Book reviews

Archive for the ‘Australian author’ Category

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

I was really looking forward to reading other books by Heather Rose after being transfixed by Bruny when I read it several years ago. The Museum of Modern Love was a very different story but I enjoyed it equally as much.

The story is set around a handful of characters who are connected to each other by having met in New York at the Museum of Modern Art while attending The Artist is Present, a performance piece by Marina Abramovic where the artist sat and looked into the eyes of museum visitors, some of whom had queued overnight for their turn to sit with the artist.

The main character was Arky Levin, a middle-aged composer whose main income was from creating music for films. Levin had recently taken on a job to score the soundtrack for a Japanese animation for adults, but had been unable to begin his work. He had recently moved into a new apartment alone after his wife Lydia had become comatose due to a medical condition. Lydia had taken out legal orders previously forbidding her emotionally selfish husband from visiting her if she ever became institutionalised, with her instructions to their daughter explaining that she wanted Levin to be free to continue composing.

Levin met Jane Miller while they were in the audience of Abramovic’s performance at MoMA. Jane was an art teacher and a recent widow who had visited New York specifically to attend the performance. Jane, Levin and a number of peripheral characters found themselves so drawn to the piece that they attended MoMA day after day to day, watching a succession of people sit with the artist and look into each her eyes.

I didn’t realise until about half way through reading this novel that Marina Abramovic is a real person. A quick check of the internet showed that she is a renowned performance artist and that the performance of The Artist is Present actually took place at MoMA during 2010. Many of Marina Abramovic’s other performance pieces were described in this story too and without exception they were gruelling, occasionally violent and in some cases chilling, such as when the artist laid naked on a table surrounded by 72 items and invited the audience to do what they wanted to her with the items. Abromovic was left with physical scars by the participating audience’s actions.

I have to be honest here and admit that I don’t actually rate performance art. I just don’t ‘get’ it. However, my dislike, or lack of understanding of performance art didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this story. All of the characters in this story were deeply moved by The Artist is Present and the other performances except for a single grumbling man who echoed my opinion about not seeing the point of the performance.

I do accept that one of the purposes of art is to create discussion and argument about what art is, what it might mean (if anything) and to affect people’s emotions and ideas and in fairness, performance art certainly achieves all of those aims.

The Museum of Modern Love was well-written and I found the subject matter to be enormously thought-provoking, confronting and intriguing. I didn’t feel terribly connected to Levin, Jane or the other characters but the setting was so powerful that I don’t think that this mattered a great deal.

In the book’s acknowledgements, Heather Rose thanked Marina Abramovic and various other ‘real’ people for allowing them to be represented in this story. For those who are interested a documentary film was also made about the piece.

My purchase of The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose goes towards fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of 2022 (July).

My only grievance with The Museum of Modern Love was that although Heather Rose is an Australian author, the book was not set in Australia and did not reference Australia in any way. My original intention when I started this resolution was that the books I chose would be written by Australian authors. I had also intended that the books I chose for this challenge would also be set in Australia, although I don’t think that I stated this or really even thought about it. I haven’t decided if I will chose books set outside of Australia for my challenge in future.

The Beach Caves by Trevor Shearston

I was keen to read The Beach Caves by Trevor Shearston when I learned that the story had been set around Batemans Bay on the south coast of NSW, where I lived for many years before moving to Melbourne.

While the Clyde River, the national parks and the beaches settings around the Bay rang true, I was disappointed that the town itself didn’t feature apart from a reference to a Post Office Box at a Licensed Post Office that I was very familiar with!

The Beach Caves told the story of a group of university students on an archaeological dig in 1970 led by a glamorous husband and wife-team, Aled Wray and Marilyn Herr, when one of their group mysteriously disappeared.

The main character was Annette, who was an honours student studying Aboriginal lifestyles prior to European settlement under Aled’s guidance. Also on the dig was Annette’s best friend Sue.

The first site the group camped at was up the Clyde River past Nelligan, where a group of huts had been found that were older than European settlement in Australia. If I had been on the dig, I would have visited the Steampacket Hotel at Nelligan, but the group didn’t, not once during their entire stay at this location.

When a new site was discovered in caves at a beach near Batemans Bay, the group relocated there.

Then, another site that eclipsed both of the other sites in importance was found and the group divided, with Marilyn and her team heading off to the new site and Aled, Annette and the remaining students staying at the beach caves with the friction between Aled and Marilyn filtering down to their students.

