An Outback Nurse

An Outback Nurse out the back of my house

Thea Hayes
Allen and Unwin
Published October 2014

Thank you to the publisher for
providing this book in exchange
for an honest review. This did
not alter my review in any way.

Thea Hayes’ An Outback Nurse is a fascinating account of her life as nurse on a cattle station in the Australian outback (title is a little explanatory, I suppose). Thea was a city girl, just home from travels in Europe and the U.S. when she applies for a job in the Northern Territory on a whim. When she accepts the position she couldn’t have known then what her life would have in store for her and she didn’t know a thing about the four million cattle station she would soon be calling home. She found love, life and a home in the middle of nowhere.

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Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale

Author: Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed
Publisher: Palomino Press
Star Rating: 3.75/5
Date Read: May 19th to 22nd, 2014
Thank you to the authors for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Let the record show – I read an e-book! I know, it is sacrilege. I read it on my tablet, which was a bit awkward, and I will be honest, this did impact on my reading experience. But sometimes there are some opportunities that we don’t want to miss out on. This was one of those.

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn is based on the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from the Thousand and One Arabian Nights – with a twist. Among the magic of Arabia and its djinn and other beings, the tale has been reimagined to include a steampunk element. This was new for me as I had only read one other steampunk book and didn’t like it, however I am willing to admit this may have been the book as opposed to the genre. So I resolved to read this book while ignoring my previous misgivings.

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Amir: Friend On Loan

Author: Amra Pajalic
Publisher: Grattan Press
Star Rating: 2.5/5
Date Read: May 5th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Thank you to Goodreads and the author Amra Pajalic for providing me with a copy of this book.

Amir: Friend On Loan tells the story of Amir and Dragan, best friends living in Australia but with different ethnic backgrounds. This has never been a problem for their friendship, until the ‘Serbs’ invade Bosnia. Dragan is from Serbia and Amir from Bosnia. This causes all kinds of problems with their families and friends, and the boys find themselves not allowed to be friends anymore.

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Jasper Jones

Author: Craig Silvey
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: March 31st to April 2nd, 2014
When the cover of a book states it is “the Australian To Kill A Mockingbird” (The Monthly), you have to admit this is a pretty big call to make. It’s enough to make you prick your ears up and make you doubt the book, all in the same breath. And while I usually dislike such comparisons, I have to agree this is pretty spot on, and I would have picked up the connection even if it didn’t say so on the cover.

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A Little Bush Maid

Author: Mary Grant Bruce
Series: Billabong, Book 1
Publisher: Ward, Lock
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 20th to 22nd, 2013
Read Count: 1
I’d never heard of Mary Grant Bruce or the Billabong series until one day my grandmother started talking about the books she read as a child, some 70 years ago now. For all I knew she was making it all up because I had never heard or seen of it anywhere…until I stumbled across the first book A Little Bush Maid in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it immediately, and sat down to see what the fuss was about.

Of course, I loved it. How could I not? It’s Australia, it’s the bush, it’s history (though fiction I believe this portrays an accurate picture of rural Australia at the time), it’s a plucky little heroine who you can’t help but love and a whole other cast of characters. I can see why my grandmother loved this as a child and I only wish I, too, had discovered them at a younger age (being now about 10 years above the target age).

Many who read these books today may be shocked by some of the terms and behaviour used by even the children toward the Aboriginal stable boy. I think it is important to realise, while we should in no way encourage this behaviour, we also shouldn’t try to cover up that part of history. That was the way life was in the 1900s and is clearly very different to life in 2010s. Just to put my two cents in, I see no reason to politically correct any novels, including the Billabong series and also Enid Blyton books, which I believe have been ‘edited’. I think that adults shouldn’t be so shocked that those attitudes did once exist, and I also think that children who read the books should have an understanding of how life used to be different and why it’s not like that anymore.

But I digress! This book is wonderful and I look forward to scrounging around a few more secondhand bookstores to get my paws on the rest!

Moon Filly

Author: Elyne Mitchell
Series: The Silver Brumby
Publisher: Hutchinson
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: September 22nd to 23rd, 2013
Read Count: 1
Elyne Mitchell has a wonderful way of bringing to life the magical high country in the minds of those who have never seen it, and causing those who have (such as myself) to recall fond memories of the bush. The imagery she creates means that you never have time to ponder upon the fact that in this entire novel, revolving around the two beautiful brumbies (wild Australian horses, to the uninformed) Wurring and Ilinga, there is no dialogue. Despite this fact, the reader is still able to connect to the horses and their story, their journey to find each other again.

I felt like I could feel the emotion through the pages and yet it never seemed as if Mitchell had anthropomorphized these creatures, which is an easy mistake to make in any fiction where animals are the main characters, and still create a believable story.

The Silver Brumby stories are Australian favourites for a reason.

The Joy Luck Club

Author: Amy Tan
Publisher: Penguin
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: September 30th to October 4th, 2013
The Joy Luck Club is another one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but without really knowing anything about it, and have finally gotten around to it after buying a slightly battered copy from an op shop (for $1!). The Joy Luck Club is a beautiful and tragic and interesting collection of stories of four interwoven mothers-and-daughters, who together form The Joy Luck Club where they play mah jong and gossip and compare daughters. Each daughter causes her mother to shake her head, and each daughter feels the same way about her mother. There is such a culture divide, even though the daughters are Chinese too, between the American raised daughters and the Chinese raised mothers, that they often have trouble making connections and understanding each other. It is only when Jing-mei’s mother dies that she realises, too late, all the things her mother had to teach her, all the things she never wanted to listen to.

This was written different to what I thought it would be. Instead of a flowing novel, we get snippets of the lives of the women in the novel, from their childhoods, in China and in America, and throughout their lives. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the mothers and daughters. What was the same, however, is how each mother feels misunderstood by her daughter, and each daughter feels misunderstood by her mother. I found it sad how neither seem to reconcile this fact and how both seem incapable to changing it. I would hope the daughters might learn from Jing-mei how much they had to lose, and as mothers make not the same mistakes their own mothers did.

Still, who am I to understand how the relationship between Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters (who identify more as American than Chinese) work? It is easy for me to stand so far away and identify the flaws, when I don’t know how hard it would be to change.

All in all, a good read that left me with a tear in my eye by the end!