I saw author Jasper Fforde walking past, heading towards Gallery of Modern Art with others on the “Dream Worlds” panel.  A fanfic moment rushed over me.  Before I knew it I was following the VIP group.  Walk, click, click, walk and they disappeared inside.  The audience was ushered in shortly afterwards and we took our seats in Cinema B for some serious (and silly) stuff on sleep and dreams.

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The weather had cleared and it was much finer on the second day of Brisbane Writers Festival. The arrow points to UK author Jasper Fforde followed by “Dream Worlds” panel moderator Sarah L’Estrange of ABC Radio National which broadcast the event.
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“Dream Worlds” panel discussion (left to right) moderator Sarah L’Estrange, guest authors USA Karen Thompson Walker, UK Jasper Fforde, Australia Krissy Kneen. And I purchased each of their books.

Official link to ABC Radio National audio recording https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/the-book-show/dreams-bwf/11506864

Had lunch at home prior to returning for “Early Riser: An Evening Conversation” with Jasper Fforde and hosted by John Birmingham in The Edge auditorium, State Library of Queensland.  Tough words, Jasper doesn’t swear but John does, and there were jibes, a bite to their conversation.  Jasper talked about the creation of his current book and John advised him not to give away any spoilers.

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Author Jasper Fforde and author/moderator John Birmingham at Brisbane Writers Festival 2019. I always had a good view of the proceedings and noted that the majority of attendees were women. Do women read more, are women more aware of literary diversity?

Below is what the queue looked like while I was waiting for Jasper Fforde’s autograph.  And I stood with an old work colleague I met quite by accident.  Jasper kindly signed my copy of “Early Riser”, stamped it This book has been declare SKILLZERO Protocol Approved”—an author/reader joke—and tucked a postcard inside.  I asked him what his favourite pet would be, Dodo or Quarkbeast, and he said Quarkbeast (from “The Last Dragonslayer” series) so the family was happy.

You may have noticed that I do not describe the full content of each event.  This is personal preference, I don’t want to divulge things which may be copyright.

The organisation and facilities for this experience are first-class and everything ran smoothly.  As a past volunteer at other literary occasions, I appreciated the knowledge and friendliness of the current volunteers.  Their fluorescent aqua t-shirts stood out!

Another day draws to a close.  I looked forward to tomorrow and perusing more free activities, strolling around the abundant bookshop, then chatting at author “Book Club” with drinks and nibbles, sitting on cushions in the sunshine on the River Deck at State Library.  It’s not difficult to appreciate the luxury of it all.

Ciao for now!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bad to Worse ‘Good Girl Bad Girl’ by Michael Robotham

I haven’t written a negative book review for a while but I need to express my rebellious thoughts on “Good Girl Bad Girl” by Michael Robotham.  I would have liked to give this seasoned author a pat on the back, but it won’t happen.  He (and dare I say his publisher) goofed up, disappointing me with this latest offering.  As a supporter of the Australian writers scene, it pains me to say I have even compiled a list of unwanted gaffes.  And I’m disillusioned by such a rudimentary storyline, further dragged down by Robotham putting believability ahead of plausibility.

First, I’m not keen on psychologist Cyrus Haven, with his generic nightmares and ridiculous spontaneity when it comes to young Evie Cormac, aka Angel Face.  Plots, eh, you need to drive them forward.  Evie lived a feral existence in a secret room with a dead body outside the door and after rescue she was incarcerated in Langford Hall, Nottingham, a secure children’s home.  Being of indeterminate age, she appears mature yet lapses into teenage obviousness as inexperienced Cyrus soon finds out.  Her dubious, er, gift, is an attempt at originality until Robotham trots out tropes and formulaic predictability.

Maybe hackneyed phrases could be revised in another edition, do a bit of showing instead of continual telling, and jumping in and out of a character’s head doesn’t necessarily strengthen the story or boost the tension.  In “Good Girl Bad Girl” the title hints at naughtiness and a girl dies yet the suspects aren’t new, just the usual line-up.  When it comes to fiction, I don’t think crime scene minutia or yet another clichéd pathologist/priest/politician enhances a plot.

“Good Girl Bad Girl” is a ropey book launched into the world too soon.

