Do you ever put off reading a book you really want to read, simply because once you start, it will soon be finished? Or is it just me?
Are you more of the “never put off till tomorrow the book you can read today” kind of person?
I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth, but I put off starting it for weeks. I knew that once I’d started, I’d be swept away by Kate’s story and wouldn’t want the story to end. And yes, that’s exactly what happened with The Blue Rose – I couldn’t put it down. Kate has an enviable knack of transporting readers right into the pages of her story, and you get to a point where you don’t want to leave that world.
The Palace of Versailles was a gilded cage, and Viviane a pinioned bird within.
THE BLUE ROSE, KATE FORSYTH, P105
The story begins as the French Revolution gathers momentum, and moves between France and Imperial China as an impossible love story unfolds. Viviane de Faitaud loves her garden at Chateau de Belisama-sur-le-Lac and is devastated when it destroyed during a hailstorm. Welsh landscape designer David Stronach accepts a commission from her father, the Marquis de Ravoisier, to plan the chateau’s new gardens, and the two meet and fall in love. Her father puts an end to their fledgling romance and cruelly hunts David from the property, before forcing Viviane to marry a rich, much older duke (who is a rather unpleasant man). What follows is an enthralling tale of two determined people who have to find a way to survive in an increasingly uncertain world, but the question is, will their love survive?
Kate weaves a spell around every word, captivating the reader as they immerse themselves into the heady, revolutionary times. The world of revolutionary France comes to life under her careful hand and dedication to research – and she doesn’t hold back on the bloody details. Her characters are spirited and memorable, especially Viviane. The fairy tale of the title is woven in seamlessly (you can also read another version of “The Blue Rose” fairy tale in Kate’s book The Buried Moon).
I loved The Blue Rose and for me, it’s another keeper for my shelf. I just need to get a copy that’s the final version!
Richard stood utterly still, watching as a single tear escaped her lashes and traced its way down her cheek. He felt like an intruder on her private grief.
THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT, KAYTE NUNN, P110
I found myself fully immersed in Kayte Nunn’s historical fiction The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant last month. The dual timeline novel swept me to a windswept island off Cornwall, where the scene was set for a beautifully woven tale of loss, sacrifice, restoration, healing and love.
At its heart it’s a love story that’s enfolded in a mystery; when long-lost love letters from the past are found, decidedly unromantic present-day marine scientist Rachel is intrigued by the romantic notion of lost letters and pining hearts. What unfolds is a compelling story filled with heartbreak and hope, exploring the treatment of mental illness in a time when husbands could easily commit their wives to an institution. It could have been melodramatic, but instead it’s compassionate and evocative in its emotional and descriptive character.
I loved this book – both as a writer, where I admired the assured storytelling, and as a reader, where I was absorbed in its pages all the way to the end. Bring on more, Kayte!
She’d been longing to connect with someone who understood. Charlie had come along, and he got it – or seemed to.
LOVE SONG, SASHA WASLEY, P51
Sasha Wasley’s Daughters of the Outback series won me over with its first two instalments, Dear Banjo and True Blue, so it was a given that I’d want to see how the series ended. Love Song is not only a heart-warming rural romance, but also a love song to the outback, which Sasha writes about so well. Alongside the love story, which reunites former high school lovers Beth and Charlie after years apart, Love Song explores grief, regret, and the potential impact of establishing a mining base near a dry community. This issue in particular was dealt with sensitively and respectfully.
Unlike the previous two books in the series, I did feel that the romance between Beth and Charlie was overshadowed somewhat by the personal and community issues they were dealing with, but Love Song was still an enjoyable read and I was satisfied with the romantic resolution.
One thing I always enjoy about rural fiction is the way it brings to light issues that are often forgotten by urban dwellers, such as access to health care and educational choices, and Love Song continues this.
Better to be bullied and learn to survive
than to be the bully and be dead inside.
“INSIDE OUT” FROM GRAFFITI LANE, KELLY VAN NELSON, P45
Graffiti Lane by Kelly Van Nelson is a new collection of poetry that swaps the rose-coloured glasses for grit and dirt and shadow. There’s a rawness and at times, simplicity, to her language that evokes feelings of empathy, “I’ve-been-there” understanding, empowerment, sadness, tenderness and even smiles. One minute you’re wincing and the next you’re nodding your head – it’s that kind of poetry; poetry that gets people, that reveals the poet’s heart, poetry that packs a punch. And the style is as eclectic as the subject matter – there’s freeform mixed with traditional rhyming verse, while others are short, sharp slaps and some verge on prose.
What I like is the accessibility of this collection – whether you’re a poet or a non-poet, the collection is easy to read and relate to (the opposite of which puts off many a reader). For me, the short, sharp poems resonated most strongly, as well as those that followed a more natural thought-flow than conforming to a rhyme scheme. Standouts were ‘Mirror, Mirror’, ‘On the Chin’ and ‘Silver Linings’, all expressive and thought-provoking pieces of work.
“His brother cried and cried. Finally, the soldiers stopped him. A group of women dragged your grandfather away, forced him to keep walking. For days his brother’s cries echoed in his ears.”
MY NAME IS REVENGE, ASHLEY KALAGIAN BLUNT, P7
Finally, Ashley Kalagian Blunt’s collection My Name is Revenge (which includes a novella and essays) began with the gripping title story, which is historical fiction based on true events following the Armenian genocide. Sydney-based Armenian Vrezh has never forgotten the reason he was expelled from school – he tried to raise awareness of the genocide, where more than one million Armenians were murdered. His attempt to show that history has more than one narrative backfired when a Turkish student complained. When an assassination takes place in Sydney, he becomes caught up in the aftermath, leading him on a destructive and deadly path. It’s confronting … and that’s good.
I know so little about the Armenian genocide, despite having some long-time Armenian friends. It’s not something we ever discussed. Reading Ashley’s tightly written narrative, and the following essays, opened my eyes to pages of history I was blind to. What I experienced was a compassionate but balanced re-imagining of real-life events in Sydney, and an education (or at least the beginning of one). Ashley’s writing is taut and assured – there’s an enviable economy of words that says so much. At the end, I was left to ponder questions of my own (why don’t we learn about this?) as well as those raised indirectly throughout this short collection.
If you’re interested in history, add this to your reading list.
What have you been reading?