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
02 Nov 2016
in Book Review
Tags: ah well nobody's perfect, anecdotes, australian music industry, australian television, australian tv, biography, book, countdown, dj, heated parties, hey hey, hey hey it's saturday, humdrum, ian "molly" meldrum, ian meldrum, interviews, jeff jenkins, larger than life, memoir, michael gudinski, michael shrimpton, molly, molly meldrum, molly's melodrama, music, music fan, music journalist, music journo, natural storyteller, notorious, parties, practical joker, quambatook victoria, record producer, review, reviews, rich, self-deprecating, stories, sunday night, talent coordinator, television host, the untold stories, travel tips, tv host, vivid, yarns
John Lennon once sang that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. This idea rings true for Australia’s National Living Treasure and Lennon’s friend, Ian “Molly” Meldrum. The music journalist, talent coordinator, TV host, DJ and record producer has had a brilliant career spanning multiple decades. Ah Well, Nobody’s Perfect is a celebration of all of this, because it sees Meldrum spinning many yarns and anecdotes along with the help of fellow music journalist, Jeff Jenkins and a cast of famous friends and confidantes.
Molly Meldrum has already been the subject of a biography with 2014’s The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story: Life, Countdown and Everything in Between. His first memoir focused predominantly on his time working on ABC TV’s Countdown (a youth culture show). In the latest instalment of Meldrum’s biography, he includes anecdotes from this period (and dedicates the book to Countdown’s creator, the late Michael Shrimpton) as well as describing his work on Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Sunday Night. Meldrum has interests outside of music and this book also includes his love for the Australian cricket team, AFL’s Saint Kilda Saints and the NRL’s Melbourne Storm. The memoir is also named after a line from Meldrum’s favourite film, Some Like It Hot.
Meldrum’s early life is briefly covered in this second book. We learn that he was a country boy from Quambatook Victoria and about his first jobs. This information is interesting, but you get the sense that Molly is a private individual and that we are barely scratching the surface here. Instead, most of this volume is about Molly’s encounters with famous musicians and individuals from the music and TV industries. In some respects, Meldrum’s life shares things in common with photographer, Tony Mott in that both have met and worked with famous celebrities and they both have a swag bag full of great stories to tell. Both Meldrum and Mott would make excellent dinner party guests – you know that there’d never be a dull moment!
The book is a mixture of different anecdotes and stories. It bounces around describing different subjects, something that is very much like Molly’s spirited interview technique. It’s a haphazard approach where different tangents are explored and time is not a linear concept. This means that one chapter you can be reading the questions and answers from Molly’s appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire (where he won $500,000 for charity) to moving on to recollections from Michael Gudinski and other important individuals, and then on to travel tips from Molly, that are very much inspired by real experiences. The stories are rich and vivid and they deal with the notorious parties, heated fights, amazing days and unmitigated disasters from Molly’s life. This man in a hat comes across as a lovely, enthusiastic music fan and self-deprecating character who is a practical joker at heart but also not precious about when people are laughing at his expense.
Ah Well, Nobody’s Perfect is a fun and entertaining book by a true music fan and a natural storyteller. It is easy to get lost in these entertaining yarns. The story is from a larger-than-life character who delivers his observations and opinions on the madness, mirth and most of all, the music. All that’s left to say is that any self-respecting music fan should do themselves a favour and immerse themselves in Molly’s Melodrama!
Originally published on 31 October 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-ah-well-nobodys-perfect-by-molly-meldrum-jeff-jenkins-is-about-the-madness-mirth-and-music-surrounding-mollys-melodrama/
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/
26 Oct 2016
in Book Review
Tags: 1950s, book, books, county mayo, dreamboat, emotions, fiction, fifties, following your dreams, ireland, irish people, it was only ever you, kate kerrigan, light, loss, love, morag prunty, n.y., new york, new york city, nightclub scene, novel, ny, optimism, poor, rags, review, reviews, rich, riches, rock 'n' roll soundtrack, romance, singer, whimscial, yesteryear
She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah! It Was Only Ever You is a romantic story about three strong, young women and their relationships with one charming man living in New York City. It’s an engrossing, light and sweet tale that will leave you wondering how it will end and who will wind up with whom.
This story is set in an almost identical place to Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn. It is the 1950s and a time when many Irish people made a passage in order to have a new life in America. Instead of focusing on one main protagonist, Kate Kerrigan frames the story though a group of young people. Her prose is quite light and whimsical at times and for this reason, it occasionally reminds me of Marian Keyes’s work.