I noticed these gaffes—

(1)  Cyrus Haven does not own a mobile phone.  He only has a pager and uses a telephone at the local shop, even DCI Lenny Parvel has to track him down while jogging.  How come when he’s at home looking at DVDs of suspect Craig Farley, he has a bright idea and “I punch out her number.  She doesn’t answer.  It goes to her messages. Beep!”
(2)  When Cyrus goes to an old church to talk to the murdered girl’s mother, he can’t get in the front doors because they are locked but when the priest asks him to leave he exits via the front doors.
(3)  Poor proof-reading, fluctuating spelling like practice/practise, repeat words not edited out.
(4)  Flight risk Evie’s electronic tracker on her ankle must vaporise.
(5)  Evie’s POV couldn’t hear both sides of that phone conversation.
(6)  I guess that Uber driver drove away fast.
(7)  DCI Lenny Parvel is a woman yet “Lenny is signalling me from the road.  Aiden is with him.”
(8)  Cyrus has his hands taped to a vertical wooden stair spindle so how could “Cyrus grabs my arm” when later Evie frees him?
(9)  Reader thinks “Am I missing some kind of joke?”
(10) Reader thinks “Is this an uncorrected proof?”

….. there are more blemishes, I got tired of it but you can easily find them.

A crime reader’s curse but I can also see the mechanics at work, the primary sentences, the leading questions, the verbal punches ready to be pulled, the transparent taunts and retorts used many times before, and I don’t mean just by Robotham.  I include contemporary middle-of-the-road crime writers and television scriptwriters all using the same imagery.  They must yearn for a movie deal.  Unfortunately not even banter escapes the mundane repetition seen in current crime stories.

The arthritic white rabbit is still being pulled out of the narrative hat.  Give it a rest!

I have not read any related book reviews so this is my unbiased honest opinion.  With more polish “Good Girl Bad Girl” could have risen above the ranks of ordinary.  New readers will be supportive, Australian fans will be supportive, but I think it’s a monotonous book and I say that with genuine regret.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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Brisbane Writers Festival Notes Part 1

Hi there, a diary entry to say that I am locked into five events over four days at the Brisbane Writers Festival and have attended session ‘Workshop: Writing Futures’ with UK author Jasper Fforde in QWC rooms which I thought ran for one hour, instead it turned out to be three hours.  Value for money!

Jasper Fforde’s takeaway tip for writers: Plausibility Not Believability.  There ain’t nuthin’ that bloke don’t know about writing parallel worlds and alternate futures.

Luckily I had tucked a muesli bar and bottle of water into my bag which helped stave off hunger as I listened avidly to every enlightening word.  Jasper Fforde is humorous, full of helpful advice and open to questions.  I was bold enough to asked a question or two about his ‘The Last Dragonslayer’ trilogy—although Spec-Ops and Thursday Next will always be my favourite.  During the Festival there will be plenty of time for book signings.

Brisbane Writers Festival 2019 03
https://bwf.org.au/

Roll on Saturday and a panel discussion ‘Dream Worlds’ in Cinema B Gallery of Modern Art, being recorded by ABC Radio National, with Australian author Krissy Kneen, American author Karen Thompson Walker and UK author Jasper Fforde.  They are followed by ‘Early Riser’ Conversation at The Edge, State Library of Queensland, South Bank, then Sunday ‘Book Club’ chat with Jasper Fforde on SLQ River Deck.  There is a closing address on Sunday evening ‘This Way Humanity’ and in the meantime I can avail myself of a Festival freebie or two.

Springtime here, it’s dry and unseasonably hot in Brisbane followed by bushfire smoke and dusty high winds so I’ve had to rework my wardrobe.  My bus GoCard is topped up, I have the BWF tickets printed, I am good to go.  Hopefully I will post more in-depth snippets next week.  In the meantime, type Jasper Fforde into my search bar to view my past posts.

The photograph (below) shows the way I walk to State Library of Queensland, underneath the singing whales in the roof outside the Queensland Museum.  Always reminds me of the whale in Douglas Adams ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’.

Bye for now . . . to be continued.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Life-size whale calf in the roof outside Queensland Museum, Brisbane.

‘September in Australia’ Poem by Henry Kendall

‘September in Australia’ by Henry Kendall

Grey Winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest,
And, behold, for repayment,
September comes in with the wind of the West
And the Spring in her raiment!
The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers,
While the forest discovers
Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours,
And the music of lovers.

September, the maid with the swift, silver feet!
She glides, and she graces
The valleys of coolness, the slopes of the heat,
With her blossomy traces;
Sweet month, with a mouth that is made of a rose,
She lightens and lingers
In spots where the harp of the evening glows,
Attuned by her fingers.

