Friday, November 25, 2011

True crime or cozy crime?

Has an author's private life ever influenced your reasons for reading or not reading their books?

My answer to this question is yes. When I was in my early twenties I was reading my way through the Thomas Pitt mysteries written by Anne Perry.
The Pitt series fall in the genre category of historical detective mystery, written during the Victorian period. I'd probably read a good six, seven maybe even closer to eight or ten titles when I discovered who she was.

Born Juliet Marion Hulme, she had committed a violent murder as a teenager in New Zealand. Suddenly Perry's mysteries didn't seem so cozy anymore. I think I may have tried to read another mystery of her's, but I couldn't get the bad taste out of my mouth.

The whole sorry saga is the story behind Peter Jackson's 1994 film Heavenly creatures. Kate Winslet portrays a teenage Hulme.
Hulme and her good friend Pauline Parker colluded to murder Parker's mother so that the teenage girl's wouldn't be separated after Parker's parents divorced. They conspired to lead Parker's mother down a remote pathway in a public park, and there planned to hit her with a brick within a stocking. Naively both girls thought one hit would do it, but it took many more hits before Parker's mother's brutal end. I don't know about you, but I really couldn't read another printed word by Perry after knowing this.

A new book has been written by Peter Graham, called So brilliantly clever, that tells the gory story.
I've only just now read a review of the book in my newspaper's literary section, and have not read it. And to tell you the truth I don't know if I want to read it. Anyway, if you like true crime, and I prefer my crime to be cozy, then you may want to check the story out. Or you may even want to check out some of Perry's works....

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Just a quick post to say that I have started a new blog devoted towards my son's diagnosis of autism. So if you're at all interested, you will find some of our stories regarding ASD, that I promise will only be positive content, and resources for parents and teachers.

This means that my Scribeswindow blog can be more book and writing oriented. Well that's the plan...... These things always blur as they do in life.

Happy reading.

Monday, November 07, 2011

What I've been reading lately...The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

Really? I mean really? Does anyone out there know people like these characters? I certainly don't. And if you do, please comment below and tell me about them.

I found my paperback copy of The slap at my son's daycare bookclub. It's a copy that's been released along with the televised version on the ABC. My copy also includes a plethora of media quotes reviewing the book. A couple that caught my attention:

It's often said that the best politicians are those who can instinctively divine the zeitgeist of their country's centre. For the ones who can't, I would place The slap as mandatory bedside table reading. It's a perfect social document of what Australia is today. More importantly, it's also one hell of a read. The Australian

Again. Really? I wouldn't describe the events in this book as depicting an accurate social picture of Australia.

And this:

We are presented with a cast of characters whose situation reflects the affluent, insecure, globalised Australia of the early twenty-first century. Times Literary Supplement.

A blistering portrait of domestic life. Sun-Herald.

The description I liked best is from magazine Men's Style:

A gripping suburban fable.

It is from this premise that I have decided to view this book. I think that the people Tsiolkas writes about are more caricatures than anything else. And I think it is a fable, a cautionary tale almost, depicting a 'what if' about Australia's or really Melbourne's so called nanny-state.

Now if you haven't read the book there are spoilers ahead, so if what I've written so far entices you - and it is a fabulous book! - then please go and find this novel read it, and come back. I would love to hear your opinion.

The characters, even though unreal to me, did resonate. I think this is because of my age and the fact that I have young children? Not to say that it wouldn't resonate with others also. Rosie is the character I think about most. The fact that she still breast feeds her "just turned four" son sends shudders through me. I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. And before anyone spouts (no pun intended!) that breast feeding can end at any time, we live in a society where nutritious food is abundant. Some countries don't have that luxury, so of course breast feeding for as long as possible would be paramount. That's my opinion.

Hugo pulled away from Rosie's teat. 'No one is allowed to touch my body without my permission.' His voice was shrill and confident. Hector wondered where he'd learnt those words. From Rosie? At childcare? Were there community announcements on the frigging television?

This book brings together every tenet you believe in parenting. It is through Rosie's character that you question your own ideals on raising children. Do you smack them? Do you give them junk food? Do you set boundaries for them? Are you a good parent? Indeed it is through Rosie's insecurities as a parent that propels most of the conflict along. It makes you wonder if we as a society are giving too much merit and authority to institutions.

When is it appropriate to intervene when children are fighting? Or when children need disciplining? Is it so wrong that some parents are of the view that giving kids carte blanche to sort things out is the best way for them to play and learn? Is it so wrong to want to protect children and risk being described as a 'helicopter mum'? There will always be differing parenting styles.

The book of course is about a child that is slapped. What also resonated with me was the brilliant description of this scene. Tsiolkas is indeed a master.

He saw his cousin's raised arm, it spliced the air, and then he saw the open palm descend and strike the boy. The slap seemed to echo. It cracked the twilight.

Now I want you to say that last line out loud. This is what I find myself doing. Especially, for some reason, when I'm doing the dishes. Lovely sentence.

Tsiolkas also examines the idea of family and friendship in the book. Sometimes I think this book is only described as a social comment about parenting, but I think that at its real heart is the notion of 'blood is thicker than water'. He uses the friendship of the three girls, Aisha, Rosie and Anouk and juxtaposes it with the family relationship of cousins Hector and Harry, and of course the rest of the family. This is especially evident when at the courthouse, Rosie's reaction to Harry's uncle Manolis being there with Harry.

She went up to Hector's father and when she spoke her voice did not tremble but there was no missing her fury. You shouldn't be here. Aren't you ashamed? You shouldn't be here. Her spittle landed on his shirt.

At the time when I read this I thought to myself, what did she expect? That's his uncle. Of course he's going to be there. Later in the book the character Manolis echoes this sentiment, asking himself would he not be there for his brother's child? This seems to be what Tsoilkas is getting at. That family is what's important, and sometimes people convince themselves that friendship can be family too. The novel asks the question, can this be so?

There's a lot of ugliness in this book. That's why I asked the initial question of are there really people out there who exist in this way? I truly don't know of any. But taken away from this face value and seen as more of a fable of Australian society, I think Tsiolkas has written a fantastic book. I read this book just before bedtime, and every time wished I hadn't. I found it hard to put down, and when I did, sleep eluded me because I couldn't stop thinking about what I had read.

Even writing a post for this book has taken me weeks because I had to get my head around what I wanted to say, and I still feel like I've missed out on things. Don't miss out on this book. I've watched three episodes of the television series so far, and there are some changes, and I'm really glad that I went with the old adage of reading the book first before watching the story on screen.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...