Review: How To Fake Being Tidy by Fenella Souter


Title: How To Fake Being Tidy: and other things my mother never taught me.

Author: Fenella Souter

Published: 30th March 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

How To Fake Being Tidy: and other things my mother never taught me from feature writer, Fenella Souter (who also uses the non de plume Dusty Miller), is an essay collection primarily comprised of columns first published in the Australian newspapers, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Housework definitely not being my thing (I admit I prefer Erma Bombeck’s advice to Marie Kondo’s), I was lured by the title of this book, but was disappointed to discover that Souter doesn’t actually offer tips to fake being tidy.

This is not a how-to guide, it’s a collection of genteel, undemanding stories that centres around the domestic. Souter does offer some simple household management tips, like how to remove labels from jars, wine stains from fabric, and how to organise your linen cupboard, but the essays are generally less prescriptive and more ruminative, reflecting on the pleasure of crisp bedsheets, the trials of holding your own against a tradie, or relocating a beehive, for example.

A number of the essays also focus on food. Souter appears to be an accomplished cook, with sophisticated tastes and a generous budget. She includes a variety of recipes offered within the context of the essay’s, including those for Orange Marmalade, Broccomole, Hummus with Spiced Lamb, and Passionfruit Creams, to name a few.

There were a handful of essays that resonated with me, but as a whole, I feel the collection is rather bland, reflecting a rather white, upper middle class perspective, and would likely have more appeal for the ‘boomer’ generation than mine. 

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3


Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In March…

(BIOGRAPHY)

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe comes highly recommended from Gofita’s Pages, “I had a lot of fun reading this. I got to know a little more about Washington, good, bad, and the in-between.”

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(FOOD)

If you love Peanut Butter, then Tracey of CarpeLibrum suggests Peanut Butter – Breakfast, Lunch Dinner Midnightby Tim Lannan & James Annabel. She writes, “This recipe book is beautifully presented and contains a fun and innovative layout to extend the recipe options. It’s also full of enticingly delicious recipes and drool-worthy colour photographs.”

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(SELF-HELP)

Barbara of StrayThoughts feels that Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies is full of wisdom and good advice for Christian’s, laying down a biblical foundation with clarity about usefulness and purpose of productivity.

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(ESSAY COLLECTIONS)

Rennie at WhatsNonfiction offers a review for two essay collections, Festival Days by Jo Ann Beard and Leaving Isn’t Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough. Of the first she writes, “Beard’s talent is undeniable, and it’s worthwhile just to witness what she does with form – bending time, imbuing quiet moments past with breathing life, and putting so much into words about love and pain that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.” Of the latter, essays written about the author’s experience growing up in The Children of God cult and the challenges she has faced since, Rennie opines this is a, “book that’s going to help a lot of people through understanding, acceptance, validation, and humor: those with stubbornly lingering depression or substance issues, or experienced discrimination for sexuality, “othering” factors, or in the broken American systems of poverty and imprisonment.”

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(INVENTIONS)

One of the titles I reviewed this month for the challenge was Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature by Angus Fletcher. I thought “Wonderworks provides a way to understand literature that moves beyond its construction and practicalities. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking study of narrative and the significance of fiction to both individuals and society.”

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What will you be reading in April?

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Review: Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher

Title: Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature

Author: Angus Fletcher

Published: 9th March 2021, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster/ Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“It was barely sunrise. Yet even in the faint, rose-fingered light, there could be no doubt: the invention was a marvel. It could mend cracks in the heart and resurrect hope from the dark. It could summon up raptures and impossible days. It could chase away dullness and unlatch the sky. The invention was literature. And to catch its marvel for ourselves, let’s return to that dawn. Let’s learn the story of why literature was invented. And all the things it was invented to do.”

Angus Fletcher explains twenty five ‘inventions’ that underpin the appeal of literature in Wonderworks.