The stream from its home in the hollow hill slips
In a darling old fashion;
And the day goeth down with a song on its lips,
Whose key-note is passion.
Far out in the fierce, bitter front of the sea
I stand, and remember
Dead things that were brothers and sisters of thee,
Resplendent September.

The West, when it blows at the fall of the noon
And beats on the beaches,
Is filled with a tender and tremulous tune
That touches and teaches;
The stories of Youth, of the burden of Time,
And the death of Devotion,
Come back with the wind, and are themes of the rhyme
In the waves of the ocean.

We, having a secret to others unknown,
In the cool mountain-mosses,
May whisper together, September, alone
Of our loves and our losses.
One word for her beauty, and one for the grace
She gave to the hours;
And then we may kiss her, and suffer her face
To sleep with the flowers.

High places that knew of the gold and the white
On the forehead of Morning
Now darken and quake, and the steps of the
Night Are heavy with warning!
Her voice in the distance is lofty and loud
Through the echoing gorges;
She hath hidden her eyes in a mantle of cloud,
And her feet in the surges!

On the tops of the hills, on the turreted cones –
Chief temples of thunder –
The gale, like a ghost, in the middle watch moans,
Gliding over and under.
The sea, flying white through the rack and the rain,
Leapeth wild at the forelands;
And the plover, whose cry is like passion with pain,
Complains in the moorlands.

Oh, season of changes – of shadow and shine –
September the splendid!
My song hath no music to mingle with thine,
And its burden is ended;
But thou, being born of the winds and the sun,
By mountain, by river,
Mayst lighten and listen, and loiter and run,
With thy voices for ever.

Henry Kendall (1839 – 1882)

‘Leaves from Australian Forests’
Poems of Henry Kendall – with Prefatory Sonnets.
Third poem – Page 7 of original book.
Pages 163 – with Dedication.
Published 1869 by George Robertson, Melbourne, Australia.
Printed by Walker, May & Co, Melbourne, Australia.

Leaves from the Australia Bush Henry Kendall 02
Poet Henry Kendall – painting ‘Bush Burial’ by Frederick McCubbin (1890)

Website https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Leaves_from_Australian_Forests.html?id=D5UuAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Happy Paws Happy Hearts – Pet Power

There are health benefits to your human-animal interactions!  Studies suggest that pets are good for your heart and stress levels in more ways than one.  Caring for an animal has shown to lower blood pressure and cortisol (stress-related hormone) levels, reduce loneliness and boost your mood.

To find out more, we arrived at University of Queensland Healthy Living headquarters in Toowong at one o’clock for an informative talk from Dr Nancy A. Pachana, clinical geropsychologist and neuropsychologist—and cupcake maker—accompanied by the team from Happy Paws Happy Hearts.

As you would have guessed, the highlight was two adorable and bouncy puppies, Timon and Rafiki, who carried out their pats-and-cuddles duty in admirable fashion.  The blurry photos attest to their eagerness.

Happy Paws Happy Hearts foundation offers an Animal Basics Program, Animal Care Program and Animal Handling Program for individuals and groups.  Participants learn to interact with a variety of animals waiting to be adopted from RSPCA by using well-established animal interaction methods to increase confidence in both humans and critters.

Depending on the program and availability, interaction could be with puppies, kittens, dogs, cats, wildlife and farm animals.  Volunteers support attendees to reach their goals while working with these rescue animals within the shelter.

Research supports dogs and other animals assisting with physical, mental and emotional symptoms as well as supplement therapy for PTSD, anxiety and depression plus a range of psychiatric disorders.  They are particularly important for older people.

Over 60% of older community-dwelling adults cited pets as a key source of emotional support, while dog therapy reduced age care residents loneliness and depression as well as improved cognitive impairment in those with dementia.   The presence of animals provided avenues for active behaviour, decision-making and increased socialisation in nursing home residents.

Dr Pachana spoke about greater acknowledgement of the positive impact of animals in other contexts, such as the workplace and courtrooms.  I have seen encouraging signs in classrooms where children have difficulty with peer activities or reading aloud but respond with a calm dog beside them.

Can Do Canines train shelter dogs for therapy purposes and there are organisations like Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Story Dogs, and of course Happy Paws Happy Hearts doing a wonderful job.

