A Bit of Ruth Park- Australian Writer

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D’Arcy Niland and Ruth Park

My first book of 2020 is from an Australian female writer of the past, Ruth Park. The book is A Fence Around the Cuckoo, her autobiography of the first 25 years of her life. The remaining years are in a sequel entitled Fishing in the Styx, which I own but have not yet read. Bill Holloway of the AustralianLegend blog is hosting an Australian Women’s Writer week in January (here). I won’t have time to read a lot of the Gen 3 AWWs by mid January but this book qualifies.

Ruth Park was born in New Zealand in 1917 and died in 2010 at the age of 93. Part I of her biography details her first 25 years living in the north island of New Zealand with her large extended family in poverty during the war and depression years. She moved to Sydney in her early 20s where she remained the rest of her life.

She always knew from a very young age she wanted to write. Her parents struggled to ever meet her expectations because of their poverty. Her mother was one of six girls and a couple of brothers raised by Ruth’s grandmother and grandfather. They feature a lot in this story and I enjoyed hearing about their life of squabbles and affection.  Ruth lived with a couple of them from time to time when things got too bad.

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1992 first published

Ruth didn’t have any access to books at all until she was in her teens. Books weren’t available and neither was paper upon which to write. She talks of one of her uncles bringing home some forms from his office job, that were blank on the back and she thought it was Christmas. She coveted the paper and wrote every chance she got. If the desire to write is genetic she certainly had the gene for it. Her desire was strong.

The book details the type of work her parents and grandparents did, the description of the homes she lived in. Her father had done pretty good until the depression came, he couldn’t work and they lost their home after declaring bankruptcy. The ensuing years were very tough. It wasn’t until WWII when things began to pick up a bit.

I enjoyed hearing about her mother’s seamstress skills and her relationships with her sisters.

Ruth was greatly influenced by one of the nuns where she attended primary school at St. Benedicts.  The nun spent a great deal of time with her perfecting her writing skills, working her harder than the other students as she saw Ruth’s potential. As Ruth approached high school age the Sister helped her get a full scholarship for the rest of her school years.  I felt excited for her at that point, but sadly the family had to move away due to their financial situation and Ruth never got to take it up. I really felt for her.  She was still trying to find books to read without success. Her mother was supportive and wanted her to continue her education but was unable to help her.

Eventually Ruth got a job for the Star newspaper in Auckland, writing in the children’s section. At that time there were sections in newspapers for children of several pages which Ruth loved in her own childhood, if she could get her hands on a paper. During her time at the Star she realises how lowly paid female copy writers were compared to male writers. Most males didn’t believe there was any place for a woman on a newspaper. She was groundbreaking on that front eventually becoming a journalist.

She also met a man from Sydney who worked for newspapers there and they began an uncomfortable pen pal relationship. I say uncomfortable as she thought him a bit arrogant and he was keener to be with her than her with him. Her upbringing was very sheltered and she was also quite an independent child and wanted to remain so because of her own goals in life.

Eventually she moves to Sydney when she is 22 years old as she is offered work on a newspaper there. She learned that women were paid the same as men in copy editing and there were more opportunities.  Her relationship with her pen pal D’Arcy Niland, also a writer, developed more and they married not long after she arrived in Sydney.

I found the book interesting as I saw another side of New Zealand indigenous life, the depression years of the 1930s as well as life during the two world wars. I admired her tenacity and independence in staying focused on her goals throughout her young life. Nothing distracted her mentally. The circumstances ruling her life then were so tough.

As far as autobiographies go I really enjoyed this one. I’d like to read more of her books of which she wrote many during her lifetime.

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I also began the diaries mentioned in the last post as it’s the first of January.  I opened my own diary and loved seeing all the blank pages waiting to be filled. What will this year be like?

I thought as I read these diaries during the year I’ll add excerpts that I enjoy from different periods of time into some posts.

From A Traveller’s Year: “…in the knowledge that no one pines for me anywhere on earth, that there is no place where I am being missed or expected. To know that is to be free and unencumbered, a nomad in the great desert of life where I shall never be anything but an outsider”  Isabelle Eberhardt, Diary. 1900. 

