Friday, 13 December 2019

Friday Funnies: Make A Daft Noise For Christmas

I've shared this one in Christmases past, but there is just something delightful about this very 1970s song by the Goodies (who as many of you will know, were also a music group, though they were better known for their television series.) It's fun, it's a little daggy and, after all, it's Christmas!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Friday Funnies

This week, just a short and funny clip from Merry Christmas Mr Bean, in which he encounters a pick pocket and helps out a Salvation Army band!

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Review: Beneath the Attic by V.C. Andrews

For fans of Flowers in the Attic of the many mysteries of the novel and its sequels is who was the first Corrine, the mysterious woman who slept in the swan bed, who gave birth to the formidable Malcolm Foxworth and whose granddaughter would be named after her and eventually persuaded to lock her children away in an attic and slowly poison them. Was Corrine the evil monster that Malcolm portrayed her to be? Or was she really the smartest Foxworth woman of them all, the one who was able to escape and leave every trace of Foxworth Hall behind?

Beneath the Attic, the first volume in a three part spin-off prequel series written by V.C. Andrews ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman seeks to answer that question. The novel opens in the late 19th century with Corrine a spoiled and sexually precocious young woman who finds herself in a bit too deep when she makes the acquaintance of Garland Foxworth, an ultra rich twenty-something. Garland wastes no time in taking advantage of Corrine, grooming, seducing and date-raping the young woman. What follows is an irate father, a shotgun wedding and a very foolish decision by a young woman too naive to know what is good for her, with parents who are easily seduced by the promise of money and a good family and business reputation. 

While this novel certainly seeks to answer a question that has been debated by fans of the original series for almost forty years, what it lacks is depth and authenticity. In many respects, Corrine speaks and behaves like a modern teenager, rather than a young woman brought up in a respectable middle class family. There are also other problems--the speech used feels too modern. (I found myself raising my eyebrow just a little when a British maid used the term "loo" to describe a toilet, a word which was not commonly used in Great Britain until the 1940s.) As is often the case with the modern V.C. Andrews titles, there was a fair bit of uncomfortable sexual content that felt as though it was there for shock value, rather than adding anything to the story. (Yes, okay, V.C. Andrews herself was the queen of adding bizarre sexual content for shock value, but she had a unique way of weaving it into the story in such a way that the plot rarely worked without it.) Garland Foxworth is portrayed as a very different man to the happy, charismatic man who (lets face it) got away with marrying a woman forty years his junior in Garden of Shadows (also penned by Neiderman, and possibly based upon notes made by V.C. Andrews and VCA editor Ann Patty.) This Garland is controlling, calculating and a little cruel. Then again, he is also younger. And the Garden of Shadows version was a man seen through the eyes of Olivia Foxworth, a VCA character who would probably make anyone seem jolly and downright nice by comparison. 

But perhaps the biggest failing of this book is the fact that very little actually happens. Yes, Corrine is pregnant with whom the reader supposes is Malcolm, but the whole thing could have been told in a short story, or perhaps even the first part of a longer novel. 

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Review: Generation F by Virginia Trioli

Originally conceived as a response to Helen Garner's controversial non-fiction novel The First Stone and published in 1996 when the author was a young and up and coming journalist, Generation F remains as relevant today as it was when it was first released. This one offers a no holds barred look at the need for feminism, while also examining precisely why many women just put up with sexual harassment, when they shouldn't have to. 

I will be honest. Reading parts of this book made me feel angry. I picked it up knowing that it would make me feel angry. After all, it is the kind of book that takes an unflinching look at the harsh realities that are firsthand experiences for many, many women. 

What I did not expect was just how angry I would feel, or that there would be moments when I would have to put the book down and take a deep breath. This isn't the kind of book that offers answers; instead, it unflinchingly tells it like it is. Or how things were for women in Melbourne in the 1990s which is depressingly much like the experiences of many women across Australia in 2019. And obviously, it talks quite a bit about The First Stone and explains the core question at the heart of that book--why the young women involved may have gone to the police and why they didn't just tell the university professor to stop.

I first become aware of this book at about the point when the MeToo movement gained momentum. Aware of its relevance, I tried in vain to source a secondhand copy (after all, it had been out of print for about twenty years at that point,) and was unsuccessful. (Well, I could have bought a copy if I'd been willing to pay a very dodgy amazon seller US$100.) Anyway, it seems that I wasn't the only person on the planet who saw the relevance of this book--it has now been republished by Scribner and comes complete with a new forward and afterword.

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Review: Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Told entirely in verse, Irish author Sarah Crossan's latest novel is a tale of a young runaway desperate to find a place to call home and her relationship with an older woman whose mind is slipping that believes her to be her long lost sister Toffee. Allison comes from a very broken home. Her father is abusive, her stepmother, the only person who ever loved her has left, and Allison made what she now knows is the foolish decision not to go with her when she asked. However, when her father's abusive leaves her with facial scarring, Allison knows that she has to run--far and fast. Determined to track her stepmother down, she finds herself in Cornwall, living with Marla, a lonely and confused old woman. Maybe Marla knows that Allison isn't Toffee, maybe she doesn't. She has good days and bad days. Through their relationship, and her friendship with spoiled Lucy, Allison learns much about the way that people treat one another.

And maybe, just maybe it will all come good in the end.

This is exceptional reading, the kind of YA novel that will be a hit with its target audience while at the same time ticking all the right boxes for adult readers--whether they usually read YA or not. It is a complex tale, exploring the different ways that people can hurt--and heal--those that they care about. Some of the verses left me a bit of an emotional wreak, but they told the story well, emphasising many of the experiences of the characters without going too over the top.

Highly recommended.