We enjoyed our sociable and informative visit and send a special woof to Timon and Rafiki for being good boys.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


IMG_20190504_213404RSPCA, Wacol https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/

Happy Paws Happy Hearts, Wacol https://hphhfoundation.org/

University of Queensland, Toowong https://habs.uq.edu.au/uqhealthyliving

Book Backlog and Being ‘Beswitched’

Every reader has book backlog.  If we didn’t, there would be no such thing as the TBR, or stacks of unread ARCs, neither shelves groaning with books nor e-readers crammed with downloads.  My bedside table is piled high with enticing yet unread novels and, well, you get the idea.  You have book backlog, too.

There are so many excellent books in the world that I know I will never catch up—so I’m being choosy and will read what I want, when I want.  And taking the sinful route of skipping pages if it’s not up to scratch.

My reading material may not be literary, it may not be controversial, it may not be popular, it may not be the latest or greatest, however, it will be a book I’m interested in from cover-to-cover.  An occasional blog post is sure to come out of it, no matter how fluffy or deep the content.

‘Okay, okay, enough!’ I hear you cry.  ‘When does time travel come into this?’


Beswitched by Kate Saunders 01“A ripping English boarding-school story with a perceptive heroine and time-travel twist guaranteed to appeal to modern schoolgirls.”—Kirkus Reviews



BESWITCHED BY KATE SAUNDERS
is the kind of story which I would have loved when I was a girl.  Well paced and absorbing, it is eerily accurate of all those Famous Five and Girls Own Annual stories I read yonks ago.  Saunders tight writing style easily pulled me into the dilemma which rather spoilt young schoolgirl Flora Fox finds herself, viz, she gets fobbed off to boarding school and never arrives.

Actually she does arrive, but she’s zapped back in time.  Instead of luxurious Penrice Hall, she arrives at St Winifred’s in pre-war 1935 where all the ‘gels’ are ever-so-British-upper-class, the underwear is scratchy and the food is awful.

As you can imagine this is a personal growth tale, cut through with humorous chronological comparisons, nightmare teachers, ripping seaside hols, scary bonding adventures and a neat twist to the enlightening finale.  Jolly. Good. Fun.

I won’t go into the logistics of time travel but suffice to say the elements meld together well.  Recommended for 8 to 12 year olds, although anybody can read it for a look at life when steely friendships were forged by facing boarding school adversity together.

My kidlit rating soars above five stars!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Kate Saunders Author
Kate Saunders won the Costa Children’s Book Award for ‘Five Children on the Western Front’ published 2014. Photo by Clara Molden. Review https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kate-saunders/beswitched/

Coach Departing Now, Folks

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Made in England – china dessert bowl – date and manufacturer unknown.

A rather dramatic story is unfolding in my breakfast bowl.

Cereals and desserts have been eaten from this bowl for over thirty years and yet I have never properly looked at the picture on it.

A few days ago I had a shock when I scooped up the last spoonful of my Weet-Bix (similar to the UK Weetabix, both invented by Bennison Osborne, an Australian) and saw there was a castle on the hill.  I kid you not, I had never seen that castle before!

Allow me to acquaint you with some backstory.  Originally there was a set of six china bowls (15 centimetres or 6 inches across) and originally my parents owned them.  Unfortunately porridge, domestic accidents, and heating leftovers in the microwave have whittled them down.  Of the surviving two, one has a nasty looking fault line appearing.  Therefore, the bowl I have photographed may be the end of the ceramic line.  Or the end of the beginning of a coach trip.

So far, so boring—but wait.  Although this bowl is old, I have to be honest and say it is not an antique.  In fact the picture may have been embossed on like a transfer and glazed over.  Never mind, I’m getting to the point, well, ten points actually—

  First there is the brooding castle on the hill; quite a substantial pile.  A name doesn’t immediately spring to mind but I’m working on it.

  Nestled halfway down the hill is a gamekeeper or crofter’s cottage.

  In the valley at the base of the hill is a small village.  An unaccompanied lady is standing on the side of the unpaved road which runs past the Duck Inn.  She isn’t over-dressed and uses a walking cane.  Her gaze is towards the two gentlemen opposite, chatting beside the milestone.  Perhaps this marker reads “London 100 miles” but I can’t decipher it.

  One of the toffs (lord of the manor) is holding a buggy whip.  He would not have ridden a horse down from the castle in a top hat.  He could be the lady’s son and heir up to no-good, he spends too much time in the tavern.  Or she may be his old faithful nanny, instructed to keep an eye on him.  Or yet again, she could be the wife of the man canoodling in the middle of the road.

