RSS

Tag Archives: australian author

Book review ~ Burial rites

Title: Burial rites

Author: Hannah Kent

Published: 2013 by Picador, Australia

Adult fiction/ historical fiction

Burial Rites is a very popular book, on the book club circuit, at my library. This made reserving the book difficult due to its popularity. In my mind, I needed to read this book and once a copy became available I grabbed it. The expectations were confounded further upon discovering it is the first novel written by Hannah Kent, translated to over 20 languages, optioned for a Hollywood film and boasts an impressive list of awards as follows;

  • Shortlisted for The Stella Prize
  • Shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award 2013
  • Winner of Indie Awards 2014
  • Winner of Victorian Premier’s Literary Award People’s Choice Award 2014
  • Winner of FAW Christina Stead Award 2014
  • Winner of ABA Nielsen Bookdata Booksellers’ Choice Award 2014
  • Shortlisted for NiB Waverley Award for Literature 2013
  • Shortlisted for Voss Literary Award 2014
  • Winner of ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2014
  • Winner of SMH Best Young Australian Novelist 2014
  • Winner of ABIA/Booktopia People’s Choice Award 2014
  • Shortlisted for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014
  • Shortlisted for Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction 2014
  • Shortlisted for ALS Gold Medal 2014
  • Shortlisted for National Book Awards 2014
  • Winner of Davitt Awards Debut Fiction 2014
  • Winner of Davitt Awards Reader’s Choice 2014

(Source: http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781742612829 )

Hannah Kent spent some time in Iceland, on an exchange as a teenager. During this time, she learnt of Agnus Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Northern Iceland, for her part in the murders of two men in 1829. This historical moment/story inspired Hannah Kent to go back, later in life, with intent to research the story and write this novel. The detail of the research process is outlined in the back pages of the book. At the beginning of the book is an outline of Icelandic genealogical passing on of names based on patrilineal heritage. Sometimes genealogical links can become unclear depending on social circumstance, position in the household and desires to keep infidelity hushed up. This provides an insight into relationships.

When I first started reading the novel, I found it difficult to become fully engaged. Even though the writing was great and I enjoyed trying to map names and relationships, it seemed somewhat held back. I discussed this with a friend who felt that the language was too contemporary for the period it was set in and thus detracted from the work, for her reading pleasures. Whilst I understood her point, I can’t see how the language could have been written differently. It may have made it even less accessible. Even though I was enjoying the read, I put it down for a week only a third of the way into the story.
When I picked up the novel again, I found I became more enthralled with each revelation in the story. At the outset of the novel Agnus barely spoke, as if her words could not be heard even if she tried. The language snippets suggested the power of society was how her story was being told and she had resigned herself to there being no point in trying to be heard. This concept of storying became something that needed to be questioned. As Agnus started opening up and storying, I became engrossed wanting to learn about her character, to understand her, to see the injustice in her in life. I became engrossed in examination of power relationships, the complexities of social and economic power and how women were intertwined with power, disempowerment and a process of finding power in the gaps that presented themselves.
Once engrossed, I wanted to keep reading. When I finished, I wanted more. By the end, I realized the sophistication of the story, the research and the capturing of power relations. I fell in love with the writing of this story. It is fiction yet somehow resonates a truth.
When you finish reading a book and you want to reread it again, because you may discover something overlooked in the first reading, is when you know how great the storying is.
You may be interested in the following review on Burial rites:
Fire and ice – written by Steven Heighten and published September 27, 2013 in The New York Times

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 26, 2015 in 094 ~ Printed books

 

Tags: , , , ,

Book review- The Convent

Book review- The Convent

Title: The Covent

Author: Maureen McCarthy

Published: 2012 by Allen & Unwin  

 Young Adult fiction

In the Author notes, to The Convent, Maureen McCarthy shares a note written to herself from 1991. This note outlines a desire to find out more about her mum’s past, and her life as a ward of the state at the Abbotsford Convent. This is the seed that Spurs her extensive historical research in the development of a novel spanning four generations of women and their connections to The Convent over time. McCarthy declares ‘Like no other book I’ve written The Convent feels like mine’, highlighting the personal connection felt for the stories being told in the fictitious weaving of lives and interactions. 

The Convent covers the lives of four generations of women who have had connections with the Abbotsford Convent. Sadie, Ellen, Cecelia and Perpetua. Sadie’s three year old daughter Ellen is forcibly taken from her and raised at the Convent during the 1920’s. Ellen’s daughter Cecelia becomes a nun at The Convent during the 1960’s and Perpetua works in the cafe at The Convent after it has been reopened as an arts precinct with studios, cafes and galleries in contemporary times.

The intersection of stories is mapped through each of the women, their connection to each other, to The Convent and the connection with Perpetua (Peach) who is at the centre of these intersecting stories as the heart of the novel. 

The structure of the novel aids the delivery of the complexity of character and story development over an historical timeline spanning a century. This is easily achieved with each chapter in the novel titled by the characters name; from which the perspective is to be delivered. As historical moments shift in narrative, dates are provided to indicate moving back and forth in time, revealing situations, life changing incidents and the impact of social forces on the lives of women at different points in time. 

For me, the strength of this novel is its ability to capture the strength of the stories of women, despite hardships, different social mores in different socio-historical time periods, and the choices made impacting on lives lived. These choices are either by self or imposed by others contributing to life paths travelled. In some ways the stories in this novel capture the complexity of female empowerment and disempowerment at the same time across the different periods of time that is mapped.
I will definitely reread this novel!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 4, 2015 in 094 ~ Printed books, Library, Literacy

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: