15 Mar 2017
in Book Review
Tags: 1st person, australian story, book, books, bux, complex, confrontational, contemporary literature, culture, debut, director of sweatshop, down the hume, drama, drug-enabler boyfriend, dynnamic prose, epic, existential yearning, fiction, first person narrative, first-person, greek descent, gym junkie boyfriend, home country writer, homosexual man's adventures, identity, intense, machismo, medonism, multifaceted, nice arms pete, novel, peter polites, raw, refreshing, review, reviews, sharp, street wise, tense, unique voice, violent relationship, western suburbs of sydney, yearning, young man
When we think of an “Australian story” the ones that typically spring to mind are predominantly about the country, bush or the past. So what is a reader to do when they want something that reflects their own modern life in the Western suburbs of Sydney? Thankfully, Peter Polites has answered this in his debut novel, Down The Hume, one that seems like a likely successor to Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded.
Polites is the associate director of SWEATSHOP, a literary movement based in Western Sydney which is devoted to empowering marginalised communities. Polites was also a co-writer of the Sydney Festival show, Home Country, an epic story about culture and identity that was performed in a Blacktown carpark. When we consider Polites’ previous work it is unsurprising that he also brings his experiences as a young, homosexual man of Greek descent to his debut novel. The book’s main character Bux also has these same character traits, but Bux also loves a violent, abusive drug-enabler and gym-obsessed man named Nice Arms Pete.
Down The Hume is a little like a car speeding at full force along our nation’s famous highway from Sydney to Melbourne. The book is a complex one that negotiates important topics like machismo, hedonism and a deep sense of existential yearning. The text itself is also quite raw and confrontational. The story is told in the first person and you very much get the sense that you are along in the passenger seat for the ride with Bux, come what may.
We follow Bux through addiction to prescription medication, as well as some tender moments where he bonds with his mother (another person who had a “vanishing” and abusive man in her life) and a friendship with an elderly gentleman who he cares for at his nursing home job. Bux is a paranoid and jealous lover who takes to stalking his boyfriend Pete, whom he suspects of cheating.
Each of the chapters of the book are named after places in Sydney and sometimes these moments read like little vignettes or discrete episodes; Bux grapples with the implications and ideas of culture and identity as a man of Greek descent wearing an outfit typically worn by Middle Eastern men. In another moment he has to reconcile his position as a homosexual man with the weight of familial expectations on his head (in one flashback his family had assumed that he’d want to settle down with a nice girl and have a family.)
Down The Hume is a dark noir story. It uses sharp, street-wise language to create a multifaceted tale that reads like urban poetry. Peter Polites is ultimately a refreshing new voice in contemporary literature and his dynamic prose proves that there is so much more to Australian stories than the expected bush gangs, convicts and farms of yore.
Originally published on 13 March 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-peter-polites-down-the-hume-shakes-our-expectations-about-australian-stories/
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/
14 Mar 2017
in Book Review
Tags: 1st person account, a manifestation of her illness, a memoir of obsessive compulsive disorder, a memoir of ocd, alter ego, because we are bad, because we are bad - a memoir of ocd, bio, biography, book, books, cbt, cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, complex, crippling disease, diagnosis, disorder, dispels misconceptions, distress, distresses, elaborate systems, english female journalist, exposure, first person account, forthright account, grapples with mental illness, group therapy, heart-breaking, honest, journalist, lily bailey, medication, memoir, mental health, mental health struggles, mental illness, model, negative thoughts, obtrusive thoughts, raw, relatable, remove the stigmas, resonate, response prevention, review, reviews, rituals, ruminating, rumination, silent battle, therapy, turbulent life, vulnerable, writer
Because We Are Bad is a devastating memoir where the author actually lived, breathed and believed the title. The book is a chronicle of Lily Bailey’s years spend living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) from her initial diagnosis as a child through to becoming a young woman. The story is a relatable, first person account of the mental illness and it’s one that should resonate with people who have this disorder as well as helping to dispel some of the misconceptions that are out there.
This book is reminiscent of Emily Reynold’s A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind. Both volumes are by young, English female journalists and they are honest accounts of their grapples with mental illness. Neither book attempts to romanticise the individual’s respective disorder, instead they attempt to remove the stigmas surrounding it with their brutally honest and forthright accounts.