Kate Kerrigan’s real name is Morag Prunty and she is a journalist and best-selling author. Her most famous novel is The Dress. In It Was Only Ever You Kerrigan provides a smoking soundtrack and backdrop that takes in jazz, ballads and early rock ‘n’ roll. It is a period when people were just learning how to rock around the clock and they did so with gusto. Kerrigan’s main character, Patrick is a dreamboat by all accounts and a fledgling singer.
Patrick was a poor boy from County Mayo in Ireland. He found love in the form of an artistic, rich girl and Doctor’s daughter named Rose. The pair were besotted but Rose’s parents did not approve of the relationship. Patrick’s head was also filled with big ambitions of his own. He leaves Ireland and goes to New York while his heart pines for Rose and he works a lowly job because he is indebted to his employer. This world is a very different one to that inhabited by a caring socialite named Ava. She is an idealistic girl who is aware that she won’t win any prizes for her looks. Ava remains optimistic however, and continues to frequent the dance halls in the hopes of finding a nice husband.
Shelia is the most interesting character of them all. The orphan of parents who died during the Holocaust, Shelia is the kind of girl who is determined and knows exactly what she wants. Shelia is a vanguard and an inspiration. She is trying to forge her own way in the music industry, a world that is almost exclusively controlled by men. It’s fortunate that Shelia has a nose for talent and she hopes she can discover music’s next big thing.
It Was Only Ever You is like a patchwork quilt of different emotions that show a group of young people falling in and out of love and discovering themselves. This is a story about love, loss and following your dreams and it is set amongst the glamourous New York nightclub scene of yesteryear. The story features some likeable and well-developed characters and the story feels very authentic. It Was Only Ever You is a pleasant book to read not least because it shows a group of fine characters marching to the beat of their own drums.
***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-it-was-only-ever-you
25 Oct 2016
in DVD Review
Tags: aafrin dalal, Aysha Kala, beautiful, Blake Ritson, british rule, challenges, colonial rule, colourful, cynthia coffin, drama, dvd, dvds, english rule, henry lloyd-hughes, india, india's history, indian history, indian summers, Jemima West, Julie Walters, life, love, love triangles, marriage, moral dilemmas, Nikesh Patel, nostalgic, period drama, pleasant, politics, ralph whelan, relationships, reunions, review, reviews, rich, romance, significant, sooni, sprawling, sumptuous, t.v. series, television series, tense, tensions, the jewel in the crown, tv series, unhappy marriage
The chapter in India’s history when it was subject to colonial rule has been shown on our screens before. It was the theme in The Jewel in the Crown television series and there have been countless films and things about Mahatma Ghandi. Indian Summers is a TV series that covers this well-trodden path. It may not be the most original rendering of this story but it is one pleasant, beautiful and nostalgic drama.
The second series begins some three years after the first one left off. Some things have changed with respect to the characters in this time. The most noteworthy is that civil servant, Aafrin Dalal (the gorgeous, Nikesh Patel) has become a rebel and is promoting terrorism. The private secretary, Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) is married and has designs on the viceroy’s role. Whelan’s sister, Alice (Jemima West) is shackled by an unhappy marriage to one angry and careless man named Charlie (Blake Ritson) while her heart is somewhere else.
This series deals with a number of different storylines and threads including matters of the heart and the state. Club owner, Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) is as manipulative as ever while Sooni (Aysha Kala) is the most inspiring. The plots also throws up a number of different moral dilemmas. Over the course of ten episodes there are a few deaths, one marriage and some reunions. The series is supported by a great cast who capture the full gamut of different emotions. Indian Summers also succeeds at chronicling an important chapter in India’s history and maintaining a certain pace while keeping the tensions high.
The setting is absolutely stunning. The story and series is set in Simla in the foothills of the Himalayas but Indian Summers itself is shot in Penang in Malaysia. We can forgive this artistic licence when we consider how much care and detail has been applied to the creation of props and the wonderful costumes. All of these things add up to make a sumptuous period drama that is like pure eye candy. The special features include an adequate making of featurette that reveals some good insights into how this show was made, but there was also room for more information.
Indian Summers is a colourful drama that is brimming with some spice and so many different threads that at times it feels like a tapestry. This is not the most crucial series you’ll ever watch but it does cover a significant part of India’s history as it seeks independence from the British rule. This serial is an interesting look at the politics and the personal proclivities of the locals and individuals living abroad as they face all manner of different challenges that life throws at them. In short this is a sprawling story told in a way that is as pleasant as a stroll through the English countryside.