I’d like to know more of Isabelle’s life. Until next time…..Screenshot 1

Looking Forward to 2020- Part 2

ScreenshotIt’s to be 40 degrees C (104 F) in Hobart today. The firefighters are on high alert as a large storm is expected to come through tonight and they are worried about lightning strikes starting fires. The last time Hobart hit 40 degrees C on this date was 1897. Needless to say we are sequestered in the house for the day.

It gives me a chance to finalise my challenges for next year. I am adding two other types of reading in order to diversify the books a bit. I got a book voucher for my November birthday and with it I purchased a very thick book of comical short stories by well known authors. It is called Funny Ha Ha. Authors include the likes of James Thurber, Saki, Spike Milligan, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker to name a few. There are 80 stories in all, of a few pages each.  I decided I will randomly pick one story each Monday morning and have programmed that into my phone calendar so I will get a reminder each week.

As New Year’s Day is this Wednesday, I decided to randomly pick a story today and was pleased when my random generator app chose The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. I have read this story before, once assigned in high school and once later on. I also saw the film but didn’t get as much out of that as I did the story. I look Screenshot 5forward to reading it again.

The description of Funny Ha Ha states:

“Funny Ha Ha is the definitive collection of comic short stories. From Anton Chekhov to Ali Smith from P.G. Woodhouse to Nora Ephron, the greatest writers are those who know how to laugh. Here, award winning comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton brings together his favourite funny stories of all time. Whether it’s the silly, surreal, slapstick or satirical that makes you smile there’s a story here to tickle every funny bone. From prize-winners and literary giants, to stand up comedians and the rising stars of funny literature, this brilliant anthology is guaranteed to cheer your day. “

My second challenge is to continue with more of the books from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. I started it before but it got waylaid. I’m hoping to rejuvenate that project. The only conditions I am assigning this project are I will use the Random Generator app to pick from the 900+ pages of the book and the books must come from the library.  I had a quick library search and they do have many of them. However some books are not available. There are quite a few copies that are eBooks I can download and others I need to put a hold on them.  I am choosing three books at a time and locating them in the library. I will read them once they become available or I get into town to pick them up.  Most won’t take very long to read.  I’ve not read children’s books much since I stopped working in the Education department. I like to keep up on children’s books and some young adult books.  It keeps me in the loop of what goes on with the younger generations though many of these books were classics when I was young.

Screenshot 3I also have some diaries I will try to keep up. They begin on 1 January and I will try to start my day off with the passage of the day. They are books I’ve wanted to read for awhile and if I take a year to read them I might be able to keep up. No promises on this one.

They are:

  1. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (those entries are a bit longer) Everyman’s Library, introduced by Kate Loveman
  2. A Traveller’s Year: 365 Days of Travel Writing in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
  3. New York Diaries:  1609 to 2009, Edited by TeresaScreenshot 4 Carpenter.
  4. Dear Los Angeles: The City in diaries and Letters 1542 – 2018, Edited by David Kipen

Books three and four are really interesting. The editors have compiled all the diaries and letters they could find over time, in these locations, and organised the entries from centuries ago;  to current day by day of the year beginning with 1 January. So an entry might read: 1 January 1723 and the next paragraph could be 1 January 1802, and so forth. It sounds disjointed but I’ve had a read of these books here and there and they are really quite fun. Of course big events in these two cities are covered but there are also very minor characters who kept diaries and one gets a sense of what daily life’s like at the particular date.

Now I know, come 1 January, I love to take a big bite out of the book world and I am quite enthused now. But I have decided that 2020 is the year I drop way back on social media, except for my photography work and instead of wasting time looking at FB, Instagram and You Tube, I’m going to immerse myself in the books I have been collecting for decades and then moving them on.  Wish me luck.  (I know, I have an inflated sense of self and a very good sense of humour.) Screenshot 8

What I’m Reading Now…

The weather here is nasty. I can’t complain as the mainland is dealing with horrific fires so the rain, wind and cold of spring isn’t that bad. These fires happening are just awful. We have lost so many koalas due to the fires savaging their habitat. The wildlife organisations have swung into a full onslaught of revenue raising to care for the injured then eventually relocate those they save. But enough on that….

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Ollie and Cousin Eddie resting on this rainy, cold afternoon.

