#NonficNov Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

 

Title: Eggshell Skull: A Memoir About Standing Up, Speaking Out and Fighting Back

Author: Bri Lee

Published: June 1st 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2019

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My Thoughts:

In this searingly honest and revealing memoir, Bri Lee shares her personal journey as she pursues justice after reporting a childhood sexual assault.

After graduating from the University of Queensland with a degree in law, Bri is one of the lucky few to gain a year long position as an associate for a District Judge. The position involves the pair traveling between Brisbane and regional areas of Queensland to adjudicate cases in courts who do not have a full time Judge. Bri is excited for the opportunity, but with each case becomes increasingly disillusioned by the justice system which seems to be particularly weighted against women and children who are victims of sexual violence. The victims experiences resonate with Bri because she was molested as a child by a friend of her older brother.

Bri had never felt able to reveal the abuse, instead filtering her emotional pain and confusion through cutting, bulimia, and self-loathing, which increased during her time as an Associate. Despite witnessing the repeated failures of the system, Bri is infused with the courage to finally report her experience, in part recognising the advantages she holds as a complainant, a privilege she relates to the Eggshell Skull doctrine.

I’ve seen some criticism levelled at this book because of that privilege, however none of it negates her experience as a victim, or a survivor. Bri’s journey is intensely personal, as it is for all those who experience sexual violence, but she is in an unique position to highlight the justice system’s flaws and inequities, not only in relation to her own case, but also how that might translate into the cases of others.

I found Eggshell Skull compelling reading that stirred a range of emotions from fury, to despair, to hope, and admiration, and everything in between. There is still so much fighting to do.

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“In Queensland an estimated 30,000 sexual assaults occur each year, yet in 2017, just 4751 sex crimes were officially reported to police. Around half that number proceeded to trial (2446 cases) but of them, only 835 resulted in a guilty verdict. Of the 835 perpetrators found guilty of sex offences in Queensland in 2017, roughly half — 44 per cent — were released straight back on to the streets with a mere slap on the wrist, such as a fine, a community service order or a suspended sentence….Perpetrators who did go to jail also received very brief sentences.” – Queensland is Australia’s worst state for sexual abuse survivors to find justice – Nina Funnell, News.com.au, December 13th 2018

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Available from Allen & Unwin

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#NonficNov Review: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

Title: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls

Author: Carrie Goldberg

Published: August 13th 2019, Plume

Status: Read November 2019

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My Thoughts:

“My name is Carrie Goldberg and I’m a victims’ rights lawyer. Some people call me a “passionate advocate” or a “social justice warrior.” I’d rather be called a ruthless motherf*cker.”

This is how Carrie Goldberg introduces herself in the bold and utterly compelling Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls. Goldberg is a lawyer whose firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, specialises in representing those who are targeted by offenders that use the internet to stalk, harass, intimidate, extort, or otherwise cause them harm.

Carrie has an intimate understanding of the issues her clients face, the inspiration for establishing her law firm came when she was victimised by an ex who tormented her for over a year with, among other things, a flood of hateful texts and emails, threats to post intimate pictures online, false allegations made on social media to friends and family, and a vexatious criminal charge. She was frustrated, frightened and near suicidal to discover the law could not protect her from his unreasonable rage.

While (US based) tech companies shield themselves from responsibility by exploiting a piece of legislation known as Section 230 of the CDA, the legal system moves too slowly to put adequate protections in place, and too many (white men) in power support the status quo, Carrie fights hard for the recognition of her clients rights to safety, privacy and dignity.

In sharing the stories of some of her clients, who include a thirteen year old girl who was excluded from attending school after reporting that she was raped by a fellow student, a young man whose ex used the Grindr app to send more than a thousand strangers to his door, a woman forced to go into hiding when she was doxed in a troll attack, and the five women who accused Weinstein of sex crimes, triggering the #metoo movement, Goldberg illustrates the grim failures of society to protect girls and boys, women and men, from the psycho’s, stalkers, pervs and trolls who target them, and leads the fight to protect them.