Brian, a young man whom Annette had been growing fond of chose to go with Marilyn’s group and Annette was disappointed. Soon after, she realised that Brian was infatuated with Marilyn and became jealous.

When Marilyn disappeared everyone was a suspect. Annette’s awareness of Brian’s crush left her in the difficult position of having to decide what to tell the police and what to keep to herself.

The story then skipped ahead thirty four years, to resolve the mystery and to show the impact of Annette’s decision when she spoke to the police.

I was surprised that the characters on the dig did not engage with local Aboriginal people to discuss their findings, particularly when it became obvious to them that there had been a continuity of use of the area right up until the time of the dig. Perhaps that was how things were done at the time, although it seemed like a massive oversight on the part of the team not to have gone straight to the source for information.

I enjoyed the setting of The Beach Caves and found the descriptions of the area to be realistic although as I have already mentioned I would have liked at least one visit into Batemans Bay itself. I particularly enjoyed reading about the discoveries the team made during the first half of the story, but lost some interest in the story after Marilyn’s disappearance.

The Signal Line by Brendan Colley

The Signal Line by Brendan Colley won the Unpublished Manuscript Prize in the 2019 Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Awards. 

The main character was Geo, who had just returned to Hobart to convince his brother Wes to sell their parent’s house so he could use his share of their inheritance to continue auditioning for his musical career in Europe. The night Geo arrived, Wes, a detective, collected Geo from the airport but before returning to their family home took a detour to the Royal Hobart Hospital to interview a group of Italians who had been sent after mysteriously arriving in Hobart after embarking on a train in Rome. Geo soon realised that Wes’ career was on thin ice as he interpreted the Italians’ story about a ghost train for Wes, the police and the hospital staff.

Go also quickly realised that Wes’ drinking and belligerent temper had caused his marriage to come to an end and that Wes had been living at their parent’s home, sleeping in his father’s reclining chair in the living room just as their father had used to do. Wes refused to sell the house, change anything or even clean up or throw away rubbish in their parent’s house, insisting instead that the house remain a shrine to their father.

Geo, however, had always aligned with their mother and had left Hobart vowing never to return after a terrible fight with his father after their mother’s death.

When Geo met Sten, a mysterious Swede who was chasing the ghost train, he invited Sten to stay with him and Wes (all of them sleeping on chairs and sofas in the living room with Wes).

When Geo and Sten randomly met a couple of idealistic young backpackers Geo invited them to stay at his parent’s house too. In return for their accommodation Sten and the backpackers offered to paint the house which Geo hoped would get them a better price if he could convince Wes to sell it, but more importantly, the others had the ability to defuse Wes’ anger, something Geo couldn’t do on his own.

Sten also introduced Geo and Wes to a Hobart book store owner who was documenting the ghost train’s appearance as well as other paranormal activity. As a group, they drank with Wes and smoked Sten’s marijuana before roaring around the suburbs Tasmania chasing the ghost train, communicating with spirits and taking other paranormal activity in their stride. The dope probably helped.

I believed in the characters and their causes from the beginning, along with the ghost train. I liked and wanted the best for Geo, whose relationship with his father had been completely different to the relationship which Wes had enjoyed. As I learned more about the historic circumstances that made Geo and Wes who they were today, I actually found it in myself to want the best for Wes, too.

Readers who know Hobart will love gallivanting around town with this oddball group in The Signal Line.

My purchase of The Signal Line continues my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (June).

The Plains by Gerald Murnane

I was keen to read The Plains by Gerald Murnane after reading Border Districts last year. The Plains is more of the same; a meandering, beautifully written book which would take a better reviewer than me to tell you what it is about. Don’t let this put you off reading it, though.

The best I can do is to say that the narrator of The Plains was a man who had travelled inland to the plains area of Victoria where the rich squatters lived and dominated the imaginations of everyone around them. There, the narrator, who was a film maker, pitched his vision of a film that would reflect the truth of the plains of inner-Australia back to the squatters who owned them. The narrator was then brought to live in the home of his new patron, where he spent the next twenty years preparing to write his script, surrounded by librarians, poets, artists and others who were part of the collective dream of the plains.

