Good Reading : August 2011
Single White Female in Hanoi Carolyn Shine Welcome to Hanoi as you are never likely to see it. You may not like everything you read, but there’s not a dull page in this earthy, intelligent account of a Sydney woman’s stay in the Vietnamese capital. At 35, Carolyn Shine was looking for novelty and romance. Always attracted to South-East Asia and its men, she finds herself on a whim in Hanoi in July 2002, at the start of the oppressively sultry monsoon season. She’s a musician, linguist and freelance writer, but she intends to teach English. So begins 18 months of ‘ ... adventure, confusion, excitement, disappointment and mental disarray.’ Shine introduces us to students, neighbours, expats, restaurants, food, poverty and the glamour of the Hanoi Opera House. She has an ear for the language, with its six tones, and learns why English is so difficult for Vietnamese speakers – and vice versa. She battles putr id flooded streets, rats, insane traffic and the pain of watching Hien, a street dweller, succumb to tuberculosis. She delights in the November perfume of milk flowers; in friendships with local people and the Swiss Natassia and Zac, the crass, cynical Aussie; in expat parties; and in the Vietnamese countryside. Aussies who have taught English overseas, living frugally in a strange culture, will recognise Shine’s learning curves. ★★★★ RG Transit Lounge $29.95 Reviewed by Barbara Baker At 35, Carolyn Shine was looking for novelty and romance. Reading My Father Alexandra Styron William Styron, one of Amer ica’s great post-World War II writers, is probably best remembered for his 1979 novel Sophie’s Choice. Here his daughter, Alexandra, remembers him. The memoir lays bare the enor mous difficulties under which Styron − and his family – laboured and lived because of his depressive illness. It also shows how the author learnt more about her father after his death in 2006. The Pulitzer Prize-winner saw his novel Sophie’s Choice made into a film and into an opera, and counted some of the USA’s best writers – plus two US Presidents – as friends. But he, his four children and his beloved wife, Rose, had to cope with his alcoholic rages and depressions. To research her father’s life, Alexandra went back to the South, where he had lived as a young man. She also travelled to Duke University in North Carolina, where a collection of his manuscr ipts, drafts and letters is lodged. She truly did begin to ‘read her father’ as she delved into his life as a writer in the US and Europe. While Styron’s life ended in deep physical and mental trauma (he received great acclaim for Darkness Visible, a memoir of his depression), Styron’s daughter has wr itten about that life with love and humour, presenting his greatest untold story. ★★★★ RG Scribner $35.00 Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville memoir lays bare the enormous difficulties under which Styron − BIOGRAPHY / MEMOIR WOM word of mouth Want to see the world in a different way? Want to see the world in a different way? Discover Australia’s award-winning popular science magazine SUBSCRIBE & SAVE UP TO $62.10! IT’S EASY TO SUBSCRIBE: VISIT cosmosmagazine.com/subscribe/ultimate and enter ‘good reading’ CALL 1300 797 763 and quote ‘good reading’ Subscribe for 2or3yearsand receive a FREE COSMOS t-shirt. Visually dramatic and beautifully written, COSMOS brings the latest science and technology to life – from the inner workings of the body to the distant reaches of outer space.