“There’s help if you need it and an army of warriors ready to stand by your side. You matter and you don’t have to fight this battle alone. You are nobody’s victim”

I would not hesitate to recommend Nobody’s Victim to everyone, this is a thought provoking, honest, and important expose of an injustice that demands attention and support to resolve.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse

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Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

 

Title: The World That We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman

Published: October 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read October 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

“It was protection, it was love, it was a secret, it was the beginning, it was the end.”

The World That We Knew is a lyrical, evocative and poignant tale set during World War II from Alice Hoffman.

“I beg you for one thing. Love her as if she were your own.”

As the Nazi’s purge Germany of its Jewish population, a mother desperately seeks a way to save her twelve year old daughter, Lea. Turning to her faith for a miracle she finds help from a Rabbi’s daughter, Ettiene, who, in exchange for train tickets to make her own escape with her sister, creates a Golem, a creature made from magic and clay, compelled to deliver Lea safe from the war.

“Hers was a wish that could never be granted. It was too late, it was over; there was no home to go back to.”

While Lea grieves for all she has left behind, Ava, learning to walk within the world, ensures they safely reach Paris. There they find refuge with the Levi family, distant cousins, and Lea a friendship with Julien Levi that eases her heartache, but once again the darkness closes in, and Ava and Lea must flee.

“It was a dark dream,… it was nothing like the world we knew.”

A story of family, love, grief, faith, sacrifice, survival, duty, good and evil, The World That We Knew is a spellbinding fairytale, grounded in the horrific reality of the Holocaust. It contrasts the very worst of humanity with its best during one of history’s darkest periods, and celebrates the astonishing ability of love to thrive even in the bleakest of circumstances.

“People said love was the antidote to hate, that it could mend what was most broken, and give hope in the most hopeless of times.”

Lea and Ava’s path is fraught with danger, yet illuminated with love, as it also is for those with whom they connect on their journey. Ettie seeks out the resistance after her sister is gunned down during their escape from Berlin; Marianne returns home to her father’s farm in the Ardèche Mountains, and discovers all that she left to find; Julien Levi narrowly escapes being shipped off to Auschwitz during ‘Operation Spring Breeze’, doing all he can to keep his one promise to Lea – to stay alive.

“If you survive, I survive inside of you.”

Powerful and poetic, The World That We Knew is a stunning novel and a compelling read.

“Once upon a time something happened that you never could have imagined, a spell was broken, a girl was saved, a rose grew out of a tooth buried deep in the ground, love was everywhere, and people who had been taken away continued to walk with you, in dreams and in the waking world.”

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Available from Simon & Schuster

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Review: Silver by Chris Hammer

 

Title: Silver {Martin Scarsden #2}

Author: Chris Hammer

Published: October 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 1st 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Silver is the sequel to Chris Hammer’s superb debut Scrublands, featuring journalist Martin Scarsden.

“Port Silver, it’s ghosts sheltering from the iridescent sun, but awaiting him nevertheless. Port Silver. For pity’s sake, why had Mandy chosen this town, of all towns, his hometown, to restart their lives?”

With the shocking events in Riversend behind them, Martin and his girlfriend, Mandalay Blonde, have chosen to make a fresh start together in Port Silver, where Mandy has inherited a house and property. Delayed in joining her, Martin finally arrives in the small coastal town only to discover a dead man in the hallway of their rented townhouse, and Mandalay covered in blood. Martin is stunned when he recognises the victim, once a close childhood friend, and with Mandy a prime suspect in the murder, must use all of his investigative skill to unmask the real killer.