The feeling I got from The Plains was as if I was caught in a mad dream. I felt completely stuck in the characters’ immersion in their all-important landscape, but did not feel as if I needed to wake up and fight my way out of the reverie. Instead, I was happy to let the dreamlike descriptions of the flat, featureless plains that went on and on and on until the ground eventually met the enormous blue sky in a haze around the edges, wash over me. Except that the ground wasn’t flat. Anyone who looked properly could see undulations.

Most Australians live near to the coast but the characters in this book dismiss the coast as being unimportant. These characters were complicated, romantic, philosophical and poetic, while all the while pretending to be ignorant of other areas. I suspect that Gerald Murnane, who lives inland, enjoyed turning the idea of Australia’s coastal regions being the be-all and end-all on its head and making them out to be unimportant, forgotten and dismissed by those who really matter.

Similarly to Border Districts, I have no more idea of what The Plains is about or what anything in it might mean than I had before I started reading. I could read the book again but probably wouldn’t understand much more, not that it would matter. Don’t forget that the narrator of The Plains spent twenty years studying his surroundings, along with his patron, his patron’s wife, daughter and their home and at the end of that was no closer to starting to write his script than when he began.

My purchase of The Plains continues my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (May).

Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

Treasure & Dirt by Australian author Chris Hammer was a ripper of a story, set a remote, opal mining community in outback New South Wales.

The story began with ratters going down another man’s mine at Finnegan’s Gap to rob the mine of opals, only to find the mine’s owner down the mine, dead and hanging from a cross. After robbing the mine, one of the ratters phoned Crime Stoppers anonymously to report the death.

A homicide detective from Sydney, Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan, a Detective Constable who had served her apprenticeship in Finnegan’s Gap were assigned to the case, heading straight out to the mine to view the crime scene after arriving in town. It wasn’t long before they learned that the dead man’s nearest neighbour had good reason to hate him, having been the cause of his wife’s death many years ago.

With each fact Nell and Ivan uncovered and with every piece of gossip they learned during their investigation, a new can of worms was opened up. The dead man’s daughter had a AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) against him which forbid him from coming near her, he had connections to a religious cult and two powerful Western Australian billionaires were fighting out a business deal over a lucrative mine in the vicinity of the dead man’s opal mine.

Meanwhile, grey nomads were swarming through Finnegan’s Gap, soaking up the outback experience of forty-degree heat and hordes of flies from the comfort of their four-wheel drives and state of the art caravans.

Ivan and Nell had issues of their own to deal with, too. Ivan was a problem gambler who couldn’t resist the pokies while Nell had to deal with the wrath of the local police, who believed she had sold out one of their own when she had been stationed in Finnegan’s Gap. Both Ivan and Nell became caught up in internal investigations of their own while investigating the murder also, Ivan because of his close relationship with a workmate who was forced to retire over allegations by the Police Force’s Professional Standards department, while Nell had been caught up in a fling with the most attractive bloke in Finnegan’s Gap who had unfortunately turned out to be a drug dealer.

I liked Nell and Ivan’s working relationship very much, and particularly appreciated Nell, who was a strong, determined character. I also liked the outback setting and enjoyed reading about how this remote community worked. The story moved quickly and kept me interested, although by the end I did think there were too many complicated threads running through the story which had to be tied together for the mystery to be solved.

I would happily read more books by Chris Hammer and would love to see Ivan or Nell or both characters feature in future stories.

My purchase of Treasure & Dirt continues my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (April).

I purchased this book from Cow Lick Bookshop in Colac.

Growing Up in Australia

Growing Up in Australia is a collection from Black Inc, who have also published the collections Growing Up Asian, Growing Up Aboriginal, Growing Up African, Growing Up Queer and Growing Up Disabled in Australia. The authors are a who’s who of Australian writing and arts.

The collection started off with a story by journalist and writer Stan Grant, who in my opinion wrote ‘the’ piece of the book. Talking to My Country focused on Grant’s childhood and education. I cringed when I realised that I had been shown at school the same black and white films of Aboriginal people as Grant had, of bedraggled and pitiful men, women and children while an English accented narrator (for some reason, people on Australian television up until fairly recently all had English accents) described them as being an almost extinct race. Grant summed up by saying that the lesson was that Aboriginal people’s history did not matter or exist.

Grant says bluntly that he ‘had no illusions of equality.’ His family were Aboriginal and poor. They were surrounded by violence, poverty and the constant possibility of an early death. Funerals were part of everyday life.

