Weekend Round-Up #17

With the ANZAC weekend upon us it is not surprising that the book review pages of the papers start off with books released specifically for the event.

"The Age" features three in its main review: World War I Scarecrow Army: The Anzacs at Gallipoli by Leon Davidson, Quinn's Post: Anzac, Gallipoli by Peter Stanley, and Hell Hope and Heroes: Life in the Field Ambulance in World War I. The Memoirs of Private Roy Ramsay AIF edited by Ron J. Ramsay. It's actually rather astounding that there still stories to be told of the Gallipoli campaign 90 years after the fact. But new diaries, letters and memoirs come to life as the original soldier's immediate families die and their possesions are examined by the remaining relatives. "With this year marking the 90th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, books have now taken on the primary roll of the way we remember the first Anzacs...Australia has reinvented Gallipoli as a rite of passage into nationhood for a new generation. Ninety years on, it is not kitted-out soldiers but pilgrims who gather at Anzac Cove. In this there is a risk. The true meaning of Anzac could be lost beneath waves of patriotic fervour." Well, given that remembering war appeals specifically to that exact emotion, I'm not sure that this can be construed as a criticism.

For the first time in some while two Australian crime novels are reviewed: A Hand in the Bush by Jane Clifton, and Crook as a Rookwood by Chris Nyst. This is Clifton's second novel after her earlier Half Past Dead and the reviewer, Sue Turnbull, finds that: "Jane Clifton also has a good ear for dialogue, and an equally observant eye...[with] the kind of detail that makes Clifton worth reading, even when the plot is a tad overwrought and unconvincing." On the other hand "A Hand in the Bush has a laboured beginning but picks up speed." Which seems to imply that Clifton is getting there but needs a bit more work on her plotting.

Chris Nyst is best known for his screenplay Gettin' Square which was filmed with David Wenham in the lead role. Turnbull is impresed with this novel: "Nyst knits a convoluted plot in which every stitch counts and the pay-off is guaranteed. However, his real triumph is the nice observation of people and places, from Marrickville to the Gold Coast, the seductions of Sydney Harbour to the brutalities of prison. Nyst's ear for the vernacular is acute, locating the grim poetry in the Australian patois."

Short notices are given to: Australian Football Quarterly, Issue 3 edited by Geoffrey Slattery "...just the season's ticket for a football mad country"; Overland: The Spirit in Australia edited by Nathan Hollier "...a focused (the spirit of Patrick White being its reference point), timely and quite brave attempt to check the spiritual pulse of Howard's Australia"; The Original Million Dollar Mermaid by Emily Gibson with Barbara Firth, which tells the life story of Annette Kellerman whose life "not only inspired this effective biography that draws on her own unpublished memoirs, but was also portrayed by Esther Williams in the 1952 Technicolor extravaganza Million Dollar Mermaid"; Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthenasia and the Road to the Peaceful Pill by Philip Nitschke and Fiona Stewart, which is "part memoir and part polemic"; Kilroy was Here by Kris Olsson, a biography of Debbie Kilroy; and Another by Joel Deane, a novel in which "the darkness of the material seems sometimes to have a willed air to it: the kind of social realism that flattens out its emotional register in the attempt to make points about what society is doing to its most vulnerable members."

"The Weekend Australian" follows the ANZAC line with a large piece on Western Australian author, Tom Hungerford, as he approaches 90, on the release of his biography The Literary Larrikin by Michael Crouch, and his upcoming collection of short stories and poems What Happened to Joseph. "Every adventure has been grist to his literary mill, from years spent writing for the Australian War Memorial to being a roving reporter for the Australian news and information bureau. He has visited almost every continent, including Antarctica, and worked as a press secretary for two WA premiers, John Tonkin and Charles Court."

Specifically on the ANZAC line we have Echoes of ANZAC: The Voices of Australians at War edited by Graham Seal, A Merciful Journey: Recollections of a World War II Patrol Boat Man by Marsden Hordern, Boy Soldiers of the Great War by Richard Van Emden, and Russian Anzacs in Australian History by Elena Govor.

The major, non-ANZAC, Australian review is of The Original Million Dollar Mermaid by Emily Gibson with Barbara Firth (also mentioned in "The Age" short-notices above). It tells the story of a famous forgotten Australian: "A good case can be made that Annette Kellerman was not only the best known Australian woman celebrity of her day, and famous as a swimmer, but also the most remarkable Australian who lived. Yet who remembers her now?"

Also reviewed is The Sleepers Almanac 2005: The Deathbed Challenge: "Supposedly no one buys short story collections, but as the Almanac proves, young writers and writing are still healthy. And they look good, too."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 25, 2005 9:15 AM.

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