As the weather has been so bad and puppy training is relegated to the living room I am doing quite a bit of reading during his nap time. I got several books and book vouchers for my recent birthday. I’ll talk about them as I start going through them.

The one I’m reading now is The Death of (insert a photo of Hitler here). It is written by French journalists Jean-Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina. The blurb on the back states:

On 30 April 1945 Hitler committed suicide in his bunker as the Red Arm closed in on Berlin. Within four days the Soviets had recovered the body. But the truth about what the Russian secret services found was hidden from history when, three months later, Stalin officially declared to Churchill and Truman that Hitler was still alive and had escaped abroad. Doubts began to spread like gangrene and continue, even today, to feed wild fantasies about what really happened to him. Hitler

In 2017, after two years of painstaking negotiations with the Russian authorities, award winning investigative journalists Jean Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina gained access to confidential Soviet files that finally revealed the truth about the incredible hunt for Hitler’s body.

Their investigation includes new eye witness accounts of Hitler’s final days, exclusive photographic evidence and interrogation records, and exhaustive research into the absurd power struggle that ensued between the Soviet, British and American intelligence agencies.

Lana Parshina
Lana Parshina

Now, I’m not that far into it yet (those puppy naps aren’t that long) but Yeltsin opened up the vaults of secrecy, the archives and a skull was found. It is purported to be Hitler’s. Also a table leg from his bunker with blood on it was stored there.  The only testing done

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Jean-Christophe Brisard

has been the blood type with is A blood. Evidently 40% of Germans have this blood type.

The books is the progression of forensic analysis, interviews and document reviews.  It sounds quiet suspenseful. I’ll have to let you know what I think once I finish it.

Does this sound like something you’d like to read or hear about?  Imagine scouring the archives in Moscow, all those files that have been locked up for such a long time.  Should be an interesting read. Stay tuned…..images

Archie Roach visits Hobart

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Yes, there is a puppy in this house.

This week has been very windy and rainy. Every time the sun comes out and I think I can take our puppy, Ollie out it begins to rain again.  I’ve learned he isn’t crazy about the rain/wind combination. A little soul who takes after me.

Our games are confined to the house and there have been several very funny high speed runs throughout the place, much to the amusement and sometimes dismay of three cats.

The other evening I went into town to Fuller’s Book shop to attend the launch of Archie Roach’s new book, Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and Music. Archie Roach is an Aboriginal musician, in his mid 60’s who has had great success in his music career but when you read his book you wonder how it is this man is still alive. He was part of the Stolen Generation, being taken from his home by the government when he was two years old along with his sisters and brother. He never saw his parents again. He was put into an orphanage with his older sisters and then adopted by an older, Pentecostal, Scottish couple who he loved and was treated kindly by. There had another Aboriginal child they raised who ran away in his teens and never heard of again. There is a time period before this adoption where he was in foster care and treated very badly. He doesn’t talk or write about this experience. He only says he was treated very cruelly.  However when he was 16 yrs of age he learned he had biological family when his oldest sister sent him a letter at his school. It triggered forgotten memories and created a great deal of confusion in his mind. Archie 2

From there on the story becomes familiar. He goes off the rails, leaving his comfortable home, becoming homeless as he tries to discover who he is, who is family is and how he ended up where he is and why it happened.  He went to Sydney and accidentally met a woman in a pub that turned out to be his biological sister. From there he went to Melbourne and found  other Aboriginal people who knew of his family.  The book is his story.

When he arrived at Fuller’s book store the other evening he was in a wheel chair as his health has certainly suffered from his alcoholic past, the number of years he smoked both cigarettes and weed, his life living rough.  He now has several respiratory ailments and as he was wheeled into the book store he had his agent with him and a friend, Rosie Smith, who is also a writer of poetry and she facilitated the conversation with us.  He was helped into his seat and looked out at the packed bookstore. I was in the second row having arrived early to get a seat.

Archie Book Tell Me WhyHe is softly spoken and began telling us stories, several of which are in the book. He seemed tired but his smile came out during the telling of some of these stories and everyone in the audience sat spellbound. You could hear a pin drop.

