Monthly Archives: March 2017

East Coast Swaggie by Ted Day

East Coast Swaggie

By Ted Day

When Jack Kelly leaves behind his prestige Sydney home and idyllic harbourside views to retrace the path his grandfather followed to Mildura as a swaggie during the Great Depression, he says goodbye to his comfortable lifestyle, respected status in the business world,  and hardest of all his loving wife Kate. If he can complete the journey in the allotted time and adhere to the strict rules set down by his sponsor, Donny, Jack stands to raise half a million dollars for a very worthy cause.

Jack initially resists the pressure of Donny’s crazy challenge to walk in his grandfather’s footsteps. But with Kate’s blessing and the knowledge that the funds raised will provide genuine help through the work of the mission sponsored, he rolls his swag and heads South on a ten month odyssey.

With the aid of his grandfather’s diary, Jack plots a replica route to revisit the towns where his grandfather sought work to send money back home to his struggling family. Jack must recreate the experience by hitching rides, carrying his swag, camping out and even wearing a swaggie ‘uniform’ so that he faithfully travels in his grandfather’s footsteps. Author Ted Day has meticulously researched the settings and route to provide authenticity to this traveller’s tale and brings the heartbreaking reality of the Depression era into sharp focus.

East Coast Swaggie is much more than a cracking yarn about the perils and pleasures of a rich man reimagining the hardships of the many thousands of Australian men who took to the road during the Great Depression. It is a Quest story, with Jack as the gallant knight who travels far from home to seek an elusive goal, accompanied only by a faithful companion- in Jack’s case a stray dog, Bluey. Along the journey he more often than not leaves a situation or town better than he finds it: he repairs and renews, rights wrongs, protects the downtrodden, takes the side of the underdog in a fight and delivers rough justice to toughs and wannabe crims. Jack faces many personal dangers along the way but through his wit, strength, skills and occasional backup from supporters he seems set to succeed in every challenge- or will he?

While Jack relies on both his brains and his fists to settle more than a few problems concerning corruption or violence, his journey is enriched by encounters with open and honest folk who restore his belief in the innate goodness of ordinary people. He has many opportunities along the road to use his raw talent without relying on his elite business identity and discovers much about himself, and his grandfather. His is an external and internal journey of discovery about his place in the world and his fellow travellers in life.

From a comfortable armchair, the reader can join Jack as he travels highways and byways, sleeping rough and doing it tough to connect with the past and face the challenges of a modern day swaggie. Carefully researched and brim full of engaging characters, East Coast Swaggie is a traveller’s tale well told and sure to entertain readers ready for a journey with a difference.

Chris McGuigan

Kensington Review

https://kensingtonbookreview.wordpress.com/

 

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Across Space and Time by Mala Naidoo

Across Time and Space

By Mala Naidoo

Be careful what you wish for…….

Meryl inhabits the world of literature, and harbours a burning desire to discover if her dormant talent can be unleashed to create literature instead of publishing the work of others. Her partner Michael is a passionate human rights lawyer, determined to eliminate injustice and alleviate suffering using the slow moving but effective machinery of law. Drifting through life together for 14 years, the creative, impulsive extrovert and the cautious, cool-headed legal-eagle have somehow not yet found the right time to discuss the important topic of commitment.

Meryl decides to change the dynamics in her life and heads to London for a three month writing sojourn. She is welcomed by her elderly Uncle Ben, who shares her love of literature and understands her need to search for her writing muse. Although distressed at her determination to initiate this ‘break’, Michael accepts Meryl’s decision to quest for her own holy grail. He concedes that with a complex and lengthy human rights case looming he will be buried in his own work for the coming months. By either skyping or telephoning they will speak to each other almost every day anyway, so what could go wrong?

At opposite ends of the globe, Meryl and Michael find unexpected opportunities to examine what is important to them and ultimately test the strength of their relationship. Each has to make a decision which will determine the direction this crossroads will take them- will it be together or alone?

Meryl taps into what seems on the surface to be a well of carefree creativity in Florence while back home Michael discovers how an indomitable spirit can triumph over adversity. Add in a mysterious Russian, a captivating and beautiful client, an isolated country villa and loss of phone contact and the pace picks up to breakneck speed.

Mala Naidoo has spun a web of intrigue where the past entangles the present and her characters face a dangerous and uncertain future. It’s easy to be swept away by this tale of romance, adventure and mystery and a sequel is eagerly awaited!

Reviewed by Chris McGuigan, January 2017

Kensington Review

 

https://kensingtonbookreview.wordpress.com/

http://www.kensingtonreview.net/

 

Naidoo

Eliyahu’s Mistress by Roger Mendelson

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Tantalising from the opening pages, Mendelson invites the reader to step into the worlds of Steven, Frances and Eliyahu on a glorious summer’s day in 2014 and journey with them through intertwined seasons of life and love.

