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Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

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The third instalment of the Miss Fisher series starts with Phryne Fisher waking up on a train to discover that she and her fellow passengers have been chloroformed. After raising the alarm it is discovered that an elderly lady, Mrs Henderson, is missing from the train and is subsequently found dead. The honorable Miss Fisher is soon on the case, but the plot thickens when a young girl who was on the train is brought to her having lost her memory. Now Phryne is not only trying to discover who killed Mrs Henderson, but also where the girl has come from and what has happened to her to cause her to forget everything…

As with the previous two Miss Fisher novels, there is a great sense of fun in this book. However, there is a sinister undercurrent, which deals with the trafficking of young girls and a gruesome murder. The author does traverse this tightrope well though – conveying the characters’ (and by extension the readers’) disgust at the treatment of the girls, while still allowing Phryne’s sense of adventure and her liberated attitude towards sex to come through.

An enjoyable and for the most part undemanding and enjoyable read – if you like ‘cosy’ murder mysteries I would recommend the Phryne Fisher series. However, if complex character studies and intricate plots are more your thing, this series may well annoy you. I like these books very much, reading them as I do, sandwiched between other books.

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This book is the second in the Phryne Fisher Mystery series, and revolves around not one, but two mysteries. The book opens with Phryne meeting a new client – a nervous lady who is convinced that her son is going to murder his father and she wants Phryne to intervene to stop this. When the father does indeed turn up dead shortly afterwards, Bill the son is naturally the main suspect.

The second mystery is the kidnapping of a young girl, whose parents engage Phryne to retrieve their daughter and return her to safety.

Naturally Phyrne, along with her friends Bert and Cec, and trusty maid Dot not only investigates the crimes, but investigates them with panache and cunning, and all while wearing a beautiful wardrobe and seducing a couple of rather gorgeous men!

I think I probably enjoyed this book marginally more than the first one (I gave the first one 3.5 out of 5, I’d give this one 4), which bodes well for the rest of the series. It is an undemanding read, sprinkled with humour and with enough twists to keep the reader interested. As ever, Phryne is loveable, exasperating and stubborn. Fans of the TV series should note that Jack Robinson hardly appears in this book (and in any event, he is entirely different in the show, not to mention still firmly married to his wife) and the main police officer in the story is Detective Inspector Benton.

Another enjoyable instalment from a series that I look forward to continuing to read.

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One day in Melbourne, happily married mother-of-three Cecilia Fitzpatrick finds a letter in the attic with instructions on the envelope from her husband John-Paul, telling her that the letter should only be opened in the event of his death. With John-Paul being very much alive, Cecilia is naturally curious about what the letter might contain, and wrestles with her conscience over whether or not she should open it…

Meanwhile Rachel Crowley living in Sydney, school secretary and grandmother to two year old Jacob, is reeling from the news that her son and his wife are planning to move to New York and take Jacob away from her. Rachel’s daughter Janie was murdered 28 years earlier and nobody has ever been brought to justice and it seems that Jacob is her only joy in life. But Rachel has her own idea about who killed Janie…

Tess O’Leary is – she thinks – happily married to husband Will. So she is devastated when she discovers that Will and her cousin/best friend Felicity have fallen in love. She decides to get away and goes to visit her mother in Sydney, and tries to put her life back together…

My thoughts

This book started out fairly light-heartedly, but soon developed into something of a mystery. Like Cecilia, I was eager to find out what was in John-Paul’s letter, but I actually ended up guessing the contents before the story revealed them. However, while I was initially disappointed because I thought I had guessed the ending of the book early on, it transpired that the story was less to do with the mystery behind the letter, and more to do with how the characters coped with what was in it.

The first few chapters threw a lot of seemingly unrelated characters out and I generally prefer stories that let you get to know characters gradually rather than all at once, but it didn’t take long before the different relationships between the characters were peeled away. I felt extremely sorry for Rachel, who had been living in a kind of limbo since Janie’s murder, and I also liked Cecilia and Tess. However, a lot of the other supporting characters annoyed me (unfortunately, husbands generally do not come off well in this story!) The ending did take a surprising turn, and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it, but to say why would be to reveal spoilers and I definitely think that this book is better read with no knowledge of what it is to come.