He told us stories for about 35 minutes and then he tired. He was wheeled into the back of the shop where he used the facilities, then came out again and was seated before us. He asked if we wanted more stories and Peter, the staff member at Fuller’s said we could listen to him for days but he could tell he was tiring.  Archie pulled out his guitar and sang the first song he ever wrote to us.  The book describes how the songs he wrote came to be created. We would have loved to hear more but we all could see he was fading a bit.

There weren’t going to be anymore songs and we all respected that.

He couldn’t sign books either due to his poor health but there was a woman on the tour who had a stamp and ink impression of a wedge tailed eagle. Each book purchased had the wedge tailed eagle stamped onto the title page of the book. Archie explained the wedge tailed eagle had been his mother’s dreaming animal and it would be with him always. His father had the dreaming animal of the red bellied snake. He told us the snake is in his veins, the eagle is in his heart.

I purchased the book and had finished it within 48 hours. I couldn’t put it down and as the weather agreed with staying indoors and reading so I took full advantage of it.

The book is well written and we learn of the lives of all of his family members. He speaks at length about his beloved wife Ruby who was truly a soul mate and a writer, poet, singer in her own right.  They travelled the world together singing and writing songs together.

I’m not a big music follower and admit I knew who Archie Roach is but haven’t listened to his music extensively. Each chapter begins with the written lyrics to a song, then the story behind it is revealed.

Archie 1When I finished the book, I sat silently and thought, “Wow, what a tale.” I will never understand  as long as I live why the Australian government thought it a good idea to remove the children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and put them into orphanages, missionaries, run by the churches to be assimilated into white families. The ongoing tragedies of this decision continues to be ongoing and those affected by it were lucky in many cases to survive the experience.  Most of Archie’s relatives are gone now and there is a visible sadness that lives in him still. It can never be erased and he has learned to live with it, and continues to be successful.  I loved everything about this book and although I know the story of many events around the Stolen Generation and how Aboriginals have been and continue to be treated in this country this book makes it very personal. I can’t recommend it enough, especially to people who aren’t familiar with the government policies that happened in this country for several decades. Instagram Penguin

The Cherry Picker’s Daughter by Kerry Reed-Gilbert

Olllie
14 week old Ollie after a day of chasing bubbles in the yard and attending Puppy Play School.

The past three months or so have been so incredibly busy I have called a complete strike from now until the new year.  I’m calling a halt to all events that aren’t absolutely necessary. We are enjoying spending time with Little Ollie and I want to devote the upcoming summer months to training him.

As he has afternoon naps each day, I have been able to get some reading in. The first book I have just finished is the wonderful story The Cherry Picker’s Daughter. This memoir begins in her childhood and goes up until her later life. She writes of her family history that is tragic and her childhood growing up with such a large extended family. The story waivers between tragedy and joy and it is a tribute to Mummy, the older sister of her father who is incarcerated for killing her mother when she was only three months old. This is her family’s story and  she was adamant it would be told.  The day after she was satisfied the manuscript of this book was finally ready for publication she passed away.

From the back cover of the book:

“This is the story of Kerry Reed-Gilbert, daughter of Kevin Gilbert, famous Aboriginal activist, writer, painter and actor. Told in the child’s voice and in the vernacular of her Mob, she speaks of love and loss, of dispossession and repeated dislocation. Kerry’s account highlights the impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of the Protection Laws. Despite this, she paints a picture of hard work and determination, with family unity giving them the strength and dignity to continue. 

Her father’s sister; whom she always called ‘Mummy’ raised his two children along with hers and others within the extended family. The book is a tribute to this truly remarkable woman; their tower of strength, love and selflessness. 

cherry pickerA tribute to the late Kerry Reed-Gilbert given by Melissa Lucashenko at the launch of Aunt Kerry’s memoir, The Cherry Picker’s Daughter at the Avid Reader Bookshop in Brisbane on 16b September, 2019 can be read here for much better information than I could give this wonderful woman justice.(read here)

I am going to the launch of this book at Fuller’s Bookshop in Hobart tomorrow evening by Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta.  I am really looking forward to it.

I could never do this book credit by trying to review it so I will leave you with what is here and the link to her memorial. I will say I couldn’t put it down. It’s a grim yet uplifting history of this Aboriginal family and yet again it is one of many stories that bluejumperpeople need to be told. I hope it is widely read.