Grant’s father taught him to fight. As Grant said himself, his father couldn’t teach him how to play golf or to sail, but fighting was a survival skill.

Grant and his fellow Aboriginal classmates were expected and encouraged to leave school early, without qualifications. Regardless, he remembers his early teenage years with joy, a time when he and the other Aboriginal children around him were invincible.

I have already read Reckoning by Magda Szubanski, but still enjoyed the extract from her book which told of her childhood exploring her Melbourne suburb as newcomers to Australia who didn’t know about the dangers including ‘bushfires, floods, heatstroke, poison berries and sharks.’ (Snakes weren’t mentioned until later).

I had also previously read and enjoyed Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy, but was also happy to revisit her childhood in Adelaide where Goldsworthy’s music lessons with the wonderful Mrs Sivan took centre stage in her life.

Tourism by Benjamin Law was a funny glimpse into his family’s holidays, which usually included a trip to a theme park. (Clean, safe, designated activities, souvenirs to buy and photos opportunities galore). Things stopped being so funny after Law’s parents separated, but the visits to theme parks remained a constant in his life.

The Game is to Hide by Rick Morton told of his attempts to hide his sexuality throughout his childhood and adolescence in a small town, and how hiding something so big has affected his adult life. I hope Morton takes comfort in knowing that future generations are less likely to experience the trauma that he did. I took pleasure in being reminded by Morton of making ‘Mixtapes’ of my favourite songs from the radio and am now wondering where the shoebox with all of my old cassette tapes might be.

Vanessa Woods’ story about straddling two cultures was titled Perfect Chinese Children while Uyen Loewald wrote a poem called Be Good, Little Migrants. Can you spot a theme here? Reading these storys and many of the other contributions made me realise how free and easy my own childhood was. Nyadol Nyuon told of her childhood in Her Mother’s Daughter, watching her mother working as a cleaner in Melbourne and struggling with Centrelink, before realising on a visit to Kenya that there, her mother was respected, honoured and recognised amongst her community.

Tara June Winch discussed her Aboriginal heritage and ended by looking to the future of her own daughter with joy, Sam Drummond told of a childhood filled with physical pain and surgeries, Sara El Sayed remembered the culture shock she and her family experienced on arriving in Australia and Christos Tsiolkas talked about being gay in a heterosexual world.

More than thirty writers shared their own stories about growing up in Australia in this collection, but I didn’t recognise my own childhood on a coastal farm amongst them. The closest experience to mine was probably Tim Winton’s Land’s Edge, where he wrote about Western Australian summer mornings spent at the beach then reading all afternoon after the wind got up.

The authors include an extraordinarily diverse group of people who truly represent Australia, rather than the uniform, straight, white, fully-abled people of British descent who we watched on Neighbours, as Alice Pung pointed out in the book’s introduction.

My purchase of Growing Up in Australia continues my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (March).

I purchased this book from Cow Lick Bookshop in Colac.

Bluebird by Malcolm Knox

I first came across Bluebird by Australian author Malcolm Knox after reading Whispering Gums’ review. Although I was tempted by Sue’s review, it was the cover of the book that really sucked me in. The colour of the sand, the cliffs, the water and the man’s hair and sub-burned back reminded me of every beach on the south coast of NSW that I’ve ever set foot on.

The location of this story is as important as any of the characters. Bluebird is a beach town not far out of Sydney, where the long-time locals are hanging on to the past by their fingertips. Gordon, the main character, is a former journo in his fifties who lives in The Lodge, a beach shacked perched on the cliff above Bluebird Beach. Also living at The Lodge is Gordon’s ex-missus Kelly, and their son Ben, along with Gordon’s extraordinarily capable god-daughter, Lou.

Kelly and Gordon should have broken up years ago but didn’t, but after she slept with her old flame and Gordon’s best mate, the aptly nick-named ‘Dog’ at their joint 50th birthday party, their marriage finally came to an end. Unable to live separately due to their lack of finances, Gordon and Kelly moved into The Lodge after Gordon was gifted a share in the property by Kelly’s scheming but unseen step-mother.

Gordon was possibly the most passive person in Australia. He felt himself to be unable to leave Bluebird for a better life up north because of his love for Ben and his need to care for his ageing and difficult parents, but most of all he was hamstrung by his love for Bluebird and The Lodge itself, which was falling apart around them.