Stories have many purposes and Fletcher proposes thot these have evolved over time as authors have discovered techniques, from the plot twist to the happy ever after ending, for eliciting specific emotions and reactions from their audience. The emerging field of story science explains how different types of narratives, from thrillers to satire, have been proven to stimulate different areas of our brain and have the ability to affect our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. Stories can not only educate, they can also encourage the development of empathy, alleviate depression, inspire creativity, and improve self-awareness.

In each chapter of Wonderworks, Fletcher examines a invention of literature, relating its history, and often that of its ‘inventor’, provides examples, and explores how and why the technique resonates with us as revealed by modern neuroscience. I thought Fletcher offered some astute insights, though much confirms what avid readers instinctively know about the power of all types of fiction has to enrich our lives.

“For whatever the power of truth may be, literature’s own special power has always lain in fiction, that wonder we construct. It is the invention that unbreaks the heart. And brings us into hope, and peace, and love.”

There is, as necessary, some jargon to contend with but Fletcher embraces the style of nonfiction narrative so Wonderworks is rarely dry. It can be dense however and, in my opinion, occasionally veers into the pretentious, so I found it difficult to read in one sitting. I think enthusiasm for Wonderworks will be higher among those interested in literary analysis and study, students of psychology, philosophers, and writers looking to hone their craft, but it does have value for the simply curious.

Wonderworks provides a way to understand literature that moves beyond its construction and practicalities. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking study of narrative and the significance of fiction to both individuals and society.

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Available from Simon & Schuster

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

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Welcome to the second Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In February…

(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

About One Last Dance by Emma Jane Holmes, Denise of DeniseNewtonWrites has this to say, “As I read this debut by Emma Jane Holmes, it occurred to me that perhaps everyone should read a book like this. Not necessarily this exact book, but a book that confounds and challenges a closely held belief about some aspect of the world.”

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(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

Laurel-Rain Snow at Curl Up and Read, considered Consent by Vanessa Springora (Translated by Natasha Lehrer), an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer, to be “a brilliant read”.

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(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

Veronica of The Burgeoning Bookshelf picked up Gone To The Woods because her son was a fan of Gary Paulsen’s fiction novel, Hachet. She writes, “Gone to the Woods is a harrowing and moving true life story of resilience, perseverance and the healing power of books. Narrated with warmth and humour it is touching and informative.”

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(TRAVEL)

As a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater, Tina from TurnThePage, really enjoyed, The Olive Farm, the first book in her bestselling trilogy, which is about the purchase of an abandoned Olive Farm in Provencal, Appassionata, by Carol and her husband, and their work to restore it. “Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo.”, she writes.

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(WARTIME EXPERIENCES)

In 1989, teacher and community leader Mecak Ajang Alaak assumed care of the Lost Boys, thousands of South Sudanese refuges, in a bid to protect them from being forced to serve as child soldiers. After reading Father of the Lost Boys by Yuot A. Alaak, Claire of ClaireReadsandReviews wrote, “I feel honoured to have read Yout and his father’s story, and that of the thousands of people who shared that journey.”

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What will you be reading in March?

—————-

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

Review: The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein

Title: The Girl Explorers

Author: Jayne E. Zanglein

Published: 2nd March 2021, Sourcebooks

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

While The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein was not exactly what I was expecting, I found it ultimately to be a fascinating and inspiring book, highlighting some of the intelligent, daring and determined women who rebelled against expectations and paved the way for women to participate in what were traditionally male pursuits.

“Fifty percent of the world population is female, but only .05 percent of recorded history relates to women.”

The Society of Woman Geographers was founded in 1925 after the exclusively male Explorers Club refused to lift its ban on women members, condescendingly dismissing their ‘suitability’ for exploration, and their many achievements. Founded by Blair Bebee/Niles, a travel writer and novelist; Marguerite Harrison, a widowed single mother and a journalist who became US spy in Russia just after WW1; Gertrude Mathews Shelby, an economic geographer; and Gertrude Emerson, an expert on Asia and editor of Asia Magazine, membership was extended to women whose “distinctive work has added to the world’s store of knowledge concerning countries on which they specialized.”