 

Simply Sunday

This is what Hobart looks like today.

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This is what Hobart looks like today, maybe a bit grayer.  

Weather:

It is a cold blustery day down here and I am loving it. I don’t have to go anywhere today. Mr. Penguin is house-sitting for a friend for a couple of weeks so it’s very quiet. It’s the kind of day where there is time to snuggle with the pets, read a backlog of things piling up, watch a bit of Netflix and eat food that doesn’t go together. Just graze. Did I mention how quiet it is. Phone is turned off. Instant message is ignored. Except for Mr. Penguin.

The last week has happened in bits and pieces. It is that time of year where throats get a bit sore and you hope the flu shot you had works.

Theatre:

Snip20190714_3Last night a friend and I went to the Playhouse Theatre in Hobart. It is the home of the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society that was established in 1926. They feature amateur community productions. One often sees the same actors from play to play. The plays can be excellent and there is a very congenial attitude of mixed ages in the audience. Also chocolate is very cheap. You get a chocolate bar, a glass of wine if you wish, take it to your seat and enjoy the play.  I support them every year by going to most of their performances.  Last night we saw a production of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It was a cold and windy night and the audience wasn’t packed like it usually is but the people who bothered to come out had a good time.  They didn’t seem to have enough men/boys for the pirates so many girls played both girls and boys. They made good pirates. A young woman played the part of 14 year old Jim Hawkins and she did such a good job. Long John Silver was great fun. (Can’t find actor’s name). It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday night despite the cold.

Books this week:

Snip20190714_4I finished the Mongolian horse race book by Lara Prior-Palmer, Rough Magic.  I found it to be an average read.  I liked her writing and hearing about the logistics of the horse race.  She wrote about some of the Mongolian people she met and that was interesting.  I got a little bit tired in parts when she flashes back to other times in her life. I think she had a lot of time to think of her past as the traversed the long days on the Mongolian steppes.  I know when I rode my Scooter from Hobart to Long Reach, Queensland in Australia (one way 2300 kms/1450 miles) I was on very long straight stretches of road and your mind wanders to all sorts of memories, thoughts, creative ideas, future plans. She put a lot of these thoughts into her book.  I would give it three stars. Just a good read. However I do think she is a character whom I will remember for a long time and I will remember her story. That is always a good measure of a book.

I am currently listening to a non-fiction Australian story called My Mother, A Serial Killer written by the daughter, Hazel Baron and Janet Fife-Yeomans narrated by Kate Hosking who does a brilliant job.

Snip20190714_2Good Reads describes it as:  A gripping and shocking story of a serial killer mother, and the brave daughter who brought her to justice. Dulcie Bodsworth was the unlikeliest serial killer. She was loved everywhere she went, and the townsfolk of Wilcannia, which she called home in the late 1950s, thought of her as kind and caring. The officers at the local police station found Dulcie witty and charming, and looked forward to the scones and cakes she generously baked and delivered for their morning tea.

That was one side of her. Only her daughter Hazel saw the real Dulcie. And what she saw terrified her.

Dulcie was in fact a cold, calculating killer who, by 1958, had put three men in their graves – one of them the father of her four children, Ted Baron – in one of the most infamous periods of the state’s history. She would have got away with it all had it not been for Hazel.

Written by award-winning journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans together with Hazel Baron, My Mother, A Serial Killer is both an evocative insight into the harshness of life on the fringes of Australian society in the 1950s, and a chilling story of a murderous mother and the courageous daughter who testified against her and put her in jail.

I am really enjoying this bit of Australian history of this woman. It isn’t so much the murders. They are discussed but the main part of this story is the psychological machinations of this woman’s mind. Her manipulation, how she fools everyone in the communities she visits. If she were an animal she would be a feral cat. It is a shame she didn’t put her brilliant mind towards something worthwhile.

I am about half way through it and every time I sit down to rest a bit or before going to sleep I put the audible app on another 30 minutes to listen.  It is true to its word as it details “society on the fringes” in the 1950’s which is a time period I enjoy reading about in both Australia and the USA.  If you enjoy this type of book I can certainly recommend it.

