Taking on a literary classic is by no means easy, but Adelaide emerges triumphant. Her novel-within-a-novel is a poignant, richly feminist tribute to Wuthering Heights that deserves a place beside it on the shelf.
When Jean and Linda from Newtown Review of Books offered me the chance to review Debra Adelaide’s The Women’s Pages, I was delighted. Not only because I was enchanted by the idea of this book, but also because it gave me the perfect excuse to do something I’d been daydreaming about for a long time – reread Wuthering Heights.
I genuinely adored The Women’s Pages and was absolutely thrilled to see it longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. Here’s a link to my review – and, as always, my eternal thanks to Jean and Linda for their editorial genius.
It’s been a while between blog posts. There’s so much to write, so much to read…but where to begin? And where to end? The other day, I reread ABR’s November edition, in which Kerryn Goldsworthy, named Critic of the Month, writes about the qualities of a fine critic…
Clarity, of vision and style. Fearlessness, which is not the same thing as aggression, vanity, or bumptiousness. A sense of humour, including about oneself. The refusal to get into a rut, and indeed the ability to recognise and avoid a rut.
I’m still working on all of these things. That last one in particular.
So, yes. Although I’ve said it before – more soon.
The stare is a different thing altogether. Leon had come to think of the stare as admiration Maybe Kathryn was right. A child uses the stare as a tool of curiosity and wonder. The grotesque is wonderful. The malformed is wonderful, the unexpected is wonderful and so is the beautiful. There is far less judgement in the unguarded stare of a child than the hush-ups of their adult companions.
He told Kathryn how, at a private dinner, a child who was waiting in the corridor for her waitress mother to finish work had asked him if he was a robot. That made him laugh. ‘Is your brain made of metal too?’ she asked. She was five, the age when the questions pour out of a child like milk out of a jug. ‘Do you eat nails? Why did they put it in that way? Do you have feelings?’
‘Oh yes,’ Leon answered her. ‘I have so many feelings that sometimes I think I’ll burst.’
‘Me too, she replied gravely. She touched his hand and looked up at his face with serious eyes. Eyes that didn’t waver. Eyes that never flickered once to the hole in his chest
Earlier this week, I reviewed Paddy O’Reilly’s The Wonders for Newtown Review of Books. It’s a novel so full of ideas it might burst. If you’re interested, head over and take a look.
The woman has come prepared: she takes a recorder, notebook, pens and a small bottle of water out of her bag, arranges them carefully. Close up, the woman is not plain, as I’d first thought, but beautiful – her eyes large and dark, mouth full, cheekbones high. I wonder whether she’s deliberately made herself appear plain, bland. And why.
She clears her throat then speaks quite formally, as if she’s reading from a script.
‘I’m going to ask you some questions…’
I’m lucky enough to be over at Newtown Review of Books today, reviewing Wendy James’s sixth novel, The Lost Girls. Thank you, NRB!
(Also, it’s Newtown Review of Books’ second birthday this year! They’ve got a Donate button on their site – why not make a contribution?)
My childhood was the kind that city kids only dream about. My mates and I swam with eels in the creek, went fishing for mud crabs and hung out on the beach like Robinson Crusoes waiting to be rescued. In winter, we kicked a footy on an oval with poplar trees for goal posts; in summer, we played cricket on a bare concrete pitch. At night, we lit bonfires on the rocks and barbecued flathead while our fathers drank themselves legless at the pub.
Around Christmas it would rain for weeks on end. The drains would overflow, washing raw sewage into the sea. But I liked it: after a big downpour, the pavements and parks gleamed like glass and shrikes and noisy miners filled the trees, feeding on slow-moving insects. The travel magazines in Mum’s bookcase would curl at the edges while bloated leopard slugs crawled across the floor and up the asbestos sheeted walls of my bedroom.
Today, I’m over at Newtown Review of Books writing about John Dale’s new novella, Plenty. Interested? Click here to take a look.