It’s definitely a quick read – the writing flows really well and the story moves on at a quick pace, keeping you alert to what might be coming next. Based on this book, I would definitely try more by Liane Moriarty and would recommend the book to fans of drama or thrillers.

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At the start of this book, Joanna, her partner Alistair and their 9 week old son Noah are at the airport waiting to fly from Scotland to Melbourne, where Alistair is from. The trip is part holiday, part opportunity for Alistair’s mother to meet her grandson and also in large part for Alistair to make a claim for custody of his 14 year old daughter Chloe, who lives in Australia with his first wife.

After landing in Australia, Noah goes missing; thereafter the story focusses on the resulting search and investigation into what happened to him. The parents, and in particular Joanna, come under close and mainly unkind public scrutiny with people speculating on Twitter, Facebook and in blog posts as to what has happened.

The story is told mainly from Joanna’s point of view (in the third person) and in Alistair’s ex-wife Alexandra’s point of view (in the first person). Alistair and Alexandra’s marriage broke up after his affair with Joanna and she is still bitter.

I enjoyed the book a lot and read it very quickly. I was surprised that the reader is told what happens to Noah straight away – as events unfold in fact – so whereas I was expecting a mystery where I would be kept in the dark as much as the characters, in fact it was more of a study of how people react and treat each other in the face of such a tragedy.

Although I raced through the book, it wasn’t without flaws – I felt that Joanna and Alexandra were fairly well drawn, but other than that, I only got the broadest sense of the rest of the characters. Alistair was almost a caricature, and deeply unlikeable.

Overall I would say that this book was satisfying at the time, but probably won’t stick in my memory for very long after I finished it.

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When you go to see a show and the stage has a giant pink lipstick in the middle of it, you have to suspect that you are in for a evening of glitzy camp fun. Of course, if the show you’re going to see is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, that’s probably what you’re expecting, and indeed would be disappointed if it turned out to be anything other than campy fun.

Well fear not – this show delivers on every level. With more outrageous outfits and lines than you can count, more 80s hits than you can remember and a laugh in every scene, you would have to be a real curmudgeon to leave this show without a huge smile on your face.

Jason Donovan, who previously played the character of Tick in the West End, reprises the role here (alternating with Duncan James). He is excellent as the drag queen, who crosses the Australian desert with his two friends Bernadette the transsexual (Simon Green, and fellow drag queen Adam (Adam Bailey), to see his former wife and finally meet his young son.

Green and Bailey are both perfect. Having recently watched the film with Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce in these respective roles, I thought that anyone performing these roles on stage had a lot to live up to, but by goodness these two actors managed it. Green was wonderfully bitchy but also displayed a genuine vulnerability as a literally new woman, who feels that her glory days are behind her. `Bailey (like Pearce before him) also makes a brash and often insensitive character, actually very sympathetic and likeable.

Of course, with more glitter and sequins than you can imagine, the whole thing is as camp as Christmas, and intentionally so, but there is a also a real heart running through this story – the theme of acceptance runs throughout  as the trio encounter hostility, rejection and prejudice during their journey.

A special mention also for Philip Childs, who plays open minded but unhappily married mechanic Bob – he eventually joins the trio on their journey. Bob was one of the more sympathetic characters – sensitive and kind, but living in a world of close minded people. Julie Yammakee as his bride Cynthia also definitely makes her mark with a saucy dance routine where she does unimaginable things with ping pong balls! Her role may not be that big, but it is certainly memorable.

The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience – I had a huge smile on my face from start to finish, and the standing ovation at the end was well deserved.

Fantastic show, with lots of wonderful music and dance, some unbelievably creative costumes and great acting – this is a must-see production which the term ‘feel-good’ should have been created for. Don’t miss it.

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This book was written in 1957, and set in 1963.  Nuclear war has wiped out the Northern Hemisphere, and radioactive winds are making their way down to the Southern Hemisphere.  The people living in the southernmost countries know that when the winds reach them, they too will die. 