Settling on the term “geographers” instead of explorers because it was flexible enough to encompass explorers, scientists, anthropologists, ethnographers, writers, mountain climbers, and even ethnographic artists and musicians, the stated aims of the Society were, “…building personal relationships among members, archiving the work of its membership in the society’s collections, and celebrating the achievements of women.”

“With the passage of time—as so often happens with women’s careers—the names and contributions of these explorers tended to sink from sight, their achievements questioned or minimized.” – Elizabeth Fagg Olds, newspaper correspondent and former president of Society.

Though the Society accepted ‘corresponding’ members from any country, The Girl Explorers tends to focus on American adventurers. I recognised only a few names, icons such as aviator Amelia Earhart, anthropologist Margaret Mead, former US First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and author, Pearl S. Buck. While I did think that it was a shame that the author wasn’t perhaps as inclusive as she could have been, I was nevertheless still fascinated by what I learned of the many women I’d never heard of.

Of the founding members, I considered the life of Blair Bebee née Rice (later Niles) to be particularly intriguing, in part because her story is the most complete, but also because of the sheer breadth of her achievements. I was also captivated by the intrepid mountaineer, Annie Smith Peck, who in 1895, at the age of 45, became the third woman to ascend the Matterhorn, though the first to do so in knickers (men’s knickerbocker trousers) and without a corset.

Zanglein’s narrative sometimes feels a little scattered and occasionally seems to veer off-topic, however the tone is personable, and what I learned was so interesting, I found I didn’t much mind. I highlighted screeds of information as I was reading that really doesn’t have a place in this review, but that intrigued me.

“Their stories change our history…”

The Society of Woman Geographers still exists today, they maintain a museum and library on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. with a robust membership that continues to meet regularly, and supports women geographers with fellowships and awards. I’m glad to have learnt more about organisation and the amazing women who are part of it.

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Available from Sourcebooks

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

Review: With My Little Eye by Sandra Hogan

Title: With My Little Eye

Author: Sandra Hogan

Published: 3rd February 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

With My Little Eye is a fascinating biography by Sandra Hogan of a suburban Australian family of spies.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was formed in June 1949 by then Prime Minister Ben Chiefly in response to the discovery through a series of decoded Soviet cables—known as the Venona intercepts—that Soviet spies were active in Australia. During its formative years ASIO’s main focus was on finding and breaking the Russian spy ring, in an operation known as ‘the Case’.

Dudley Doherty, a former supply clerk in the Australian army, was one of the first ASIO officers, joining the agency in November 1949. His new bride, a secretary at the time, joined him at Algincourt, the NSW building that housed ASIO headquarters, in 1950, transcribing intercepted telephone calls. Later that year, the young couple became essential players in Operation Smile, ASIO’s first covert bugging operation. Housed in the apartment above Fedor Nosov, who represented Soviet news agency TASS, Joan’s job was to listen and transcribe any conversation from the flat below, usually accompanied by another officer, while Dudley continued his work elsewhere.

Mark (b. 1951) and Sue-Ellen (b.1953) were born in that same apartment, and though Joan officially resigned from ASIO in late 1953, she continued to assist her husband with his duties when he was transferred to Brisbane, which included hosting former Russian intelligence agents turned defectors, Captain Evdokia Petrov and husband Colonel Vladimir for two months as a safety precaution during the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne.

“In Brisbane… Joan kept house and raised her children [Amanda was born in 1958] while Dudley went out to work – just like all the other housewives. Except Joan was training her kids in espionage and keeping a careful watch on her neighbours.”