Lou, who came to live with Gordon after a murderous incident involving her parents, was determined to help Gordon financially after he used up all of his savings then went into debt trying to keep the Lodge habitable.

None of Gordon’s surfer mates who were all aged in their fifties could afford to live at Bluebird anymore, but they managed to do so by moving into the spare bedrooms of their widowed mothers. Bludgers all of them, but despite their own financial situations and lack of initiative when it come to getting a job, Gordon’s mates did their best to help Gordon out, even though they knew that the developers would eventually replace The Lodge with a McMansion, as had already happened throughout most of the town.

I was amused by the names of Gordon’s surfie mates, Red Cap, Snake, Dog, Cnut (rhymes with Peanut, just in case you were wondering), Chooka and a host of Chooka-alikes, multiple Maccas and a former State Champ whose number of surfing competition wins varied enormously during the telling of the story.

Knox’s snappy writing style and humour reminded me a little of Kathy Lette’s. I enjoyed Bluebird but think an overseas reader might need a translator to understand the Australian slang.

And if that cover doesn’t make an Aussie ex-pat fair dinkum homesick, then nothing will!

My purchase of Bluebird by Malcolm Knox continues my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (February).

I purchased this book from Blarney Books in Port Fairy.

You can read Whispering Gums’ review here:

The Last Bookshop by Emma Young

The Last Bookshop is Australian author Emma Young’s first novel.

The Last Bookshop is a contemporary story set in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia.

Cait is the main character. She owns the last bookshop in Perth’s most fashionable shopping area and is slowly going broke. When Cait’s leasing agency put the rent up in an attempt to squeeze Book Fiend out of its rented premises so that a high-end fashion house could move in, Cait’s loyal customers rallied around her to try to save the shop.

Cait had recently started a relationship with one of her customers, James, who she met when he was shopping in Book Fiend for self-help relationship books*. James worked for the leasing agency who managed Cait’s tenancy and being much better off financially than she was, regularly shouted her expensive meals and wine, even though Cait was conscious of the imbalance of their relationship. James was lovely in general, but lacking in substance. When Cait’s dearest friend became terminally ill he wasn’t able to provide her with the emotional support she needed and later he became jealous and angry with Cait while she was working long hours to keep her business going. Perhaps not surprisingly, James eventually disappeared completely when she needed him most.

I enjoyed reading about Cait’s relationships with her customers, who were people of all ages, wealth statuses with varied reading interests. I also enjoyed the constant references within the story to real books, many of which were funny, such as a customer requesting a book by Al Chemist when she meant The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho or someone else asking for a book called ‘Falling Pine Trees’ instead of David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars.

I also liked the conversations Cait and her dearest friend had about C.S. Lewis and his lover, Mrs Moore as they read his diary, All My Road Before Me. I sniffed at customers who complained to Cait that they could buy books cheaper from Amazon than from her shop and I smiled when I recognised books Cait recommended to her customers. The recommendations included Jane Harper’s The Dry or Stephen King’s The Shining, depending on the customer’s reading tastes.

I also added a book to my own list after learning of it for the first time while reading this story. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is the story of an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escaped jail and went to India, which has apparently inspired a generation of people to quit their day jobs and go off back-packing. I don’t know why I’ve never heard of Shantaram, but according to Cait second-hand copies of the book walked off the shelves at Book Fiend.

The Last Bookshop was perhaps slightly too long and Cait’s ruminations were slightly repetitive, but otherwise I enjoyed the story and would be happy to read Emma Young’s next book.

*Many years ago I worked in a shop alongside a woman who had married a customer of the shop. I was amused at the time when she said how well you could get to know a person based on small, daily interactions and by looking at what they purchased. So far as I know their marriage is still going strong!

One Hundred Days by Alice Pung

I’m an Alice Pung-fan. I liked Unpolished Gem, Laurinda and can now add her latest novel One Hundred Days to the list.

One Hundred Days is set around the mid 1980s in Melbourne. Karuna, the narrator, was 16 years old and pregnant when she began telling her story to her unborn baby.

After Karuna’s parents separated she and her mother moved into a two-bedroom flat on the fourteenth floor of an inner city Housing Commission tower in Melbourne.