  We see two lovers canoodling in the middle of the road.  The man is keener than the woman, and a dog is either giving them a wide berth or coming around behind the man to nip him on the ankle.

  Unbeknown to the busily occupied people, a cat slinks into the rear footwell of the coach.  Earlier he had been shooed away but being a feline named Nosey…

  Outside the Duck Inn (a duck is painted on the sign) the coach boy is making final preparations for the horses’ feedbags.  He loves them ‘orses.

  The coach driver is ready and waiting.  He’s heard rumours that Dick Turpin is lurking in the vicinity (if I’m in the right century) and wants to get going well before nightfall.  The innkeeper loaned him a pistol and it digs into the small of his back.

  Seven people are milling about.  At least four are passengers judging by the loading of a trunk on the roof, a well-wrapped parcel in somebody’s hands, and a family group perhaps saying goodbye.  The husband could be off to London on business and the daughters are sad but the wife is glad he’s out of her hair for a few days.

  Lastly, a curtain twitches at one of the attic windows of the Duck Inn.

There are leafy details in the background and in the foreground the stone wall appears to be crumbling.  I have looked for birds but only managed to spy a tiny number 9 in the garden beneath the Duck Inn sign.  A maker’s mark?

And that’s it.  There are no hallmarks or stamps on base of the bowl except the words “Made in England”.  I have no idea if the picture is fake-aged or has been copied from an earlier (original) tableware design.

One thing is for sure, it has given me a good idea for an historical short story.  Visual prompts are another way to overcome writer’s slump.  Look hard at any image and you will find a story to tell.

Check your kitchen cupboards, your own crockery may have a narrative in the making!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Three Things #7

THING ONE  Reading—The Chain by Adrian McKinty
THING TWO  Looking—A Lemon in Disguise
THING THREE  Thinking—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers


THING ONE—READING—The Chain by Adrian McKinty—

The Chain took me by surprise.  I had no idea what the title referred to until nice normal cancer patient Rachel O’Neill turns into a desperate, frenzied, tigress of a woman ready to kill to protect her cub Kylie.

Adrian McKinty has written 14 books and I’ve read them all, so I know he can write ‘other stuff’.  Guns, cops, drugs and tricky, desperate situations.  But never with the strong emotion which The Chain evoked in me.

The sequence of events is based on real bandits who kidnap people and hold them to ransom until their families pay to have them released.  Not very nice, and neither is what happens to Rachel and Kylie.  This sophisticated version of The Chain involves snatching a child and holding them prisoner to save your own child who has been captured and the next person snatches a child and holds them prisoner until their child is released, etc…with brutal consequences for broken links.

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Hachette Australia bookcover 2019

The winners in all of this are The Chain initiators who demand that huge sums of money be paid into their off-shore account otherwise they will force the family to kill your child.  The fear, panic and high stress levels are well realised and the pressure applied to Rachel and her ex-army drug addicted brother-in-law Pete (he goes into Bruce Willis mode) never lets up.

Half way through the plot, things take a sharp u-turn (Australian version is chuck-a-youie) but the reader has to trust the writer to follow-through.  Trust him I did.  And the result was definitely worth it.  As always, McKinty writes in his own unique style.  There are warnings of social media over-exposure which ring true and even though this suspense thriller is set well and truly on American soil, it holds a universal truth ‘Watch over your children’.

A poetic excerpt from The Chain, Chapter 40, Sunday 11.59 p.m.
“She merges with the traffic.
The highway hums.  The highway sings.  The highway luminesces.
It is an adder moving south.
Diesel and gasoline.
Water and light.
Sodium filament and neon.
Interstate 95 at midnight. America’s spinal cord, splicing lifelines and destinies and unrelated narratives.
The highway drifts.  The highway dreams.  The highway examines itself.
All those threads of fate weaving together on this cold midnight.”
Author Adrian McKinty 2019

WordPress link to my previous post reviewing McKinty’s Rain Dogs.
I am wrestling with my new Goodreads account.


THING TWOLOOKING—A Lemon in Disguise—

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Saw this lemon doing undercover surveillance in an abandoned fruit bowl. He looked a bit out of place with his onion skin hair.