Photography News:Camera Penguin

Our photo club meeting is coming up this coming Thursday evening. We have two digital challenges I had to put up. One category is “Open” and the other category is “Hidden Spaces”.  The print challenge category is “Abstract”. We get two of our images printed and upon arrival at the meeting we lay them out on a long table with our names on the back. Nobody knows who they belong to though some put in the same type of genres so easy to guess. I like to mix it up a bit so no one knows mine ahead of time. At the tea break during the meeting, members attending vote on their favourites. The first place (which I have never won) gets a bottle of wine. Second and third places get chocolate.  I have come in third place a couple of times and enjoyed some chocolate.  I love challenges and competitions and enter often both in and out of the club meetings.  It is a good way to learn new types of techniques and genres of photography.

So I’ll pop up the challenge photos for this week for you to have a look at.  They are all quite different. Until next time….the Penguin and I say..Have a good week. If you’re in the northern hemisphere stay cool. If you’re anywhere near Tasmania or Melbourne, stay warm.

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OPEN CATEGORY:  Spain Street Photography:  Two boys daring each other to kiss this mannikin. It was quite funny watching them. They didn’t see me. 

 

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HIDDEN PLACES. Fez, Morocco:  Travel Photography

 

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Print Challenge:  ABSTRACT CATEGORY:  Street Photography- doorway with abstract drawing of a face.

 

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ABSTRACT CATEGORY:  Art work from festival I attended in Mill Valley, California.

 

The Lost Girls by Ava Benny-Morrison

Australian True Crime- non fiction

Library Ebook Copy- 2019

Snip20190616_2I had a hold on this book from the library and it finally popped up on my Libby app as I was about to fly home from Morocco to Tasmania.  I was happy to see it as I find movies on flights are notoriously hard to hear with engine noise and flight attendant interruptions so I settled down for the long haul and finished this book in record time.

In 2010 Dirt Bike riders came across a body in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales. As most Australian people will remember this was the state park that serial killer Ivan Millat buried the backpacker victims that he was convicted of killing and now serves terms of life in prison.  It was determined that the victim discovered in 2010 was not a part of this crime.

Five years later a young child was found in South Australia, in a suitcase alongside a highway near Adelaide.  Australians may also remember the “body in a suitcase” case at that time.

The author follows this crime from the beginning of the discovery of the woman’s body in 2010 until the end of 2018. The crime is uncovered early in the book. The story is not so much about the crime but about how people’s lives can change in an instant or over time due to the experiences they have  in life or the people they meet and worse, might fall in love with.  I found the psychology behind the characters in this story to be fascinating. Of course drug abuse enters the picture and makes it even worse.

Domestic violence, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, poverty are all themes in this book. As a result of these issues and how they combine equals a very tragic tale indeed.

The journalistic writing of this story and the lives of these two people is excellent. The story is revealed in a very straight forward way without sensationalism.  The author and the reader really cares about these people. It is interesting to see how a murderer is made in this instance. It begins with negligent parents and abuse of a small boy and leads to tragedy and misery that involves many families over the course of a couple of generations.

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Ava Benny-Morrison is a crime reporter for The Daily Telegraph covering New South Wales and Queensland. This is her first book.

I kept thinking as I read it, “What if the parents had been loving and understanding” to this young boy….. Would it have happened?  Many people do suffer traumatic childhoods and never go near committing a murder but it isn’t unreasonable to see how the various experiences of all the characters in this book end up with the results of their lives.

The book doesn’t go into gory detail over the cases until the wrap up at the end during the trial. Of course all the details must be revealed during the trial.  This is not a book for those who don’t want to know specific details.  The first 90% of the book is about the lives of everyone around the victims in this case. But the last 10% does bring it all into focus as the conclusion and repercussions are reached.

When we often hear so many stories of corrupt police officers and justice gone astray because of it, the story is also a tribute to the officers who did their job and the really good communication between authorities in four states that culminated in the solving of this case.

If this is a genre you find interesting then I can recommend it. If you prefer a more gentle read don’t pick it up. I must say though I barely noticed the extreme turbulence of my flight while this book was in my hand. I read and read and read. I could not put it down. Snip20181111_4