Category Archives: Drama

Jagged Edge of Joy by Liz Newton

For the Wishart family the summer holidays once more stretch languidly over the sun drenched beachside camping spot north of Sydney where parents Joe and Evie have brought the family year after year. It’s the summer of 1961 and baby Nellie for the first time joins in the holiday along with her brothers Pete and Dave, who are three and five years old respectively, and big sister Beth who is ten.

These hazy, lazy days of summer bring a welcome break in routine for Joe from his burden of factory responsibilities as both owner and manager, while Evie loves the chance to catch up with extended family and familiar faces as all enjoy the delights of their seaside sanctuary. Sun, sand, shells and the sea provide the raw ingredients for the whole clan to create their own versions of a perfect holiday but 1961 brings a shadow which will shatter the Wishart family.

Every parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of their child, but for the Wisharts there is no certainty, no coffin, no closure. Suspicion is cast in all directions and narrows to focus squarely on those who know the family. Joe and Evie return home and try to maintain some semblance of a normal family routine but without resolution their grief is ever present, sometimes masked or momentarily stifled but never far from the surface. Eventually the Wisharts find the answers they have so long sought after that fateful summer holiday turned their lives into a nightmare from which there was no escape, but will this knowledge bring relief or further devastation?

Liz Newton has delved deep into the family dynamics associated with the loss of a child and follows the aftermath of this tragedy for each of the Wishart family members as well as its echoed impact on the Blackstone family. Newton’s characters are complex and layered, finely drawn and achingly real. They continue to develop as lives are turned upside down and truth becomes abstract, delayed to be dealt with another time.

Newton authentically recreates Australia of the 1960s and 1970s  through clever references to popular culture, local and world events and delights the reader through her keen ear for the vernacular in dialogue. Turning the pages of this skilfully crafted and engrossing story inserts the reader into a time capsule where the simpler times of Australia are perhaps to be found, yet darkness and danger may lurk in any era.

Parallels with contemporary historical cases are raised such as the kidnap and murder of Graeme Thorne, the disappearance of the Beaumont children and the Wanda Beach murders which blur the line between fact and fiction in this compelling story. While happiness  is hidden in plain sight it is grief, pain, secrets and lies which fuel Jagged Edge of Joy, stoking the coals of this riveting read – impossible to put down!

Reviewed by Chris McGuigan

April 2017

http://kensingtonreview.net 

https://kensingtonbookreview.wordpress.com

Advertisements

All that I am by Anna Funder

Books-All-that-I-am“All we are not stares back at all that we are”.

This is the lament of the acclaimed English poet W.A.Auden, making a cameo appearance in the 2012 Miles Franklin Award winner, “All that I Am” by Anna Funder. Reaching beyond the era of her enthusiastically received first publication “Stasiland”, Funder brings into sharp focus elusive stories of courage shown by those who attempted to resist the relentless pursuit of power by Hitler and his supporters.

Anna Funder skilfully recreates the world of writers and political activists in Germany between the wars, incongruously juxtaposed with Bondi Junction in the present. “All that I Am”, cannot be placed firmly in a single genre. This absorbing novel is part thriller, part romance, and part historical recreation. Real people have inspired the author to open the blinds in a dim corner of the 20th century which is worthy of illumination and remembrance.

Central to the novel are five intertwined figures presented through the alternating narratives of playwright Ernst Toller in New York in 1939, and photographer Ruth Becker in Bondi Junction almost 70 years later. Both narrators ultimately face the naked truth behind bravery and betrayal, love and loss, courage and confusion in the face of an overwhelming power which shatters their security. “All that I Am” reminds us that we all have the capacity for self deception; for not seeing what stares back at us in the mirror, for ignoring the inconvenient truths around us. Chilling parallels exist between Toller’s vicarious ‘voyage of the damned’, when refugees from Nazi Germany aboard the SS St Louis in 1939 were turned back from ports in Cuba, America and Canada, and the turbulent voyages that continue to feature in the news today.

The characters’ performances in the novel are not choreographed by Toller and Ruth – or Funder. These individuals are not fictional creations but authentic historical figures and their actions as presented may be verified with a few mouse clicks. Auden, Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Thomas Mann are names readily recognised by the reader, and while others may be unfamiliar, Funder breathes life back into their existence as the plot unfolds towards its finale – set not in Auschwitz but in the safe haven of bustling Bondi Junction. The source of much of the novel’s content is the real Ruth, with the characters enlivened and conversations reconstructed through Funder’s intelligent instinct, mastery of language and skill in presenting the theatre of life.

The judges of the Miles Franklin award have recognised the timeless value of this novel, a Pandora’s box presenting the woes of the world as well as hope emerging from a forgotten archive to be dusted off and re-examined in the blinding sunshine of Bondi Beach. It is a reminder of “all that we are individually, collectively and globally…..”

Reviewed by Christine McGuigan

Kensington Review