THING THREETHINKING—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers—

This beautiful quote from Wilder Child Nicolette Gowder struck a cord with me.  I thought about young family members who were forever picking up small objects and bringing them home after school.  Everything was of interest when out walking, items had to be investigated for smoothness, brightness, weight or lightness.  The best treasures were those which once were alive, like a crab claw, rat skull or insect exoskeleton.

I thought about my mother who used to point out the delicate things in nature, things which tend to get overlooked.  I inherited her spy-eye for detail especially seed pods.  She was more of a beachcomber…but always putting those glistening seashells back where she found them Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wilder Child The Dawdlers The Inquisitive Ones
Nicolette Gowder nature-connected parenting https://wilderchild.com/ and blog Sweet Breathing https://sweetbreathing.com/blog/

Wales Readathon Dewithon 2019 08One post in three parts, Reading Looking Thinking, a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Check out Book Jotter her informative, interesting and book-related website!

Re-reading Old Stuff

It was a nice surprise to discover an older piece of writing I’d forgotten, particularly when it still holds up.

My overview of Fiona McIntosh’s historical fiction “Tapestry” was penned for Top 40 Book Club Reads 2015, a regular Brisbane City Council Library Service booklet written and compiled by unacknowledged library staff.

The book—billed as timeslip fiction—has a layered plot and it was hard to write a 100 word description without sounding too stilted.  McIntosh chose settings in two countries, Australia and Britain, in two different eras of history.  I particularly liked the second half in 1715 within the Tower of London.

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Synopsis by Gretchen Bernet-Ward

After visiting the Tower of London to research her book, McIntosh had “An unforgettable day and I attribute much of the story’s atmosphere to that marvellous afternoon and evening in the Tower of London with the Dannatts when the tale of Lady Nithsdale and my own Tapestry came alive in my imagination.”

Author Fiona McIntosh has written quite a stack of books set in many parts of the world, and in different genres: Non-Fiction, Historical Romantic-Adventure, Timeslip, Fantasy – Adult, Fantasy – Children, and Crime.

Check your local library catalogue in person or online.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


In order of appearance, the Brisbane Libraries Top 40 book club recommendations for 2015—I have not read Poe Ballantine’s chilling tale “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” and I may never read it—See how many titles you’ve read!

The Visionist;  Moriarty;  Tapestry;  The Bone Clocks;  California; Z – Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald;  The Mandarin Code;  Merciless Gods;  Upstairs at the Party;  Friendship;  Birdsong;  Heat and Light;  Time and Time Again;  What Was Promised;  The Austen Project;  The Paying Guests;  The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel;  Lost and Found;  Amnesia;  Cop Town;  Mr Mac and Me;  Nora Webster;  The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden;  Inspector McLean – Dead Men’s Bones;  The Soul of Discretion;  We Were Liars;  Stone Mattress – Nine Tales;  Family Secrets;  South of Darkness;  The Claimant;  This House of Grief;  She Left Me the Gun;  Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered;  The Silver Moon;  Revolution;  Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere;  What Days Are For;  Mistress;  Warning – The Story of Cyclone Tracy;  The Birth of Korean Cool.

Indrani Ganguly ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ Book Review

Author Indrani Ganguly based her historical novel in Lucknow, India, a city renowned as the most refined of the Muslim kingdoms where she, her mother and grandmother were born.  In 1857 the Siege of Lucknow was also the scene of some of the most brutal fighting during the country’s uprisings.

Lucknow India 002

Indrani Ganguly’s novel is an illuminating blend of fact and fiction.  Twins Mukti and Lila Chatterjee—the eponymous rose and thorn compared to a black rose in their garden—are the heart and soul of the story.  Ganguly’s research is comprehensive thanks to an academic background, and her foreword mentions some family memories.  She explains the book is not a personal history of her family, although I think there are insights which add to the charm of the narrative.

Two parallel movements emerged in India in the 19th and 20th centuries, the national movement of Independence and the social reform to uplift the most vulnerable sections of society.  During this time of national and social upheaval, the role of Indian women makes enlightening reading.

India Father and Children 1930sLucknow Rose and Thorn

There are six families in “The Rose and The Thorn”.  The main characters are Jai Chatterjee, history professor, his wife Shanti and their twin daughters Mukti and Lila.  Then follows The Mukherjees, The Alis, The Johnsons, The Banerjees, and The Maharajas.  It is easy to keep track as the years unfold, events develop in clear progression and the tension builds.