While most intelligence officers keep their work secret, often even their spouse are unaware their partner is a spy, Dudley and Joan ran a ‘family operation’. From birth they were props as their mother eavesdropped in cafe’s, or their father took photos of them at parades. The children were taught to look for people or cars that may be out of place, to recall details of faces and places, to memorise number plates, and never draw attention to themselves. Their parents made many of these activities seem like fun, and Hogan details some of the ‘games’ the family ‘played’, but spy craft is a serious business, and in the Doherty family, work always came first. There were a lot of rules, the most important of which was to maintain secrecy. The children could never question their father, nor his orders, and could not talk about any activity outside of the family.

“Forgetting their childhoods had been essential for their survival, but it came at a cost.”

For Sue-Ellen life as a child spy was complicated, though she proved to have an excellent observation skills and memory, she was not suited to the introverted life. Though she, like her siblings, adhered to the family rules, she resented the many secrets she was forced to keep, despite always being inordinately proud of her father. His sudden death from a heart attack in 1970 when Sue-Ellen was 17 left her devastated. Absent from the family home at the time, Sue-Ellen became convinced her father had not died but had simply gone into deep cover for some undisclosed mission, a belief she held until in her late forties, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It was then that she began to search for information about her father, hoping to learn more about him and make some sense of her childhood, eventually approaching journalist Sandra Hogan for help. Hogan met with Sue-Ellen several times, however information and provable facts were hard to find so the project stalled. It wasn’t until 2011 when ASIO commissioned a book to detail the official history of the organisation (The Spy Catchers pub. 2014), for which Sue-Ellen’s mother, Joan, was interviewed, that Sue-Ellen began to make peace with her childhood.

“When something cannot be talked about, it is hard to believe it’s real. Now there was no doubt about it.”

With some of the secrecy veil lifted, Sue-Ellen and her siblings, who were finally able to talk more freely about their childhood, and gain a fuller picture of the man who was their father. Hogan draws on these conversations, Joan’s memories, interviews with the few of Dudley’s contemporaries still alive, declassified documents and relevant public sources to tell their extraordinary story.

There are flashes of humour in this unusual biography, but I most often found it rather poignant. With My Little Eye is a fascinating account of an unusual family, and their unique role during the infancy of ASIO.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Click below for your chance to win a copy! 

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

 


Welcome to the first Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky.

Don’t forget to link each book you as you read during the year.

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2020ReadNonFic

===================

In January

{Travel}

At GumtreesandGalaxies, Sharon shares her thoughts on Findings by Kathleen Jamie, “Jamie beautifully captures time and place in immediate, mindful observation, bringing the experience of Scotland, especially wild Scotland to vivid life.”

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{Wartime Experience}

Tina at TurnthePage, writes Dispatches, “…is an incredible accounting of a time period about the Vietnam War, told with such descriptive clarity by journalist Michael Herr.”

—————-

{Self Help}

#EntryLevelBoss: a 9-step guide for finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it) by Alexa Shoen is recommended by Tracey at Carpe Librum, who writes it, “… if your job hunting has stagnated or you need a confidence boost or a fresh approach, #EntryLevelBoss is well worth the read.”

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{Essays}

From Jo at BookloverBookReviews “Laura Greaves’ Dogs with Jobs is a wonderful title to dip into, and read a story or two, whenever you are in need of a boost, or simply a healthy dose of perspective. Few hearts will fail to be moved by these stories of loyalty, resilience, dedication and commitment by very special dogs and their humans.”

—————-

{Biography}

At Journey and Destination, Carol writes thoughtfully about Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. She regrets she hadn’t read it earlier, she calls it, “…an incredible story”, which she highly recommends.

—————-

What will you be reading in February?

—————-

In case you missed it

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category

Categories

1. Biography 2. Travel 3. Self-help 4. Essay Collection 5. Disease 6. Oceanography 7. Hobbies 8. Indigenous Cultures 9. Food 10. Wartime Experiences 11. Inventions 12. Published in 2021

Click here to learn more about the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join the fun!

For the next four weeks I will post some recommendations for each category that might inspire your own selections.

