Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Reviews / July 2014

Part family history, part memoir, part novel The Worst Country in the World is the story of Mary Pitt, a 53-year-old widow and mother of five, who left her home in the UK in 1801 to sail across the world to live in the  penal colony of New South Wales. The settlement (Sydney) was then just thirteen years old and an experiment that seemed on the verge of failure. What made her go there?
The colony was initially a mix of military personnel, government servants and convicts. Free Settlers were needed for expansion, self sufficiency and commerce. She thought the opportunity to migrate might provide her and her family with a better future than existed at home for a penniless yeoman’s widow. .
Together with other early settlers, who lived lives of hardship and great uncertainty in a country where the climate was wild and unpredictable and daily life was a matter of improvisation and experimentation, she became a woman of some standing,

The author, Patsy Trench, is Mary’s great great great great granddaughter.
She says the facts of the story are based on careful research by herself, family genealogists over the centuries, her English and Australian cousins and most notably, her late aunt Barbara Lamble.
But she has filled in the gaps, giving her ancestors characteristics, physical and personal, they may or more likely may not have had. She invented the circumstances in which they met their spouses and their deaths. She describes the book as a ‘dramatised’ story.
For me it was a fascinating tale of early colonial Sydney and the settlement of the area around the upper Hawkesbury River, now Windsor/ Pitt Town / Wilberforce which are on the outskirts of the suburban sprawl of today's city.
Well worth reading for anyone interested in that era in Australia.
In Home Front the wife is a combat helicopter pilot, the husband a defense attorney.
He does not connect with her military life, she is at odds with his workaholicism. The only thing keeping them together are the children....just
So when she is unexpectedly deployed in Iraq a huge relationship cavern opens up with the kids left teetering on the edge.
Then she comes home severely injured with her best friend and neighbour killed in the same action.


An interesting novel that manages to just keep its head above the melodramatic. The battle and trauma hospital scenarios are quite compelling. The author even manages to insert a war related post traumatic stress disorder sub plot which is extremely relevant these days.
This is a story about marriage, war, loneliness, honor and hope.
I feel like this book caters to a much broader audience than Kristin Hanna's normal chick-lit dramas do and it made good reading.
Bootleg is the story about the rise and fall of the disastrous social experiment known as Prohibition.
It began with the best of intentions. Mothers, wives and civic leaders, concerned about the affects of alcohol on American families, began a movement to outlaw drinking in public places. Eventually their protests, petitions and activism paid off when a Constitutional Amendment banning the sale and consumption of alcohol was ratified.

This was supposed to end public drunkenness, alcoholism and a host of other social problems caused by grog. Instead, it began a decade of lawlessness, when children smuggled and drank illegal alcohol, the most upright citizens broke the law with impunity and a host of notorious gangsters entered the public arena.
This short but fascinating book contains period art and photographs, anecdotes and portraits of the unique characters of the era. 
Set mostly in an English village during World War II (although the USA South and Austria also get a 'run'), War Brides tells the story of five women from completely different backgrounds who are evacuated from London for their safety.
There is the clergyman's daughter Alice who was dumped by her fiance for the American Evangeline with a secret, Tanni, a Jewish woman who escaped from Austria as the Nazis closed in, Elsie, the Cockney-speaking Londoner and Frances a rich girl on a patriotic mission. 
But the war starts to encroach on their small world with hunger, bombing raids and the threat of a Nazi invasion being constant companions. And there appears to be a traitor in their midst.

Fifty years on at a VE Day Commemoration, four of the five women meet up in the village with more than a reunion on their minds and that is revenge.
A good story, well written which keeps you pretty much eager to turn to the next page. You might just have to suspend belief at little at some of the plot lines however.
Maybe a book aimed at female readers but, then again, maybe not.

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