Originally published on 24 October 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/indian-summers-season-2-dvd-review/
Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com
19 Oct 2016
in Film Review
Tags: 1930s, 30s, beautifully shot, beauty, blake lively, comedy, excess, existential, film, films, fine performance, flimsy, gangster brother, glamour, glitz, halcyon days, high society, hollywood, hotshot, jazz, Jesse Eisenberg, kristen stewart, lightweight, love triangle, new york, nostalgic, ny, pleasant, predictable, review, reviews, rich, riches, richness, rom-com, romance, romantic tale, smokey, smoky, smoky nightlife, splendour, Steve Carell, thirties, throwaway, uncle phil, vonnie, Woody Allen, youth
Woody Allen’s latest film should be renamed “High Society.” This beautifully-shot comedy is a nostalgic but throwaway look at the glitz and glamour of some halcyon days in Hollywood and the smoky nightlife of New York. It’s ultimately like a pleasant and lightweight dream that celebrates money even though the thirties was synonymous for some with the great depression.
Café Society is like most of Allen’s films in that it is full of snappy dialogue and features the famous director as a sleepy narrator. One of the best pieces of advice this film offers is to “Live everyday like it’s your last because one day you’ll be right” as well as other existential points and jabs at religion. This may be a romantic tale but in true Allen style this romance is one where your head is in charge, not your heart.
Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg doing his best Woody Allen impression) stars as a wide-eyed kid who is initially seduced by the bright lights of Hollywood. Bobby’s Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) is a Hollywood hotshot. He takes pity on his nephew and offers the kid some odd jobs. Bobby seems to enjoy elements of La-La land (his encounter with a first-time prostitute is hilarious) but he soon comes to hate the excess and fakery of it all. It’s a sentiment that is shared by his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart who proves she doesn’t need to pout her way through every film.) Stewart puts in a fine performance where the chemistry with her former cast mate, Eisenberg is particularly obvious.
Vonnie is given the job of showing Bobby around town. The two youngsters bond over Mexican food and Bobby becomes completely smitten. But Vonnie holds her cards closely to her chest. The reason she does so is because she’s smart and savvy and because she also has an elusive boyfriend that she started dating a year before meeting Bobby.
Eventually Bobby returns home to New York. He takes a job working in a nightclub with his gangster brother. Bobby meets a divorcee at the club (an effervescent Blake Lively) and romance blossoms. The pair seem happy until Vonnie shows up at the club with someone Bobby knows all too well.
Café Society is like The Great Gatsby in that it celebrates youth, beauty and jazz. The story itself is quite flimsy and predictable but it’s a film that offers entertainment and enjoyment, pure and simple. This depiction of love triangles and professional dreams is one opulent ride and a fun look at a brief but rich period in the thirties in America. In Café Society’s world the depression never happened and everyone was free to enjoy themselves, rambling through the richness and splendour that was the society set. This is ultimately fun for audiences to watch but don’t expect it to change your life or your riches.
Originally published on 18 October 2016 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-woody-allens-latest-cafe-society-usa-2016-offers-a-nostalgic-but-throwaway-look-at-the-great-depression/
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/
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21 Jun 2016
in Book Review
Tags: ambitious, art, art world, auctioneer, autobiography, book, books, chairman of Sotheby's europe, curator, distinguished career, driven, dry, elitist, ernst beyeler, famous, gossip, high highfalutin, irritating, memoir, name-dropping, passionate, phillips de pury owner, record price setting auctions, review, reviews, rich, self-important, shopping list of record price setting auctions, simon de pury, slow, snob, Sotheby's europe chair, the auctioneer, the Mick Jagger of auctions
The man dubbed the “Mick Jagger of auctions” sounds like he should have some interesting stories to tell. Simon de Pury also has had a career that has spanned over 40 years as an auctioneer and curator and different roles in the art world where he got to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. But the memoir, The Auctioneer does not have many exciting anecdotes. Instead it’s a dry and slow book that oscillates between self-importance and being a shopping list of record-price setting auctions.
Simon de Pury had had a distinguished career. He learnt the rewards of buying and selling art from Art Basel’s Ernst Beyeler. Simon de Pury was also the former chair of Sotheby’s Europe and the former owner of Phillips de Pury. He is a man who is not short on experience and his memoir could have been an insightful look into the inner-workings of the (hidden) art world. But the core message here is that greed is good and it’s a clumsy mix of gossip and vain name-dropping and descriptions of the irritating world of the 1 percenters.
It’s very hard to empathise and connect with such an elitist snob. At the very least de Pury is ambitious, driven and passionate about his work. Some readers may enjoy his take on the art world but personally I felt like he barely scratched the surface of his life’s story and the formal prose and stories were so lacking in depth and colour, they were like a monochrome painting.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/auctioneer/9900103/