My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

Published: 1901 (print)/1st April 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
William Blackwood & Sons/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 319 pages/1 disc
Narrator: Megan E Rees
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction/Classic
★   ★  – 2 Stars

“I am given to something which a man never pardons in a woman. You will draw away as though I were a snake when you hear.” With this warning, Sybylla confesses to her rich and handsome suitor that she is given to writing stories and bound, therefore, on a brilliant career. In this ironically titled and exuberant novel by Miles Franklin, originally published in 1901, Sybylla tells the story of growing up passionate and rebellious in rural New South Wales, where the most that girls could hope for was to marry or to teach. Sybylla will do neither, but that doesn’t stop her from falling in love, and it doesn’t make the choices any easier.

It feels so strange to write this review when I am currently taking part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge that celebrates the female writers of Australia specifically with challenges named after Stella Miles Franklin, but, having just finished My Brilliant Career I have to say I am wholly unimpressed and I can’t help feeling slightly guilty about it.

I experienced such a roller coast of emotions about this, at one moment I was cheering on Sybylla as she stood up against the men around her, and at other times I was rolling my eyes at her indecision and her constant back and forward and self-pity.

When I began I thought it was wonderful; Sybylla was headstrong, she didn’t want to marry, she seemed like a feminist, she yelled at men who dared to touch her without permission when they thought they had the right. She knew what she wanted and didn’t let anyone dictate who she was or what she thought.  However, as the book went on, it started to waver. You’d have moments where there’d be a spark and Sybylla would be fiery and independent again and you expected that her grand moment had arrived where she’d do something, but then it disappeared as soon as it had arrived. She goes on A LOT about her looks. A casual mention is all we’d need but it is filled with her lamenting her ugliness and while she says she can pity herself, she hates it when other people pity her. No one probably does but going on about herself as much as she does it looks like she wants someone to pity her.

If it was written today I would be interested to see the response because reading it now she seems like such a complainer and it drags on with her indecision. She is the typical teenager trope, she is selfish and complains about having to do anything, and from the ages of 17 to 19 acts the same and thinks the world is out to get her and everything anyone does is to upset her life intentionally. She hasn’t got the sense to see what is right in front of her, she plays the ‘poor me’ card far too often for it to retain any sympathy in the reader, and the fact that she can’t see the best choice for her is infuriating. I’m surprised those around her don’t do more to stop her moaning. Of course it’s evident her parents aren’t the best, her mother can be unfair and harsh, but Sybylla doesn’t help herself either.

I did enjoy all the other characters though, Harold Beechum was enjoyable, he is nice and a little odd but likable. He puts up with Sybylla’s nonsense much longer than I certainly would have. I’m surprised he didn’t walk away from her given all the trouble she caused him with her indecision and changing her mind constantly about what she wanted.

The lack of clear conclusion in the novel makes it worse, Franklin makes the reader put up with all of Sybylla’s moping and carrying on but there’s no clear indication whether anything ever happened at the end. Surely a strong ending could have made up for the middle part where you wanted to yell at the girl and tell her to stop being such a whiner. Because I listened to the book as an audio I wasn’t sure how much longer it had to go and when it ended I actually said out loud, ‘is that it?’. I sat through all of that and wasn’t even granted a clear conclusion and instead given an unsatisfactory ending that is beyond tragic and just terrible.

For a classic of Australian literature that is so idolised, I am trying to see what all the fuss is about, considering it didn’t seem to have much in it. Is the fact that she didn’t want to marry? Or that she was headstrong and independent? Is that what it’s revered for, because she is a unique character of her time that goes against the grain of what everyone thinks she should do? Because she doesn’t do it very well, and it’s all very well being independent and headstrong, but if you don’t do anything with that, what’s the point? And if you do that you end up having a pretty unsatisfactory life and I’m pretty sure that’s where Sybylla has ended up.

You can purchase My Brilliant Career via the following

Physical

Amazon 

Dymocks | Booktopia

Bookworld | Book Depository

Audio

Booktopia

Bookworld | Book Depository


Book Bingo Book
AWW16

 

Wish List (#4) by Belinda Williams

Published: 26th May 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Momentum
Pages: 280
Format: ebook via the publisher and NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Could the wrong man on paper be the perfect man in real life?

Cate Harmon likes lists. While this may serve her well as a financial planner, her girlfriends think that creating a checklist for her ideal man is going a step too far. But she has one, and she’s sticking to it.

