Good Reading : May 2006
MAY 2006 ı goodreading 29 general fiction word of mouth Out of Place Jo Dutton This novel set in Perth explores the complex relationship of three gener- ations of strong women. Nina, the artist daughter of an Australian far mer and an Italian immigrant, loves her family far m ‘Arranoo’. But her need to escape from her mother Eve drives her to mar ry an academic who doesn’t understand the physicality of her art and ultimately rejects her. Eve supports Nina through the break-up and becomes a second mother to her two daughters while Nina immerses herself in her work. It is in this work that one of the main themes of the book is established – boundaries; both on the land and emotional boundaries. The unconditional support and love that Eve provides for Nina and her two daughters binds them together and reminds Nina about the importance of attachment and belonging. There is a wonderfully earthy feel about the descriptions of Nina when she is out exploring the land looking for items to work into her art, and when she is pregnant with each of her daughters. But when both of her daughters carry on the tradition of stretching the boundaries, the cocoon around the family is tor n apart and it takes all the strength these women have to survive with their family intact. A thoroughly enjoyable read. ★★★★ RG Random House $32.95 Reviewed by Melissa Wilson Conversations with the Fat Girl Liza Palmer This follows the classic for mula of under-achiever with loads of potential but low self-esteem, who breaks through her hang-ups and claims her rightful place in the world. Maggie and Olivia have been best friends since high school, drawn together initially because weight problems made them outcasts in the playground. This morphs into a genuine friendship and they are a great support for one another over many years. But this changes when Olivia decides to have her stomach stapled. Once she recreates herself it becomes essen- tial to rewrite her past into something that reflects her new glamorous look – at the expense of those who genuinely care for her. Maggie bears the brunt and is left in the background of Olivia’s new life, until she is needed for support. When Olivia announces her engagement to a handsome doctor Maggie is expected to provide her with reassurance but is given little in retur n. She is forced to face the fact that while her friend has taken a path that will only bring super- ficial happiness, she herself has been too afraid to take any action to improve her own life. Needless to say justice reigns in the end. This is standard chick lit, a fun one-sitting read but not something that will move your world. ★★ Hodder $22.00 Reviewed by Melissa Wilson Back in 1950, anyone travelling through the easter n foothills of Melbour ne may have noticed a garage operated by Simon Black and his teenage employee, Johnny Grant. What they wouldn’t have realised was that concealed in nearby Stanton Far m stood a remarkable aircraft. The Firefly was a rocket-powered, supersonic aircraft, designed by Simon Black with the assistance of his friend, navigator Alan Grant. It was in this aircraft that kids joined their hero in the aptly titled Meet Simon Black, flying to New Guinea in search of the famed archaeologist, Professor Stanley Castleton. Thus began one of the most popular Australian children’s adventure series of the 1950s. The Simon Black books raced across the globe as our heroes pitted themselves against Cold-War-era menaces. Simon Black and his team were hired by Australia’s Secret Service to destroy a neo-Nazi stronghold in the Pacific (Simon Black in Peril, 1951), impersonate a trio of Western spies en route to China with a dangerous mineral ore (Simon Black in China, 1954) and investigate strange occurrences at Australia’s Antarctic base (Simon Black in the Antarctic, 1956). ‘Simon Black was the average Englishman’s idea of what an Australian looks like,’ as detailed in Simon Black in Coastal Command (1953). ‘Six feet, exactly, in his socks, hair black as Welsh coal, and that lean, square-jawed sort of face.’ The man behind Simon Black drew from his own real-life experiences in penning his hero’s adventures. Ivan Southall, bor n in 1921, had to grow up quickly. Forced to leave school aged fourteen after his father died, Southall worked for the Melbour ne Herald while pursuing his writ- ing career in his spare time. In 1942 he joined the RAAF and was posted to England, where he flew Sunderland flying boats. For his part in sinking a Ger man U-boat, Southall was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944. Arguably the best book in the series was Simon Black in Coastal Command, based on Southall’s own wartime experi- ences. It was a topic he revisited in the autobiographical Fly West (1974). ‘How old was I? Twenty-one, barely,’ Southall recalled. ‘Terrified of aeroplanes, but adoring them. Fearful of flight, but afraid I might fail to make a pilot.’ By the time Simon Black at Sea appeared in 1961, Southall was tur ning his back on juvenile adventure and launching himself as a serious children’s novelist with Hills End (1962). Nonetheless, the adventures of Simon Black are fondly remembered by countless Australians who as children dreamt of reaching for the skies. flying high In the 1950s, boys and girls from Broome to Brisbane devoured the rip-roaring adventures of Simon Black, all-Australian equivalent of Biggles. KEVIN PATRICK looks at the series and its creator, IVAN SOUTHALL.