Weekend Round-Up 2006 #12

Sandy McCutcheon, radio broadcaster for the ABC's "Australia Talks Back" and "Australia Talks Books" programs, is also well-known as both a playwright and author. It is his latest novel, Black Widow, which is reviewed in this weekend's "The Age" by Sue Turnbull. The novel tracks a survivor of the Beslan school siege in 2004 who joins up with five other female survivors to kidnap the four adult children of the Chechyan terrorists who were involved in the original siege. The reviewer finds some interest in the book: "In Black Widow, McCutcheon takes political events of the recent past and gives them an immediate human dimension. The fact that his focus is primarily on the women and children caught up in a war about power is understandable and worthy. The book evokes a strong sense of moral outrage and compassion." But finds that the novel may, in the end, not qute live up to its promise: "... could not help but wonder if in opting for the cliche-ridden and at times downright mawkish voice of [the protagonist], McCutcheon, the playwright and master of many potential voices, might have sold himself a tad short."

Other than this novel, short notices are given to The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer: "This beautiful little novel is a shimmering prism. Simply but elegantly formed, it throws out complex patterns of emotion and thought, dark and light"; and Devotion by Ffion Murphy: "First-time novelist Ffion Murphy has chosen an unusual topic - severe postnatal depression - to explore more familiar themes of contemporary fiction. Devotion engages intelligently with such issues as hysteria, psychoanalysis, women's relationships, and the unreliability of memory and writing."

In non-fiction in "The Age", Barney Zwartz (religious editor) looks at The New Puritans: The Rise of Fundamentalism in the Anglican Church by Muriel Porter, which "Puts the heat on rich and powerful Sydney for the woes of Australian Anglicanism." Also reviewed is Memory, Moments and Museums: The Past in the Present edited by Marilyn Lake: "The concept of a 'national identity' is a spin-off of nationalism and has had a deadening effect on our historical commemorations."

It's a non-fiction weekend over at "The Australian" as well. Gideon Haigh's Asbestos House, about the James Hardie company, is reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald, who calls it "meticulously researched and powerfully written". The World According to Y by Rebecca Huntley "provides a breezy snapshot of a neglected generation"; and The New Puritans, see above.

John Wright profiles David Mitchell on the eve of the 170th anniversary of his birth. Mitchell was a renown collector of Australiana and his legacy was left to the State Library of NSW which created the Mitchell library in his honour. There would be a lot of us around who would envy Mitchell's financial freedom, which enabled him to buy whatever he liked, wherever he liked: 61,000 volumes in the end.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 20, 2006 2:57 PM.

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