Oct/Nov 2022

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

The Paris Mystery
by Kirsty Manning

The Prologue of this novel is so full of glamorous exoticism that I almost decided this book was not for me. The cream of Parisian society are enjoying a masked Circus Ball in the last halcyon days immediately before the start of World War II, and there are fireworks, acrobats, a tight-rope walker, and ponies carrying "burlesque dancers in matching burgundy masks and under-bust corsets." Then, a melodramatic scream interrupts proceedings, ends the Prologue, and begins the mystery.

Old Rage
by Sheila Hancock

So, the four-and-a-half years of almost monthly journal entries here record not just her own serious health problems but the breast-cancer diagnosis of one of her daughters, the shock and dismay she felt over Brexit, and her experiences during the pandemic lockdowns, but also her memories of growing up in the post-war years, of gaining scholarships to grammar school and to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, her early acting years when she worked with some of today's best-know actors and directors before they became successful, reflections on acting techniques and styles, retreats to her beloved small house in France, and her meditations on being a Quaker and the way that influences her life.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris / Mrs Harris Goes to New York
by Paul Gallico

Paul Gallico was a hugely popular short-story writer, perhaps best known for his war-time story The Snow Goose, which was made into a popular film, has sold over a million copies, and is still in print. Gallico once described his writing as "not even literary. I just like to tell stories and all my books tell stories." He is also unashamedly sentimental in his story-telling. So, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is not literary but it is a good old-fashioned, sentimental story, just made into a film, and so the book has been republished as a film tie-in.

Big Snake Little Snake: An inquiry Into Risk
by DBC Pierre

Luck? Maybe. In DBC's philosophy of life, there is more to it than that. There is "vivid maths," a cascade of causes and effects that brought him and Little Snake together, and another cascade causing his number to win. There's statistical probability, which calculates numbers based on sums, equations, and algorithms, but what if there is another form of maths describing patterns and events, and into which we might tap?

The Rat Catcher: A Love Story
by Kim Kelly

Unsurprisingly, the rat in question turns out to be Old Scratch, and Patrick does catch him. What happens next involves Patrick, Rosie, two small boys, and a boat trip to Parramatta, and, naturally, this being an Irish love story, there is a happy ending. Yet, light-hearted as it mostly is, Patrick's accounts of the Sydney Plague are based on fact. So, too, is his depiction of the life of a poor Irish immigrant in the 1900s, and the prejudice and bigotry they frequently experienced. But, as Patrick says, Australia was a place where you could make a better life if only you had faith in yourself.

How Minds Change
by David McRaney

Politicians naturally became interested in these techniques. Political grandstanding, flyers and the presentation of "facts" didn't seem to work on voters, but some research seemed to prove the LAB method might. It became known as "Deep Canvassing." Using these techniques on "conflicted Trump supporters" in the 2020 American elections appeared to have created a significant swing "in favour of Joe Biden." However, lying under a tree, "drenched in sweat, woozy and thirsty," after his summer-time door-knocking session with Fleischer, McRaney realizes deep canvassing is no easy option

Gregory Stephenson reviews...

Wildcat: The Untold Story of Pearl Hart, the Wild West's Most Notorious Woman Bandit.
by John Boessenecker

Lillie's childhood and that of her eight siblings was passed in squalor, neglect, abuse, and privation. Due to the family's frequent moves, her education was intermittent and patchy. Out of fear of their brutal father and in response to their low standing in the communities in which the family resided, Lillie's brothers and sisters were firm in their allegiance to each other and remained so throughout their erratic, troubled lives. By the time Lillie was 15, she had run away from home, left Canada for the United States, hopped freight trains, begged and stolen to survive, worked in a factory, worked as a bootblack, sold newspapers in the streets, been arrested, incarcerated, and had broken free of custody.

Courtney Ludwick reviews...

Halfway from Home.
by Sarah Fawn Montgomery

I would call the collection nostalgic, but for a time that never existed. Exploring her childhood, Montgomery discovers memory can't always be trusted. In retrospect, parents become imperfect. Old scars are more clearly seen. Collective histories are dug up and rewritten and buried again. Of privilege, there is some mention; yet, the collection remains infused with longing as it reflects on an increasingly fractured world. In the book's latter half, Montgomery's continuous search for "home" confronts such a paradox: seeking solace from the present in an on-fire past.

Ankush Banerjee reviews...

lost, hurt, or in transit beautiful.
by Rohan Chhetri

But Chhetri's mastery is assured, in amalgamating rather alloying various strands of a thought, an image, an idea, a myth into expansive, large-hearted supremely ambitious canvasses of poems that simultaneously embody the complexity of a research paper, the effortlessness of song, and the meticulousness of a novel, though all of these may not at first be easy to grasp together. And that is because, like all "great poetry," or even, "good poetry," it demands a "willing suspension of disbelief" (yes!), but also a willing suspension of our notions of what language is and can be made to do.

Stuart Ross reviews...

The Novelist
by Jordan Castro

The novelist does the usual things uninspired writers do. He sits on Twitter and becomes jealous of more successful writers. He checks Facebook and body-shames "thick" people from high school. He checks Instagram and views the stories he lacks.