On one level this is the story of two worlds colliding, starting with an ordinary encounter in the world of business. Steven is a business and marketing consultant in possession of a keen sense of observation and a finely tuned ability to listen. He is a people person, easy to get to know and people warm to him readily. He also deals in details and his acute business brain trusts the evidence of his senses, what he can see, touch and hear. Steven lives a comfortable life in the city, a family man grateful for the efforts of past generations to forge a better life in Australia for his Jewish community.

Frances is a retail director of a charity organisation run by the Catholic Church and the two meet when a mutual acquaintance proposes Steven’s pro bono input on Frances’ project. Away from work Frances loves to retreat to the tranquility of her country home on the city’s edge which she shares now only with Elijah, her faithful dog. She is content in her own company and is happy to explore her nascent spirituality in the solitude of nature rather than leave her oasis to socialise. Discovering by chance that she is called ‘the Duchess’ by workers at the coal face because of her very proper manner and rather haughty demeanour, Steven suspects that while she presents as a Valkyrie on the outside a slinky, soft pussy cat may be hidden inside. Later, he will discover his expertise in awakening the Empress within who is yearning for release.

Their relationship shifts a gear while working beyond Melbourne on the project, after each reveals a little more about themselves to the other than they had intended.

Phone conversations regarding the project become regular, more relaxed and weekly events during which each gets to know the other better through wide ranging and lengthy conversations. Previously conversation has been used by Frances as a transactional tool, a means to an end, but with Steven she discovers that everything about her is of interest to him. He listens to her, an easy familiarity building between them as they continue to make progress on the project. Frances enjoys the newfound sense of freedom which conversations with Steven unleash in her. Quiescent no more, she begins to blossom, her sense of self enlivened after a long period of dormancy.

Similarly, Frances explores a side of Steven that he had not been fully aware of and which no one else had seemingly been interested in. His life to this point has been lived very much to a formula and within clearly defined rules and boundaries. Conversations and discussions with Frances intrigue and stimulate him. She unearths his spiritual side which has long lain fallow within and through her gentle ministrations Steven awakens to learn more about his deeper self.

While Frances and Steven’s initial business relationship moves hesitantly towards a lovers’ easy intimacy, their passion when eventually unleashed ignites explosively. A subtle tilt in the orbits of these polar-opposites may result in harmony of the spheres but a very real danger exists that they will instead crash and burn, leaving devastation in their wake. The course of their relationship is foreshadowed through conversation and premonition, while visual wordplay and heightened anticipation combine to raise the heart rate of the reader.

Mendelson skillfully portrays their private world, stripping them back to expose vulnerabilities and bare their souls.  Frances and Steven share the realisation that we are who we are because of those who went before us, buffeted by the impact of trauma as well as buoyed by joy. The spectres of World War 2 and the Holocaust hang over their pasts, and still cast a long shadow over the lives of the those who have been able to step into the light to ride a wave of optimism and freedom in the Lucky Country.

Autumn recurs as the turning point of sections within the book, a time for stripping bare to reveal the resilient core able to endure the harsh elements of nature. The seasons of life and love rewind and fast forward, the pages of history turn backwards and forwards, time takes its course in the human and the natural world.

Steven and Frances decide to step outside the constraints of courtship and engage in a metaphorical dance drawing inexorably towards a fiery conclusion.  The shades which colour their developing relationship are not monochrome but multihued and dazzling in their vitality, yet nuanced by trust and honesty.

The title invites the reader to speculate about who Eliyahu is, why he has a mistress and who she is. On the surface the answer is that her handsome hound, a Cavalier King Charles, is besotted by Frances. Named by her after Mendelssohn’s haunting piece of music Elijah, his name changes after Frances learns more about this biblical figure from Steven and the role his namesake Eliyahu plays in the Passover Seder ritual.

Echoes of the importance of changing a name to signify a change in destiny are buried deep with the religious DNA of both Jews and Christians. In Genesis 17, Abram becomes Abraham and his wife Sarai becomes Sarah, both are destined for life changing events on a grand scale. The biblical Elijah raised the dead, restoring life after all hope was gone – is there to be a renewal of life through the presence of another Elijah in Frances’ previously dormant existence?

Mendelssohn’s Elijah is dramatic and messianic, heralding hope and a beautiful world ahead. In concert with his namesake, Mendelson harmonises the point and counterpoint of Frances and Steven’s individual and shared journeys into a life-affirming story about love, loss and gaining the ultimate prize.

Reviewed March 2017

Chris McGuigan

https://kensingtonbookreview.wordpress.com/

http://kensingtonreview.net

kensingtonreview2017@gmail.com