Good Reading : August 2006
30 goodreading ı AUGUST 2006 word of mouth character study/general fiction Weeping Waters Anne Maria Nicholson This is a fictional story based around the real lahar that erupted from the volcano Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand in 1953. It caused the death of 151 people, and Nicholson’s novel, set in the present day, takes many of its elements from the accounts of various survivors. Frances Nelson is a seismologist who comes to New Zealand in the hopes of preventing another lahar, and finds herself embroiled in the conflict between the Maori who hold Mount Ruapehu sacred and those who believe the area should be excavated to prevent any future disasters, regardless of cultural heritage. Things become even more complicated when her romantic life begins to reflect the same battle. Frances is connected to the tragedy in more ways than it first appears, as her own family was tied up in it and she has come to lay some personal demons to rest. While Weeping Waters is primarily a romance, what sets it apart are information on seismology, aspects of Maori culture, and flashbacks to the stories of survivors. It took me a while to get caught up in it, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. This is Nicholson’s first book, and once people read it I think they’ll be looking out for her next. ★★★ HarperCollins $32.95 Reviewed by Melissa Wilson Abide With Me Elizabeth Strout If this wasn’t predominantly about an honest, hard-working, noble church minister who actually lives what he preaches, it could be aptly retitled Desperate Housewives for the 1950s. Then again, if it were only about such a minister, it probably wouldn’t be half as intr iguing as it actually is. Tyler Caskey is the pastor in a small town, West Annett. His wife is dead, his daughter’s a nutcase and if that’s not bad enough, the whole town likes to gossip about his ‘possible’ relations with his mar ried housekeeper. Strout takes her readers directly into the hearts and lives of most of the minor characters, all of whom are complex, dismal and intriguing in their own right. Abide With Me is, in essence, an insightful study of the important aspects of human life: love, loss, guilt, betrayal, friendship, anger, confrontation, innocence and faith. Almost all of the characters are grappling with secrets that, if revealed, could threaten to ruin them and/or their families. Strout’s char ming, omniscient prose succeeds in making readers question how much they actually know about the people they live with. But most importantly, she succeeds in writing a page-turner. I couldn’t stop reading until I’d discovered just how low some of her characters would go before they realised they’d gone too far. ★★★★ RG Simon & Schuster $24.95 Reviewed by Rachael Blair Joined by his assistant Conseil and the hot-headed Canadian harpooner Ned Land, Pier re Aronnax, Professor of Natural History at the Museum of Paris, boards the American naval frigate Abraham Lincoln to investigate reports of a mysterious object, sometimes phosphorescent, ter rorising ships in inter national waters. A collision between their ship and its bigger-than-whale-sized pursuer plunges the trio into the ocean.They come to rest on the back of a machine made from sheet iron.They are swiftly pulled aboard the Nautilus and there meet its commander – the mysterious Captain Nemo. ‘Whether this person was thirty-five or fifty years of age, I cannot say,’ remarks Aronnax. ‘[He] was certainly the most admirable specimen I had ever met. One particular feature was his eyes,’ with which ‘he read the very depths of the seas.’ There was much to suggest that the man who prowled the ocean aboard his remarkable vessel was truly an underwater creature. When Jules Verne (1828–1905) published Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 he not only created a memo- rable anti-hero, but also revealed the future of naval warfare. Verne has long been regarded as France’s answer to HG Wells, as his novels spoke of fantastic inventions which later became scientific fact. Decades after he described the advanced technology of the electrically-powered Nautilus, submarines would decimate surface ships during the First World War. Through Nemo’s crusade,Ver ne anticipated the guerilla war- fare that would destroy Europe’s colonial empires after the Second World War. Nemo himself is at war – with the rest of humanity. ‘You are my prisoners of war,’ he informs his ‘guests’. ‘You came to surprise a secret which no man in the world must penetrate – the secret of my whole existence.And you think that I am going to send you back to that world which must know me no more? Never!’ As revealed in Verne’s 1875 ‘sequel’, The Mysterious Island, Nemo had good reason for concealing his existence from the world’s naval powers.The Indian-born Nemo’s family was killed by British troops during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. Consumed with rage, Nemo used his vast wealth to construct the Nautilus and wage war against humankind from beneath the ocean. While Captain Nemo became the star of numerous films and TV shows, this vital aspect of the mysterious mariner’s character was never mentioned, until British writer Alan Moore resur rected it in his graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. the very depths of the seas The wealthy, mad Captain Nemo, roaming the world in his submarine Nautilus, is the memorable anti-hero of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. KEVIN PATRICK takes a closer look at him. Buy your next good read online at www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au DIRECT Captain Nemo taking the altitude of the sun, from an early edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.