Silver offers a compelling and complex mystery. In order to prove Mandalay innocent of involvement in Jasper Speight’s death, Martin begins searching for a motive for his murder. It seems most likely that Jasper was targeted due to an ongoing battle over a multi-million dollar land development deal, but Martin is frustrated by his failure to put all the pieces together. Stymied by the possible significance of a postcard Jasper was clutching when he died, the decade old disappearance of a factory owner, and a backpacking Visa scam, it’s not until a second shocking crime, which leaves seven dead, that the secrets of Port Silver begin to unravel. Hammer skilfully manages the various threads, eventually drawing them together to reveal a stunning conspiracy of greed, corruption, and revenge.

Taking place over a period of week, the deaths draws familiar Scrublands characters to Port Silver, including Detective Inspector Morris Montifore, and later Martin’s former newspaper colleagues, Bethanie and Buzz, and television journalist Doug Thunkleton.

The events of Riversend still play on Martin’s mind, but in focus are the ghosts of his childhood spent in Port Silver. Haunted by the tragic death of his mother and sisters, and the descent of his father into an alcoholic depression, he’d left the town at eighteen for university and never planned to return. Hammer continues to develop Martin’s character as Martin confronts the traumatic memories, and while examining his past, he is forced to reconsider his future.

Masterfully evoking a sense of place, while providing the reader with a compelling drama, an intriguing mystery, and interesting characters, Silver is another brilliant crime novel from Chris Hammer. Despite its size I read it in one sitting, unwilling to put it down.

+++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

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Also by Chris Hammer reviews at Book’d Out

Review & Giveaway: Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati

 

Title: Where The Light Enters (The Waverly Place Series #2)

Author: Sara Donati

Published: September 17th 2019, Bantam

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Au

From the international bestselling author of The Gilded Hour comes Sara Donati’s enthralling epic about two trailblazing female doctors in nineteenth-century New York

Obstetrician Dr. Sophie Savard returns home to the achingly familiar rhythms of Manhattan in the early spring of 1884 to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. With the help of Dr. Anna Savard, her dearest friend, cousin, and fellow physician she plans to continue her work aiding the disadvantaged women society would rather forget.

As Sophie sets out to construct a new life for herself, Anna’s husband, Detective-Sergeant Jack Mezzanotte calls on them both to consult on two new cases: the wife of a prominent banker has disappeared into thin air, and the corpse of a young woman is found with baffling wounds that suggest a killer is on the loose. In New York it seems that the advancement of women has brought out the worst in some men. Unable to ignore the plight of New York’s less fortunate, these intrepid cousins draw on all resources to protect their patients.

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My Thoughts:

Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati is an engrossing, complex story of historical fiction, a superb sequel to The Gilded Hour.

Though Where The Light Enters could be read as a stand-alone, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. The tale begins a few months after the end of The Gilded Hour with an exchange of letters, newspaper articles, and other correspondence between Sophie in Switzerland and her extended family, just before Cap’s death. It is Spring when she returns home to New York City, and once again the reader is drawn into the personal and professional lives of Drs. Anna and Sophie Savard, and a growing ensemble cast.

Donati combines heartfelt family drama and an intriguing mystery within a richly detailed historical setting.

I was delighted to return to Waverly Place, and reacquaint myself with the residents of ‘Roses’ and ‘Weeds’. The Drs. Savard remain strong, independent, compassionate women supported by a caring extended family of relatives and friends. Anna and her husband Jack are challenged by the loss of their charges, though kept busy be their respective positions. Sophie, while still in mourning, is making plans to establish a scholarship program, having moved into Stuyvesant Square, (later christened ‘Doves’ and ‘Lark’ by Lia). A handful of new characters are introduced as Sophie takes on staff, while others introduced previously take on a larger role.

I was very relieved that there was finally a resolution to the fascinating mystery involving the sensational murders of nine women that began in The Gilded Hour. Nicholas Lambert identifies another shocking murder he believes is related in Where The Light Enters which allows Jack and Oscar to reopen the case and follow up on new leads. I had correctly surmised the identities of the guilty parties (mostly), but when revealed, the motivation was more distressing than I expected.