In Bailey’s case the story is told in the first person along with her complex alter ego (a manifestation of her illness). Bailey recalls the distresses she experienced from early childhood when she was concerned that her sister would come into harm or even die if she failed to check up on her. These ideas became obtrusive thoughts that were repeated to the point of becoming an elaborate system consisting of actual rituals.
Lily spent a lot of time ruminating over negative thoughts. She would worry that she had poor personal hygiene and that people hated her or thought she was a pervert. She collected these ideas and constantly thought about the first letters of each word relating to these things. Bailey’s struggles escalated and became a silent battle that plagued her day and night to the point that it became a crippling disease.
Because We Are Bad may be a raw and heart-breaking read but it’s also a hopeful one. Bailey is now a successful model and journalist and hopefully readers can take away and learn from the things that helped her. In Bailey’s case this was cognitive behaviour therapy, which included response prevention and exposure as well as medication and group therapy. Because We Are Bad shows the inner turbulent life of a vulnerable young woman who has OCD and it also proves that people do not need to be alone in their mental health struggles. By reading such accounts we can all have a more realistic view of what the individuals with these diseases experience so that we can all get real about mental illness and the way it impacts life.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Bookstr giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.bookstr.com/book/because-we-are-bad/10700167/
01 Mar 2017
in Theatre Review
Tags: 1967, 1986, 3 australian families on holiday, 67, aids play, atmospheric, australian play, away, base, cancer, children passing before parents, clever, comedy, complex, conflict, darker, death, debuted at the stables theatre, difficult, drama, drama theatre, evocative, family christmas holiday, fun, funny, glenn hazeldine, great ensemble cast, grief, heather mitchell, high-versatile script, human sense, imagery, imaginary fairies, j. david franzke, jokes, joyous, julia davis, layered, leukaemia, liam nunan, loss, malthouse theatre production, marco chiappi, matriarch, matthew lutton, michael gow, michael gow's away, minimalist set, moods, naomi rukavina, natasha herbert, opera house, play, popular, references, review, reviews, sharp, simple, snobbish mother, Sydney, sydney opera house, sydney theatre company production, symbolic, tense, the golden age, theatre, themes, three australian families on holiday, visceral, wadih dona, witty writing, young love
Michael Gow’s Away is one of Australia’s most popular plays and this latest production makes it easy to see why. The current Sydney Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre Production sees the play return to its second home at the Sydney Opera House (the show played here one year after it debuted at the Stables Theatre in 1986.) It’s a story that is in some ways deceptively simple and in others is quite layered and complex in its symbolism, imagery and references to different texts. This is a portrayal of three different Australian families going away on holiday in 1967 and one that remains an important and vital slice of home-grown theatre.
Away is directed by Matthew Lutton (Edward II) and stars Liam Nunan (The Golden Age) as a young, aspiring actor named Tom. He falls in love with a strong and independent young woman named Meg (Naomi Rukavina in her STC debut.) The pair met when they were performing together in their school’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Young love is a beautiful thing but this romance comes under fire thanks to Meg’s snobbish, ball-breaking mother Gwen (a terrifying, Heather Mitchell). Gwen believes her daughter is too good for this young boy — he’s the son of English immigrants (Julia Davis and Wadih Dona). Gwen also refuses to let up on her stronghold over the family, including her husband (Marco Chiappi), as well as the apron strings, much to Meg’s chagrin.
The other family out on holiday are the school principal (Glenn Hazeldine) and his shell of a wife, Coral (Natasha Herbert). This older couple is grappling with grief because their only son died in the Vietnam War. This is not the only allusion to death in this play, Tom has leukaemia and he learns that his diagnosis is bleak despite his parents’ best efforts to try and shield this dire news from him. This notion of children passing before their parents meant that Away was also described as being a meditation on the AIDS epidemic because this was happening in real life as Gow was writing it.
The lines in this play are very clever and sharp and Gow’s writing in superb. There are also some great little jokes peppering the script. Gow successfully traverses the lines between poignant and meaningful moments and themes like death, loss and conflict and other points that are quite joyous and fun (young love and the idealism of English immigrants in their new-found home, etc.)
The set itself is quite a minimalist one and this makes the audience focus on the actors and their different conflicts. There is a major change in the play where a storm erupts (thanks to some imaginary fairies) and thereafter the actors are bathed in a stark, white light. It’s interesting that in these moments where the tangible things are stripped away that the play’s most narcissistic and wealth-obsessed character can stop, take stock and learn about more important things in life than mere objects.