Cate has always dreamed of starting a family and settling down and yet she’s the only one of her close-knit friendship group still unattached. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to lower her standards.

Enter Dave, a reformed bad boy with gorgeous hair and eyes the wrong colour. Dave doesn’t tick any of the boxes on Cate’s list. It’s unthinkable that she would develop feelings for him, and yet … Cate finds herself being drawn to Dave in a way she’s never felt before.

Will Cate confront the reasons behind her list? Or will she risk losing a man who could be better than any list she could ever dream up?

I legit had a massive smile on my while reading this book, even in the rocky parts. I think I said something corny when I started reading it saying it was like coming back home but it was true; I love these women so much and I love Williams’ stories about their lives and as soon as I started reading Cate’s story I was back in their world with Maddy and Scarlett and Christa. It was like I hadn’t left.

It’s not all big smiles and excitement though, Williams did bring a few tears to the surface in some part, but just for a moment. I’m not saying the book is 90% happiness and frivolity, but it was just so wonderful to read that every little thing made me happy, the conflict, drama, Cate’s frustration and denial, the SURPRISES! It was the perfect package and balance.

I’ve realised through this series that there’s a little bit of me in each of these women, possibly all the wrong bits to identify with but all the same there’s something in each of them I adore. I adore because despite them feeling insecure, having a duty of care, a desire to do the right thing, and having hidden secrets, they still get up and have a great life with beautiful friends. They don’t let themselves or their past stop them (well, eventually anyway).

Wish List is the final in the City Love series and after seeing Christa’s, Maddy’s, and Scarlett’s stories we finally get to explore Cate’s. Williams has been great at dropping snippets of information through all her books about each woman, and with Scarlett’s story Cate was given a closer look, just enough to tease you and build anticipation. Justified too because the Cate we discover is totally unexpected from the Cate we’ve gotten to know. Delving into her mind and life is wonderful and finding out more about her secretive past and seeing that she isn’t always the cautious and structured girl she seems to be is fantastic, like all the girls we see her grow.

Williams’ starts off the story slowly, almost as you’d expect, meeting a guy who isn’t the guy you expect to fall for, but even if you think you know what may happen, that it will follow some clear set of events, it won’t. Williams brings a whole new story to the table and brings complexity and depth and drama that doesn’t feel over the top or too messy, it feels real and justified and intense.

That isn’t even the biggest twist as Williams has five or six more up her sleeve that continually surprise you when you least expect it. She lulls you into feeling safe before pouncing and makes you remember all the little details you’d forgotten about because you were caught up and recovering from the last surprise. It’s easy to think this story is one big issue but it’s a bigger, deeper, more complicated situation that twists and turns and shocks and delights you. By the end you can’t believe you ever thought it was just going to be that simple. It’s not even close to being that simple.

For me this is the best and most wonderful ending to a series and a book I’ve read. Williams has always treated these women well and given them stories that suit them and that they deserve, this is no exception, and being the final book it also manages to be a farewell and big finale for the four of them. The continual surprises and little bits of joy and intensity are an emotional ride but I wouldn’t change a thing. As I read my heart was pounding, I had knots in my stomach, a smile on my face, continually holding in gasps and squeals as my eyes fled across the page trying to read faster and possibly physically immerse myself in the story.

One thing I admire about William’s writing is she makes wonderful romantic stories that are heart-warming, heartbreaking, and satisfying without making them overly sweet and mushy, or too innocent or risqué either. Getting inside the heads of these women helps balance that out because you see their reservations, their developing feelings and their reasoning behind what they do. You also fall in love with new characters and reacquaint yourself with the old ones. Dave is my favourite of all the boys in this series, even for his faults. With Cate’s narration we can see how he causes her so must frustration and angst, how his few words annoy her and confuse her. But through Dave’s actions we see a bit more of Cate as well, they balance each other out.

I could go on forever and talk about every little thing in this book but I won’t, I’ve gone on enough already, but I will say that there’s 101 things to adore in this story, it’s got everything, love, drama, friendship, excitement, the works. William’s has done a truly marvellous job and had wrapped up the City Love series spectacularly.