The first time I saw one of these towers, I was horrified. At that time I was a child living on a farm and I found the height of the towers and their bland appearance to be frightening. Neither could I imagine how anyone could live in such a small space, boxed in with people living in flats on top of them, underneath them and beside them. I can’t imagine living in such close proximity to so many other people but now I realise that the apartments in the towers are people’s homes, that the residents benefit from being close to the CBD and public transport and that for those with mobility issues, finance issues or for a myriad or other reasons, the towers provide the opportunity to be part of a community.

At first, I thought Karuna’s mother was crazy, and not just because she insisted on sharing a bed with her teenage daughter, leaving the other bedroom in their apartment for storage. Grand Mar, as Karuna called her in the story, locked Karuna inside their flat for what she said was her own good and was extraordinarily tight with money, refusing to give Karuna a birthday party or allow Karuna to buy junk food. When Karuna’s father gave her money, Grand Mar stole it from her.

Karuna hid her pregnancy from her mother for as long as she could. Grand Mar was horrified when she realised, and insisted to anyone who would listen that Karuna had been tricked by a boy. Surprisingly, Grand Mar stood by Karuna, all the while lamenting her own bad fortune at having married a no-good man herself, then having her daughter do this terrible thing to her.

Worst of all though, in Karuna’s eyes, Grand Mar insisted that when the baby was born she would be the mother and that Karuna would be the baby’s sister.

Karuna told her story as if it was a letter to her baby. She explained how she fell pregnant – not quite by accident, but not exactly meaning to, either.

As the story went on, I realised that Karuna’s mother was living her life according to the values she had brought with her from the Philippines and that she loved and wanted the best for her daughter. She worked two jobs and spent her hard-earned money on delicacies such as Balut, a steamed, fertilized bird egg for Karuna to eat during her pregnancy, believing that such food would be nourishing for her daughter.

The one hundred days of the book’s title refers to the hundred days after Karuna gave birth, for which her mother had been saving her money so that Karuna and the baby could stay at home, safe and loved and protected.

Karuna’s story was sad, but the book was also filled with humour and love and hope. Grand Mar may have been one of the most annoying and deluded women in Melbourne, but as Karuna matured she found herself able to stand up to her mother when it counted, and was able to negotiate with her mother for what she thought would be better for herself and her baby, while still allowing her mother to love her and for her to love her mother without being abused, coerced or controlled.

My purchase of One Hundred Days by Alice Pung starts off to meet my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (January).

I purchased this book from Ironbird Books in Port Fairy.

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper caught my interest when I realised this psychological thriller was set in my stamping ground, beginning in Melbourne and ending at a pastoral property in the Western District of Victoria.

When Liese, a young English woman who had been working at her uncle’s real estate business in Melbourne met Alexander while he was looking for a city apartment, the two started an affair, using the apartments they were viewing for their own (yuck!).

From the beginning Alexander paid Liese after their encounters, which made it unclear if they were actually lovers who were role-playing or if they were conducting a business relationship.

Alexander invited Liese to accompany him for the weekend to Warrawill, an enormous station which had been in his family for 160 years. Liese accepted when Alexander told her that he would pay her for her time.

From then on, the story became complicated. On arrival, Liese was shown to a small bedroom, separate to where Alexander was sleeping. When she woke the next morning she realised that Alexander had locked her in the house while he went out on the farm. As a farm girl, I think this might have been for her own protection, although Liese found this to be sinister.

When Alexander returned he continually asked Liese about her past, wanting to know about her other clients and the brothels she had worked in, while Liese maintained (at least to herself and the reader) that she was not a prostitute and that she had only made up a lurid past to amuse Alexander during their previous meetings.

Liese hated the musty old house and the remote location, the cattle and the surroundings and was floored when Alexander announced that despite her past, he wanted to marry her and keep her at Warrawill to breed with her, presumably because as a farmer he realised that mixing their blood lines would strengthen his own breed which had become too fine.

By the end of the story when events come to a head, I couldn’t decide if Liese was an unreliable narrator or if she had been played by Alexander. I suppose that was the whole idea of the story.

I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed this story and although my area of the Western District is coastal rather than inland where the enormous, desolate stations are, I feel loyal towards the whole region and was disappointed that Liese didn’t like the area. I didn’t particularly care for either character either, and found Liese and Alexander to be unlikeable in their own ways. I also found the story itself to be unbelievable, too. Nothing extraordinary actually happened, but the idea of these two particular people playing these strange games with each other, particularly in this location was too far-fetched for me.

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