Good Reading : September 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING SEPTEMBER 2015 60 Bloodhound: Searching for my Father Ramona Koval For many people, questions about who they are and where they belong are relatively straightforward. For others, these questions are fraught, and seeking answers can open up old wounds and expose long-held, closely guarded secrets. But for some people, choosing to pursue the truth feels like their only option. As the child of Holocaust survivors, journalist, writer and former broadcaster Ramona Koval grew up in a household where certain things were never discussed and stories of her parents’ early lives were shrouded in secrecy. But one thought persistently nagged: that the man she knew as her father was not her biological father. Some years after her mother’s premature death, a chance conversation with a friend of her mother starts a journey of self-discovery and a search for identity that leads from suburban Melbourne to northern Queensland and eventually to Poland, in an attempt to unpack the past. One of the most appealing aspects of this memoir is not simply that it’s an intriguing tale with enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most curious of sleuths, but rather it’s our underlying knowledge throughout that this is a real story. It’s a story told with both humour and poignancy about people who, for one reason or another, could never really tell the truth, and it leaves the reader to ponder the impact of the ‘truths’ we tell ourselves. ★★★★ Text $32.99 Reviewed by Maryanne Vagg Adventures in Human Being Gavin Francis Adventures in Human Being is a tour of the body, top to toe, in the company of a knowledgeable and generous guide. Gavin Francis, an Edinburgh doctor with a background in emergency medicine, has practised in places as remote as Antarctica and Tibet. He has wr itten two books about his travels, but here stirs together anatomy and physiology, medical history and stories from his own work to explore the extraordinary geography of the human form. With each chapter examining a different organ or aspect of biological function, the book contains a wealth of medical detail, leavened with fascinating accounts of the afflictions and treatments of real people. Francis descr ibes a woman, plagued by debilitating seizures, having a sliver of brain cut out, conscious and talking all the while so the surgeons could ensure her speech centre was left intact. He marvels at the exposed tendons, nestled in their ‘fleshy chevrons of muscle’, that operate the fingers of a man with a large laceration to his forear m. And he soberly reports the destructive progression of septicaemia through the body of a young woman who two days earlier had scratched her finger on a rose thorn. Far from a collection of dry clinical essays, Adventures in Human Being is an engrossing exploration of the hows and whys of our functioning selves, with pertinent digressions to Homer’s Iliad,Tacitus’s Annals, Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Seamus Heaney poetry, among others. Francis explains complex clinical scenarios in accessible language, from the still-myster ious but effective electroconvulsive therapy to the ethereal beauty of X-rays. ★★★★ RG Profile $29.99 Reviewed by Aaron Jelbart BIOGRAPHY / MEMOIR WOM word of mouth RATINGS ★ ★ ★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ RG About Ramona Koval Victoria-based writer and journalist Ramona Koval has described herself as a ‘professional asker of questions’.