With authentic and compelling detail Donati illustrates the physical and social dichotomy of New York City in the 1800’s. She highlights the hypocrisy of religious and moral fervour, the inequalities supported by law, the racism that results in warring immigrants, and the vibrancy of a busy city constantly reinventing itself., where apartment buildings with marble floors and crystal sconces, overlook crowded, vermin infested tenements.

Beautifully written, with absorbing storylines and richly drawn characters, this series is proving to be worth the investment. There are minor threads left unresolved in Where The Light Enters that no doubt will be explored in the next instalment of the Waverly Place series, which I’m very much looking forward to.

 

Available from PenguinRandomHouse

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GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of PenguinRandomHouse Australia,

I have 1 print edition of

Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Please leave a comment on this post and

CLOSED

Congratulations Katy E!

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close October 5th, 2019

The giveaway will be random drawing on October 6th and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours

 

#WhereTheLightEntersTour

(Click to visit the tour participants)

See my thoughts on The Gilded Hour (The Waverly Place Series #1) by Sara Donati 

Review: Unbelievable by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

 

Title: Unbelievable

Author: T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong

Published: September 3rd 2019, Windmill Books

Status: Read September 2019 courtesy Windmill Books/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

In 2016 Christian T. Miller and Ken Armstrong won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Writing “For a startling examination and exposé of law enforcement’s enduring failures to investigate reports of rape properly and to comprehend the traumatic effects on its victims.”, with their article, ‘An Unbelievable Story of Rape’.

On August 11 2008, 18 year old Marie was brutally raped at knifepoint in her own home by a masked intruder. Barely a week later the vulnerable young woman was accused, and later convicted, of making a false report to police after she was intimidated into withdrawing her complaint by disbelieving officers.

More than two years later the capture of a serial rapist revealed photographs taken of Marie during her ordeal. She had told the truth.

In this accessible and utterly compelling narrative, Unbelievable (previously published as A False Report) expands on the original article written by Miller and Armstrong, delving into the investigation that finally caught the rapist and a history of the perpetrator, along with a brief exploration of the historical scepticism with which rape victims are viewed by law enforcement, and society at large.

Marie’s experience is heartbreaking and infuriating, and unfortunately not an isolated event then, or now. The thorough, objective investigation of rape allegations is crucial to ensure justice, both for the alleged victim, and the alleged accused.

Now the subject of a Netflix limited series, I highly recommend you read and/or watch Unbelievable, and demand that law enforcement and the justice system do better.

++++++

Available from Penguin UK

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I via Indiebound I Book Depository

 

Review: Going Under by Sonia Henry

 

Title: Going Under

Author: Sonia Henry

Published: September 2nd 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

In January of 2017, Dr. Sonia Henry anonymously submitted an article to KevinMD regarding the recent suicides of two junior doctors, and how the culture of medical training likely contributed to their deaths. After going viral, the article sparked a long overdue conversation about the problems within the current system.

Hilarious, shocking, sexy and thought-provoking, Going Under is a novel that explores the issues Henry raised in her article through the experiences of Dr. Katarina (Kitty) Holliday, during her first year as an intern in a Sydney public hospital.

Having completed her medical degree, Kitty is excited to begin her first rotation in neurosurgery but within days she is rethinking her choice of career. While the low pay, long hours and intense pressure is expected, the general lack of guidance, and outright bullying from her immediate supervisors is not.

Told in the first person, I had to keep reminding myself that Going Under is not a memoir, but If even half of what Kitty endures, especially from the ‘Joker’ and the ‘Smiling Assassin’ , accurately reflects the workplace conditions in Australian hospitals, it’s clear that change is essential. Being a junior doctor is a challenging, tiring, and often thankless job, and Kitty and her colleagues, are too often pushed to the edge, some over it.

Kitty is brutally honest about her experiences, both in her professional and personal life. There is the satisfaction of saving a patient, the fear of failing one, her inappropriate crush on a senior doctor, and a missed connection with the man with whom she may be in love. Her character is so authentic and relatable in detailing both her thoughts and emotions, I’m really curious as to just how much of Kitty is Henry herself.