There are five main characters in the book, which is largely set in Melbourne, where people are trying to go about their daily lives in as normal a way as possible.  People continue to go to work and in many cases, continue to plan for a future which they know they will never see.  One of the characters is American Submarine Captain, Lieutenant Dwight Towers, who was in Australia when war broke out.  He knows that his wife and children back home in America must be dead, but he cannot accept it.  He forms a friendship with Moira Davidson, a young woman who drinks too much and parties too hard to blot out her anger at her imminent death due to a war that her country had no part of.  Peter and Mary Holmes are a young couple with a baby daughter, and the cast of characters is rounded out by John Osbourne, an Australian scientist.  When Dwight’s submarine is commissioned to investigate radio signals coming from Seattle, Peter and John are part of the staff who go with him.

I enjoyed this book, but can’t help feeling that it is somewhat dated now.  I would like to believe that in the face of such horror, people would still remain courteous and civil, and would continue to keep living as normal a life as possible – but I just don’t see that happening.  It seems more realistic to imagine that there would be widespread panic, and that chaos and anarchy would descend.  All that most of these people – Moira excluded, although even she seems somewhat accepting of her fate – seem to feel is a vague sense of sadness.  For example, Mary Holmes seems more concerned with the prospect of her baby daughter catching Measles than dying of radiation. 

And yet, it is this sense of normalcy, of routine, that lends the book a chilling air.  People carry on, because what else can they do?  A mother won’t stop worrying about her daughter getting an illness that can be avoided, just because a far bigger problem is on the way.

There were moments of real poignancy; when John Osbourne buys a Ferrari that he can’t really handle, and takes up motor racing – because why not?  (It is not giving away anything too spoilerish to say that the motor race near the end of the book was one of my favourite parts.)   Dwight Towers goes shopping for gifts for his wife and children, knowing deep down that he will never be able to hand them over.  It was the moments like this that really made me think.  It’s always worth bearing in mind that the book was written during the Cold War, when nuclear warfare was a very real fear for many people.  It did make me think – what would I do?  What would you do?  Try and complete some kind of bucket list, sink into a deep depression, or just try and carry on as normal?  Who knows?  (And hopefully, we will never have to know.)

As I mentioned earlier, the book has not aged particularly well, and I found it hard to believe that most people would behave in the way that the characters here behaved.  For that reason, I did not find the book as chillling as other post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels which I have read.  However, for anyone with an interest in the genre, this is certainly a worthwhile addition to their collection, and I would recommend it.

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The small town of Karakarook, New South Wales, is divided about it’s old bridge.  Some of them want it pulled down as it is unsafe, and others want to preserve it for the sake of heritage.  Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman arrive in Karakarook and find themselves on opposite sides of the argument.

Harley and Douglas are both emotionally stunted, shocked almost into numbness by events in their respective histories, and when they meet each other, neither of them know how to begin to open up to another person – and neither of them wants to risk being vulnerable.  Can these two lost souls find happiness within themselves….?

Woven into the story about Harley, Douglas and the bridge, is the tale of Felicity Porcelline, unhappily married to the manager of the bank in Karakarook.  Felicity is obsessed with the idea of perfection – of looking perfect (to the extent where she is frightened to smile or even nod her head, for fear of causing wrinkles), of running a perfect home and giving the appearance of a perfect life.  But Felicity’s life and marriage are far from perfect.

Initially I did not think I would enjoy this book (near the beginning there seemed to be a lot of description about the bridge and how it was built, which I found slightly tedious).  However, I found myself being drawn in by the characters and setting.  The book was incredibly evocative and I really felt able to imagine life in Karakarook, with the heat, the dust and flies, and the residents who knew everything about each others lives.  There are some genuinely funny moments as incidental parts of the day are described, but the book was also very touching and moving.

Harley and Douglas were both likeable – they were brittle, unconfident and unsure about their place in their world.  They were very human with good intentions, but had very believable flaws and idiosyncrasies.  Felicity on the other hand was actually a very sad character.  It was clear that while she was eager to show outward perfection, she actually felt that her life was very empty – her looks were so important to her because they were all she felt she had.  Her perfectly decent husband and child don’t being her any contentment (at one stage she describes forgetting to pick her child up from school because she was giving herself a face pack), and so she seeks reassurance and satisfaction in other areas.  She was not an immediately pleasant character, but her sadness was very apparent.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this story, and would certainly search out more books by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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