You can pre-order Wish List via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Google Play | iBooks Store

Kobo

AWW16

AWW 2016 Update

AWW16My first update covered three months, this time I’ve got two months to deal with and magically I have a few books to look at. I realised yesterday that I actually had read a few Aussie ladies and that another update was needed. I thought when I was doing this I’d post a reminder without being able to add anything new so I’m quite pleased. In future I am aiming for a monthly recap which means I’d best get my reading into gear and have something to update about. But for now I have a wonderful bunch of books to add to my list.

There is still plenty of time if you wish to join the challenge, you can sign up at any time during the year until the end of November. Visit the AWW website for more information.

 

AWW BOOKS Mar-Apr

The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney – Reviewed

Yellow by Megan Jacobson – Reviewed

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub – Reviewed

Frankie by Shivaunn Plozza – Reviewed

Risk by Fleur Ferris – Reviewed

Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle – Reviewed

Wish List by Belinda Williams – Reviewed

Darkest Place by Jaye Ford

The High Places by Fiona MacFarlane

 

AWW2016 TOTAL

I’ve had to update my goal limit because I’m doing better than I thought I was going to. I’m bumping it up to read 20, review 16. Small increments for safety for now.

Read: 12/20

Reviewed: 10/16

Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle

Published: 1st June 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 290
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Lucy’s life was going as smoothly as any teenager’s could. She was in the local swimming club, and loved it; she lived with her parents and her brother, Cam, in the small coastal town she’d known all her life. She had friends, she had goals – she had a life. Now Cam is dead, her parents might as well be – and Lucy can’t bear to get back in the pool. All she has to look forward to now is a big pile of going-nowhere.

Drawn to Steffi, her wild ex-best-friend who reminds Lucy of her mysterious, unpredictable brother, and music-obsessed Evan, the new boy in town, Lucy starts asking questions. Why did Cam die? Was it an accident or suicide? But as Lucy hunts for answers she discovers much more than she expects. About Cam. About her family. About herself.

This is an incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking story. Doyle has told a captivating tale about loss and discovery and trying to find your place in the world through Lucy and her journey through grief in the aftermath of her brother’s death.

Doyle’s language is wonderful and descriptive; it is sensitive and forgiving but also rough when it needs to be. The imagery is lovely and her words describe the pain felt by everyone and the darkness that has seeped into them all. My favourite line was early on where she writes “She looks up at me and I wonder if she’ll look at me like that for the rest of her life: all hollow like she’s been dug out by a spoon.” Despite being Lucy’s story, Doyle also makes it everybody else’s as well; we feel their pain and torment, their refusal to acknowledge and their struggle to accept.

This is still very much Lucy’s story and her investigation into what really happened to her brother, but it’s also a moving story about how loss can affect families and those who are left behind. Lucy is trying to be strong for her family and keeping to a routine helps her as much as anybody else, but when that’s disturbed by her aunt moving in you realise Lucy’s been distracting herself from her grief as much as everybody else has been too.

Doyle explores the numerous reactions and symptoms of grief, those who succumb to it, those who try and find distraction, those who run, and those who feel unstable and never settle, wildly going through emotional extremes. Lucy is definitely someone who is unable to settle. She doesn’t have the answers she wants and there are new mysteries that keep coming up which send her further from any definitives. So much is happening around her and you really do understand why she wants answers, and why she doesn’t want to share her secrets.

Part of my love for this story was the characters. They really bring this story to life because every one of them is their own unique person with their own history and background. Even simple remarks and observations can tell you so much about who these people are and let you know that they may be hiding something, or not as fine as they claim to be. They feel like real characters, people who could be in your life who have problems of their own and different life experiences to your own.

Doyle’s expression of Lucy’s family is certainly admirable for their intensity and emotional complexity, but a lot of focus must be on the others as well. Lucy’s friends Steffi and Evan bring some relief to both Lucy and the reader, but its clear Doyle hasn’t made these two any less complicated or real. Steffi is a girl doing her own thing, never caring about what others thought, but you know there is something beneath the surface. Evan is much the same, he is cheeky and clever, you do fall a little bit in love with him, but he is also lost and feels neglected, whether he’ll admit it outright or not. As much as Cam’s death propelled this story, in a way it is also the characters themselves that is pulling you through it. You get caught up in following their lives and interactions, becoming invested in who they are and the lives they live, even if many of these interactions are as a result of Cam’s death. Which possibly makes no sense, but it’s kind of true I think.

