Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Forgotten Sea

I had high expectations for this book. I read it as part of the Australian Women Writers challenge ... otherwise I wouldn't have finished it. Beverley Harper is Australian, though she spent a significant amount of her life in Africa.
   On the back of this edition, she is said to be Australia's answer to Wilbur Smith. Now, I love Wilbur Smith, and have read a lot of his sagas over the last few years. However, The Forgotten Sea by Beverley Harper is nothing like a Wilbur Smith novel. It's more like a murder mystery in a Mills & Boon novel.

Having said that, I did actually have a lot of guilty pleasure reading this novel. About half way through, when the Mills & Boon style romance got hot, I couldn't put it down. Her fans have posted online that it is one of her best novels.
   It was full of cliches, it's predictable and a bit ridiculous, but the reader does become invested in the characters.
   So if you like a murder mystery, and you like suggestive paragraphs about hot sex (but never actually have the sex described), then you should give this novel a try.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lady Chatterley's Lover

As part of my commitment to read more classics, I read Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Having read Sons and Lovers by Lawrence earlier this year, I was really looking forward to the prose and character development that I had enjoyed so much in Sons and Lovers. I had no idea what to expect when I picked this book up, which is usually the case when I read something - I don't do much research before hand. I was a bit shocked, I must admit, but this was one of the best books I have ever read.

After I had finished reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, I did a bit of research. I didn't know the controversy that surrounded the publishing of this novel. I hindsight, though, I can see why some stuffy people got their nickers in a knot over this book.
   Lawrence wrote it in the 1920s, which shows how progressive he was. It was only printed privately in Italy, until it was finally published openly in the UK in the 1960s. Penguin Publishing was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, but the verdict was "not guilty". Australian banned the book, and as recently as 2009, the Australia Post refused to sell the book in its store or outlets!
   This novel is not smut or obscene, despite some of the uses of the "f-work" and the "c-word". There are very descriptive sex scenes, but overall the book is about intimacy. It was extremely progressive for Lawrence to have been writing about the female orgasim or about menopause. It is the character development and emotion in this novel that saves it. You take the journey that Lady Chatterley takes during her affair. The ending is also magnificently done - it leaves you to meet your own expectations of 'happily ever after'.
   As well as the sex, there is a lot of exploration about the decline of the social fabric of society - about what industrialism is turning the working class into, and also about the lowering of the upper class. It is very much about the class system, and Lady Chatterley's battle against it and struggle to accept her position. It touches on the dissatisfaction of the lower and middle classes, the strikes, and has references to socialism and anarchism.
   I think my own self awareness and sexuality has benefitted from reading this book - I think we should all live with awareness in the moment, and appreciation for what we have, rather than just pretending to live.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Ballad of Les Darcy

As part of the Aussie Author Challenge, this week I read The Ballad of Les Darcy by Peter Fitzsimons. I have now read about four of Peter Fitzsimons' novels, and he has a unique writing style - it is like he is sitting beside you telling you the story. He writes non-fiction, but he makes it like a proper story, rather than just reciting research. I was also lucky enough to hear him speak in Wagga Wagga two years ago, and had him sign a couple of his books.

I had heard nothing of Les Darcy, I am ashamed to say. I was a bit disappointed, because I thought it was going to be the story of a boxer-tured-war hero. In fact, he died when he was twenty-one, just after he had enlisted - he didn't even get to war.
   Even though he died so young, Les Darcy was already the middleweight champion of the world, and the light heavyweight and heavyweight champion of Australia! He is one of Australia's greatest athletes, ever, but he is virtually unknown (to my generation, at least). I am so glad that Peter Fitzsimons wrote this little gem of a novel (only about 50,000 words for the Books Alive initiative for the Australian Government).
   The novel has caught the flavour of the time, in the early 1910's and through the first years of World War I. I cannot believe the amount of pressure that the Australian press and public put Darcy under to join the Army. His mother refused to sign the paperwork, so whilst he was under twenty-one years of age, it wasn't his choice whether he joined up or not. But everyone seemed to ignore that fact.
   His spirit was also very inspiring. He was such a straight-living young man, who came from a family that must have struggled when he was young. There is very little about his early years, which I imagine to be very difficult. There is also very little about his relationship with his drunken father (who, somehow, manages to outlive his younger mother by about 8 years!). I might explore some other books written on Les Darcy, since I am intrigued by the struggling and working classes around the time of Australian federation.