Click here for Part #1 – Biography, Travel, Self Help/Self Improvement

Click here for Part #2 – Essay Collection, Disease, Oceanography

Click here for Part #3 – Hobbies, Indigenous Culture, Food

You can find more suggestions via other bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists. Use your good faith judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not.

Wartime Experiences

Books chosen for this category should focus on the experiences of people during wartime (as opposed to politics/strategy etc.

 

 

Inventions

For the purposes of this challenge the focus is on a novel device developed by scientific/technological/engineering process.



Published in 2021

Select any nonfiction book published in 2021


Feel free to add your own recommendations and suggestions in the comments.

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category

Categories

1. Biography 2. Travel 3. Self-help 4. Essay Collection 5. Disease 6. Oceanography 7. Hobbies 8. Indigenous Cultures 9. Food 10. Wartime Experiences 11. Inventions 12. Published in 2021

Click here to learn more about the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join the fun!

For the next four weeks I will post some recommendations for each category that might inspire your own selections.

Click here for Part #1 – Biography, Travel, Self Help/Self Improvement

Click here for Part #2 – Essay Collection, Disease, Oceanography

You can find more suggestions via other bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists. Use your good faith judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not.

Hobbies

A hobby is any activity done regularly for enjoyment and relaxation, including collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements.



Indigenous Culture

Indigenous Peoples (also referred to as First Peoples, Aboriginal Peoples, or Native Peoples) are those that inhabited a country or region before the arrival of people of different cultures or ethnic origins, and are found across the globe in 90 countries.


 

Food

Books in this genre can relate to the origins, history, culture, science, or critique of food and drink, or techniques related to preparation and/or cooking food and drink.



 

Feel free to add your own recommendations and suggestions in the comments.

Review: The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro

Title: The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing

Author: Sonia Faleiro

Published: 14th January 2021, Bloomsbury ANZ

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Bloomsbury ANZ/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

The Good Girls is a powerful, heartrending and compelling work of investigative journalism from award winning author Sonia Faleiro.

On May 27th 2014, cousins and best friends 16 year old Padma* and 14 year old Lalli* went into the fields to relieve themselves before bedtime, as was their habit, and never returned. In the early hours of the morning their body’s were found hanging in the mango tree orchard belonging to their families in the tiny Indian village of Katra Sadatgani. And there they would remain for days as their family demanded justice.

* The girls’ names have been changed in accordance with Indian law which requires that the identity of victims of certain crimes remain private.

Drawing on official documents, news reports, and personal interviews, Faleiro attempts to piece together the events that led up to the girl’s deaths, and the extraordinary events that followed. Faleiro does her best to establish a timeline and unravel the often contradictory information that is a hallmark of this investigation. This is a complex case that involves a large number of people, and is forced to take into account issues of family structure, tradition, poverty, caste, religion, and political corruption to explain both its origin and its development.

The Good Girls is not the easiest of reads, from a position of western privilege it’s confronting to learn about the circumstances in which Padma and Lalli lived. This not only includes their immediate environs in a village with no running water, sanitation, or electricity, but also a society that considers them as little more than chattel.

Crimes against women, and girls, are ubiquitous in India, both in public and at home. Despite attempts to lawfully curb the violence (largely as a consequence of the ‘Delhi Bus Rape’ in 2012) when caste, tradition and religion insist that women are little more than the property of men, the law is often ignored, abetted by corrupt politicians and a venal police force who lack the skills, resources or motivation to investigate complaints.

To be honest I have little faith in the official findings in this case, given the falsehoods, contradictions, and grievous errors that dogged every step of the investigation. I don’t think any conclusion can be reached with confidence, but I appreciate Faleiro’s attempt to shed light on what happened to Padma and Lalli.

The Good Girls is a well written, disturbing yet fascinating narrative that provides insight not only into an individual tragedy, but also into a culture and a country. Incidentally I strongly suggest you don’t Google the case, or if you do be careful which articles you view as many are accompanied by a photo of the two girls hanging from the mango tree.

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Available from Bloomsbury ANZ

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

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