Young Mukti innocently reads the signs of civil unrest in a 1922 pamphlet calling for a boycott on foreign clothing, and the event is witnessed by her British friend Elizabeth and father Alan when riding in a tanga (horse-drawn transport).  Protesters burn clothes on a huge bonfire, quickly followed by police aggression.  One of the police inspectors, Anil, is a Chatterjee family member.

India horse-drawn Tanga

India Mahatma GandhiAround this time, non-violent resistance advocate Mahatma Gandhi is arrested and imprisoned for two years for publishing seditious material.

The twins Lila and Mukti grow up, marriages are arranged and their resilient personalities emerge to deal with life; the loss of loved ones, writing for radical newspaper Chandpur Barta, social work at a women’s centre, and an eventful protest march for women’s rights.

As a young woman in 1970s I was woven into the women’s liberation movement but did not realise how long Indian women had faced their own battles.  They were invisible, they survived as long as they had a man, otherwise they were classed as nothing.  From a 21st century stance, I find it difficult to comprehend the household dictates of that time and the shocking treatment of widows.

The character portrayals of the men and women in the story are strong, and they have firm opinions on the subjects of politics and political activism—handsome Rashid Ali spices things up!  His mother Ruksana is also a driving force.  Mosquito-hating Krishna Banerjee and the Maharaja are men not to be underestimated.  Societal revolutions are brewing but the big question is ‘Will Congress win?’  If women had the vote things may have been different.

Lucknow India 001

I was interested in the chapters dated March 1923 because that was the year my mother was born.  As my mother grew up, I wonder how much she and her Australian contemporaries knew of the Partition turmoil in India?  I knew India was part of the British Commonwealth but certainly didn’t learn about their struggles.  To quote the prologue “There are no martyrs’ monuments or eternal burning flames…” for the ordinary women who led extraordinary lives.

On a lighter note, Chapter 25, March 1923 “The Governor’s Ball” has an outrageous encounter with the Governor’s wife.  And during a family visit to the Taj Mahal, a wandering minstrel strolls by, strumming his ektara (traditional one-stringed musical instrument) singing a saucy song:

There was a rose and a thorn in my life
One was my lover and one was my wife.
Which was which I could not tell
It changed day-by-day and as night fell . . .

. . . I don’t want to give too much away, dear reader, but I will say there is a secret.

Author Ganguly explains that representing the dialogue in English was a challenge.  The two languages used in the book are Hindi and Bengali which have very different grammar syntax.  She overcame this and the result is flowing dialogue containing a smattering of Indian words which enhance the story.

India Food Luchi Eggplant 01The woven cloth khadi, and sweet and savoury food references enticed me to look for translations.  I found a recipe for Mukti’s favourite dish, freshly fried luchi and eggplant.

My curiosity was piqued by the influential roles of India’s royals, the Maharaja and Maharani, in the story.  I read a quote from modern-day Princess Shivranjani of Jodhpur who doesn’t have a problem with only male heirs inheriting but aptly retorts “If you say a boy is everything and a girl is nothing, well, I have a problem with that!”

Indian Goddess Maa Durga Devi 03Powerful Goddess Durga, whose name is spoken several times in the book, also got me researching.  “Durga” in Sanskrit means “invincible” and numerous Mantras are chanted for her throughout the year.

The era of Indian history from 1916 to 1947 is brought alive by Indrani Ganguly through the eyes of Mukti and Lila, and the wise and courageous women who supported them.  While I did not choose a favourite between the rose and the thorn, I enjoyed their journey and learned a lot about the faith and endurance of families in India during those turbulent times.

The epilogue narrator says “I myself travelled many different paths till I joined my father in Delhi but that is another story.”  I look forward to reading it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward



AUTHOR PROFILE

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Author Indrani Ganguly

Indrani Ganguly was born of Bengali parents in Lucknow, India.  Her parents imbued her with a strong sense of Indian and world history and culture, and a great appreciation of  diversity in all its forms.  Indrani studied English Honours and sociology in India and did her PhD on the impact of British occupation on revolution and reform in West Bengal from the Australian National University.  In 1990, Indrani married an Australian with whom she now lives in Brisbane, Queensland.  They have a son, daughter and grandson.

Published by Boolarong Press
https://www.boolarongpress.com.au/product/the-rose-and-the-thorn/
[NOTE General photographs are for illustration purposes only]

Here is the YouTube link to BBC’s Great Indian Railway Journeys video which documents the history and scenes of Lucknow, and shows the buildings which Indrani Ganguly writes about in her book.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CckjZafH0vI