To stay sane, Kitty relies on her best friends, two of who are exhausted junior doctors like her, the third a lawyer. They all certainly live up to the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos, and there is a fair amount of drinking, drug taking, and the occasional unwise decision. But their friendship makes all the difference in their struggle to stop from going under.

A provocative and insightful novel, I thought Going Under was a great read, and an important story that needs telling.

“Doctors worry constantly about patients surviving. We fear death and suffering and blame. Our own survival seems unimportant by comparison. The doctor saves the baby, or doesn’t. Who saves the doctor?”

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Available from Allen & Unwin

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Review: If I Don’t Make It, I Love You Edited by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman

 

Title: If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings

Author: Amye Archer & Loren Kleinman (Editors)

Published: September 3rd 2019, Skyhorse Publishing

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Skyhorse Publishing/Netgalley

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If I Don’t Make It, I Love You is a collection of 60 narratives covering a period of over fifty years written by survivors of school shootings.

Who are the survivors of school shootings?

It’s not just those who are left with physical scars or injuries from the path a bullet took through their bodies, but also those who were huddled behind desks or in storeroom’s for hours wondering when the shooter would burst in, it is those who ran, wondering if they were running away from, or into danger, it is the families who waited, sometimes for hours, to learn if their loved one was safe, injured or dead.

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 17 were killed, and 17 sustained physical injuries, but there were over 3000 students in that school, and over 120 staff, each of whom have parents, siblings, and/or partners, around 6000+ people. That means there were, as a rough estimate, ten thousand people directly affected by the Parkland school shooting, each one a survivor.

Fifty three years after the shooting at the University of Texas, which left fifteen dead, and 31 injured, John still struggles with survivors guilt, and the the effects of PTSD.

“I feel like I could’ve done more. I could’ve helped more people. I feel I was a coward. That day is always with me in my mind. Every day. But I know now that I did the best I could, but there is always a worm of doubt.”

Twenty years after 12 students were murdered, and 24 were physically injured, in the shooting at Columbine high school, Jami fights a panic attack as his kindergartener practices the schools ‘lockdown’ drill.

“My heart still pounds every time I use an elevator, I startle at every loud noise, and the state of heightened vigilance my body lives under leaves me on edge and exhausted, yet unable to rest. Over the years there’ve been hundreds of shootings in schools across the country. I brace myself for the onslaught of flashbacks and vivid nightmares in the weeks and months following each one.”

Seven years after 20 five and six year olds, and 6 staff, were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, Susie Ehren’s daughter, now 12 years old, still says goodnight to the picture of her and her best friend from kindergarten, whose death she witnessed.

“Today my daughter, who witnessed the unspeakable, who lives with that memory every day of her life, and who fights the triggers and knows how to calm her body when it begins to tense up out of fear, struggles with the daily balance to be a ‘normal’ 12 year old.”

A year after the 2018 ‘Parkland’ school shooting, two teenagers could no longer live with their feelings of survivors guilt and died by suicide.

In a year, in seven years, in twenty years, in fifty three years, the survivors of school shootings will still be affected by the tragic events they experienced.

In a year, in seven years, in twenty years, in fifty three years if something doesn’t change there will be hundreds of thousands more survivors of school shootings, you may be one of them.

Thoughts and Prayers are useless

Arming teachers is ridiculous

Gun control is a good start

Improving family support services is important

Improving mental health services is crucial

Confronting, harrowing, heartbreaking, If I Don’t Make It, I Love You is essential reading.

++++++

Available from Skyhorse Publishing

Or your preferred retailer via Indiebound I via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

 

Title: Chase Darkness With Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Author: Billy Jensen

Published: August 16th 2029, Sourcebooks

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Chase Darkness With Me is a fascinating account of Billy Jensen’s passion for investigating unsolved crimes, and developing new strategies with which to solve them.

“Whenever people ask me why I only write about unsolved murders, I always say the same thing: because I hate the guy who got away with it.”