The reason why I think this story feels so real is because the uncertainty of general teenage life is mixed together with the grief. Lucy looked up to her brother, he taught her things and included her in his life, hence her understandable sorrow. But between her sadness a budding romance wedges in, as well as a resurfacing friendship and struggling to discover where she fits in the world. All of this pushes its way through demanding attention and Doyle shows Lucy’s inability to cope remarkable well, you see her being pulled in so many directions and she doesn’t feel she has anyone to turn to for help. But what makes her so admirable is that she often perseveres regardless, she finds a way to enjoy herself and keep going.

It also feels so real because Doyle’s writing places you in a scene. You are on the pool block, you’re riding through a coastal town, walking through the city streets. Her words include you in the lives of her characters and you may as well be a fly on the wall, experiencing alongside them. Landscapes and locations are woven into the narrative and through Lucy’s eyes we hear her story but also see her world as well.

There really is so much to adore from this book, from the vivid descriptions to the wonderful familiar feeling it produces from reading about places you know and recognise. There are secrets to uncover and shocking suspicions, combined with fantastic characters this is a story that will keep you immersed from the first page until the last.

You can purchase Pieces of Sky via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Readings | Publisher

A&R Bookworld| Boomerang Books

AWW16

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Published: 1st March 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.

The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?

The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends …

The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.

The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?

The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.

Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?

I knew a Melina Marchetta recommendation wouldn’t let me down and a reading binge until 4am proves me right. The Yearbook Committee is a beautiful story that encapsulates how people from different situations can come together (albeit unwilling), and can have their lives changed forever.

The story is told through five character perspectives, across nine months of the school year, and reveals the ups and down of teenage life and the experiences of living in contemporary Australia. The joy of reading Aussie books is recognising the locations and references, and Ayoub captures that Aussie feeling, our language and our culture, making this story feel natural and familiar.

The layout revolves around the monthly yearbook meetings and the school terms, and Ayoub’s creative in getting information without needing it to be told in detail. Using character’s traits and personalities to her advantage, Ayoub provides the ideal amount of information keeping it feeling natural with the story at hand. The focus is centred on the yearbook and character personal lives, and though things are mentioned within this space, Ayoub never makes us feel like we need to see them play out.

Being a book about modern teenagers, there’s naturally a lot of social media to include and Ayoub integrates technology and texting seamlessly and creatively. Each character shift is broken up with a Facebook style post and it sets the tone for not only the coming chapter, but it fits into the overall and arching story. Ayoub also ends each chapter with a hanging question, a moment, or thought that can be profound or concerning. Each character is contemplating or observing and it’s a great tactic; it finalises their chapter and can have such an impact on what has happened or what is going to happen.

There are characters you like immediately and certainly those you don’t like for the entire novel. Then there are the few that grow on you as you read. The more Ayoub reveals about them and the more you get to know them your feelings shift until you grow to respect each one for who they are. Again, not everyone, some of them you want to kick in the face, those feelings don’t change. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and hug these people, even now having finished it I still want to give them all a massive hug. One part that I loved was that so many characters connect with each other and overlap and they don’t always know it. Friends of friends and relatives of others know one another and when you notice you realise how connected everyone is.

Getting to see each committee member’s point of view is a powerful tool. You feel sorry for them all in varying degrees and certainly for various reasons. Their life outside of school is opened up and the different struggles and conflicts they face are laid bare, making you realise everyone has something to hide and problems of their own. The Tolstoy quote Gillian posts is a perfect example: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Each of these characters is unhappy in their own way and sometimes these unhappinesses can break your heart.

Ayoub doesn’t placate you with idealistic and fake endings; she offers you solutions and results, consequences and outcomes. And yet, there is also a delightful ambiguity remaining, taunting you with things left open and unanswered. Nothing that says there will be a happily ever after which is why, in those final emotional chapters when you can’t stand it anymore but have to keep reading, Ayoub delivers a realistic and perfect conclusion, one that suits these characters you’ve grown to love, one that feels real, one that crushes your heart and is feels just right, even when you’re trying not to cry.

My only criticism with this story (a minor personal desire), is that I wish that we could have seen the final yearbook layout. It would have been a bittersweet inclusion and if possible I would happily donate to a fund that gets this put into production. Until such time, I am content with this important, beautiful, and divine story that will open your eyes and move your soul.

You can purchase The Yearbook Committee via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Readings | Publisher

A&R Bookworld| Boomerang Books

AWW16

Previous Older Entries