The actors prove a formidable ensemble cast. They are also extremely adept at realising this highly-versatile script and the many moods and themes that are often referenced in it. The actors should also be commended for their portrayal of Shakespeare’s finest characters and these complex and uniquely-Australian ones.
There is also some different musical interludes by composer J. David Franzke. The music during the scene changes is quite evocative and atmospheric, at once bringing to mind the carefree sixties and at other moments supporting the play’s darker themes.
Away is one entertaining and absorbing show about three different Australian families tackling with important, everyday issues in a tense and difficult atmosphere — the family Christmas holiday. There are moments that will make you laugh and other times where you will despair and cry. Away is ultimately a theatrical beast in every sense, because it plays with the notion of art in such a clever and skilful way and it appeals to our emotions in the most base, visceral and human sense. Amazing.
Photo credit: James Green
Originally published on 26 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/theatre-review-away-is-an-enduring-and-symbolic-look-at-life-conflict-the-family-christmas-holiday/
Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com
13 Feb 2017
in Book Review
Tags: african-american women, bio, biography, black community, book, books, Christine Darden, civil rights movement, colored, colored women, complex, computers, detailed, Dorothy Vaughan, engineering, fearless women, heroines, hidden figures, inspirational, Katherine Johnson, langley research centre, man on the moon, margot lee shetterly, Mary Jackson, mathematical equations, mathematicians, mathematics, maths, memior, movie adaptation, movie tie-in, naca, nasa, NASA stands for National Aeronautics & Space Administration, NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, nasa-langley research centre, national advisory committee for aeronautics, negro, negroes, oscar-nominated film, overlooked individuals, racism, recognition, review, reviews, rocket science, segregation, sexism, smart, strong, the cold war, the second world war, the south of america, the south of the u.s., the south of the united states, the south of the us, the space race, u.s. space race, us space race, virginia, well researched, white collar job, women's liberation, world war 2, world war II
For too long the African-American women who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, a precursor to NASA) were missing from the history books. Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures, and the Oscar-nominated film of the same name are poised to redress this problem and give recognition where it’s due. The story is an important and inspirational one, exposing how these women overcame racism and sexism to play their own significant roles in the U.S. space race.
To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201702/221784
Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/
04 Dec 2016
in Book Review
Tags: ambitious, anna romer, atmospheric, australian writer, betrayal, beyond the orchard, book, books, complex, death, depth, despair, detailed, emotional, fabulous, family history, family saga, fiction, haunting, historic fiction, history, interwoven, intriguing, lies, loss, love, lucy briar, meaning, multiple generations, multiple perspectives, multiple years, mystery, novel, redemption, review, reviews, rich, romance, saga, secrets, third novel, thornwood house, well-constructed
Beyond the Orchard is an Australian saga spanning multiple years, taking in different generations and perspectives. It seems to have a lot in common with the late Bryce Courtenay’s work insofar as it’s an epic slice of Australiana. The book is the third novel by Anna Romer (Thornwood House) and a rich and detailed tapestry where some different characters lives are all interwoven together through a series of secrets and lies.
The story stars Lucy Briar, a young woman whose mother passed away when she was just a young girl. Briar is now all grown up and has been living in London for the past few years. She is also newly engaged. Lucy left Australia for the UK a few years ago after a relationship with an older man (the father of a friend of hers) had gone awry.
Lucy is called back to her childhood home after she is invited to her friends’ wedding. Before Briar arrives in Victoria she receives a message from her estranged grandfather that is completely unexpected. He wants to meet her and set the record straight on a few things regarding the past. Sadly, Lucy’s grandpa does not get the opportunity to follow through with his promise. But little by little Lucy undertakes he own detective work and uncovers a rich and complicated family history and some life events that involve her relatives as well as love, loss, death, despair and redemption.
Anna Romer’s novel is a rather ambitious one that threads together the perspectives of various characters living at different points in history. She also adds additional textural flourishes in the form of extracts from a book written by Lucy’s father Ronald. These extra storylines add greater depth and meaning to the existing characters and their motivations because it is a case of art imitating life.
Beyond the Orchard feels like it’s a real story because it is so atmospheric and emotional. It’s a testament to Romer’s fabulous writing that the characters seem as rich and complex as real people. Romer’s prose is well-written and sometimes quite poetic and beautiful. This book is a well-constructed one where mystery and romance make for one haunting and intriguing family history.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-beyond-the-orchard