Jensen’s obsession with true crime began in childhood, inspired in part by his dad’s rather inappropriate bedtime stories. After earning a degree in Religion, and forays into a range of diverse professions including house painting, web marketing, and professional roller hockey, Jensen became a journalist. Landing a job as a stringer he was on course to be a crime beat reporter but quickly realised that he wasn’t comfortable just writing about the awful things that happened to people. He wanted to help, and turned his focus to the hundreds of thousands of missing persons, and unsolved murders mainstream media deemed ‘low profile’, eventually leading to the development of the website ‘True Crime Daily’, and a desire to reinvent the way true crime stories are told, and solved, through the use of television, mobile and web.

The potential of crowdsourcing crime solving is something Jensen often discussed with the late Michelle McNamara while she was in pursuit of identifying The Golden State Killer. After her untimely death, Jensen helped to complete her book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, and was motivated to take more direct action.

“I’m not chasing people. I’m chasing shadows, phantoms that flit in and out of a surveillance video. That’s on a good night. On the other nights, I’m chasing darkness.”

Of course online armchair detectives have been active for years, Websleuths was launched in 1999, and they recognised the potential of social media as a source for solving crime early on. Jensen however claims to be one of the first to recognise the value geotargeted social media campaigns could have to help solve crime and set out to prove his theory. In Chase Darkness With Me he documents several intriguing cases in which geotargeting, primarily using Facebook’s and Twitter’s ‘boost’ tools (funded from his own pocket), in combination with other methods, has assisted in generating new leads, and even arrests, in cases deemed ‘cold’ by the police. This, Jensen believes, is something anyone can do, and to that end he also provides tips and advice for anyone interested in becoming a ‘Citizen Detective’.

“We are at the precipice of being able to solve more cold cases than ever before…. we need to get loud. Start fund-raisers. Recruit volunteers. You reading this book are deputized. Go get a megaphone.”

I found Chase Darkness With Me to be absolutely compelling reading. I’m certain those interested in true crime, law enforcement or related topics, will also find it entertaining and informative.

++++++

Available from Sourcebooks

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell

 

Title: The Sparkle Pages

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: April 16th Penguin AU

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Penguin 

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My Thoughts:

Susannah Parks is convinced her marriage of fifteen years has lost it’s spark and, from the comfort of her wardrobe, begins to formulate a New Years Resolution. She will be interested, and be interesting, she will be stylish and have great hair, she will be relevant and useful, and she will have passionate sex with her husband.

“We certainly had passion once. Sometimes I catch a fleeting flash of it again, but for the most part, passion just seems to have fallen by the wayside….(There are lot of good things by the wayside, if only I could find where it is – somewhere near the too-hard basket, probably.)”

It’s been a while since a book has both made laugh out loud, and moved me to tears.

As a wife and mother of four myself, I perhaps related better to Susannah than it is wise to admit. From the barely controlled chaos of Susannah’s days, to the tedium of cleaning, cooking and caretaking for a young family, to the dwindling priority of intimacy (ok..yes, sex) in a marriage. Unlike her though, I have always understood that marriage, and family life, has its ups and downs as it is a constantly changing dynamic.

This too is what Susannah eventually comes to realise, with the help of her best friend, the indomitable Ria, her family, her friends and her neighbour, Valda. It is Susannah who has lost her spark, buried under piles of wet towels, baskets of insecurity, and a load of guilt so heavy, it has all but been extinguished.

Though there is plenty of humour, and moments of sheer absurdity, to be found in this novel, the story also reveals a shocking truth and heartbreaking tragedy. The author’s writing shines as she deftly steers the reader through sadness and joy.

The Sparkle Pages is witty, wise, honest and moving, a glittering debut from Australian author, Karen Bignell, it’s my favourite read so far this year.

“Sparks. Passion and sparks. And when there are no sparks, at least just a little sparkle.”

++++++

#lovebetweenthepages

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