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September 2, 2014

REVIEW OF Massacre at Sand Creek: Narrative Voices by Bruce Cutler (1995)

I originally bought the book because I wanted to know about the Narrative Voices in the title. Here was a brutal subject but also the promise of something more than simple brutality. I am reminded of Wilfred Owen’s poetry from WWI, of his struggle as a man who trained for the clergy who wanted to be a great poet, who also fought like a demon in the maelstrom of the Western Front. How can the Horror be communicated through the language and construction of poetry? I wanted to see how Bruce Cutler approached the challenge.

The Massacre at Sand Creek is a tale of treachery, hypocrisy, savagery and prejudiced blood-lust let loose with official approval. We have our own episodes in Australia. While on a lesser scale than Sand Creek, the intent (genocide, revenge) was the same, and the methods, the rationale, the religious and economic fervor, the trophies also. The last one I know of was in 1928 in our Northern Territory.  read more …

June 28, 2014


I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Jean McKay (LJM) at a literary event in Wagga Wagga on my recent trip to the Riverina and attending a workshop she ran for writers. She is vivacious and intense. The same may be said of her writing.

As the title suggests, these 17 short stories are set in Cambodia, but they span decades – the earliest seem to be in the 1950s and the most recent are in the present – and include 1969 (Vietnam War) and 1994 (post-Pol Pot). The title also suggests something of the First World heading off to the economic fringes of the planet for a ‘break’.  read more …

May 13, 2014

REVIEW: An Awkward Truth: The bombing of Darwin February 1942 by Peter Grose – published in 2009 (shorter version posted on Goodreads – spoilers ahead)

Grose had previously written about the effect of the midget submarine attack on Sydney in May 1942 in A Very Rude Awakening (2007), so he is developing a bit of a theme with this one in looking behind the official story of our military history. I haven’t read the earlier book yet, but based on this one, I will seek it out.

In his preface, Grose challenges the idea that the bombing of Darwin was a ‘national shame’ by ennumerating the steady and heroic actions performed by many in response to the onslaught. I tend to agree with another reviewer that Grose does not carry this notion through the book with conviction.  read more …

April 28, 2014


Posted on Goodreads: The Italian Girl by Rebecca Huntley (2012)
The issues in this book – alien internment in Australia in WWII, family relationships, honesty in dealings with people – have a much greater relevance than the Ballini family of FNQ. Somehow, I am left with the impression that the book is almost exclusively about the author’s relationship with and discovery of the Ballinis. Perhaps it is the too-much detail in the description of the author’s day, lunch, drive or preparations that anchors the significance of the text to the text itself. Perhaps it is an effect of first person, present tense.  read more …

March 27, 2014

The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan

Finished 26 March 2014 and posted on Goodreads on 27 March 2014.

FOUR STARS – Recommended

Style and Substance. A good story told well. A tale worth the time of telling and told with the polish of time in the making. Reading, for me, is an experience on many levels, so a really satisfying read, which is how I would class this one, has to engage and intrigue me on those different levels.

There’s the plotting: Where is this going? What’s going to happen next?

There are the characters: How are they going to turn out? What’s their defining moment going to be?

There are the subject matter and themes.

There is the style.

Flanagan’s novel worked so well for me.  read more …