Posts tagged books
Posts tagged books
When a boy sold into slavery finds the courage to escape, he is saved by a mysterious stranger, who raises the boy as his own.
Renamed Cesare Montenero after Sicily’s own black mountain, Mount Etna, the boy begins to develop unusual talents, and discovers that he has more in common with his saviour than he imagined. And when he meets the enigmatic Celeste, he suspects for the first time that he may not be alone.
Based on factual events and ranging through Italy, Paris and the rural fringes of coastal Australia, Black Mountain is a haunting exploration of what it means to be human.
I have recently reviewed this book for an online journal and my review can be found at
I came to this book via Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, a fiction novel that I enjoyed very much. In the list of research sources McLain cites A Moveable Feast as one of her sources. A friend who also read The Paris Wife (we belong to the same book group and it was one of our reading list books) bought Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and then offered to loan it to me. I am so glad she did that. I really enjoyed the book as Hemingway writes his memories, sort of journal-style, of his time in Paris when he was early 20s and it was the 1920s. He has deliberately avoided trying to introduce his own personal life too much in relation to his first marriage, and yet there are little bits of his personal life with Hadley and later their son Mr Bumby and even FPuss their cat who faithfully guarded their infant son.
What I most liked about this work though is the insights into his writing process that it provides, his times when he was frustrated with his lack of progress, the moments of writer’s block and how he sought overcome them. His pursuit of the ‘one true sentence’ and his constant editing and refining. ‘It could take a whole morning to write a paragraph’.
His writing is lean, and he deplores descriptive paragraphs for their own sake, yet his whole book is one long description; of his work and the process of writing, of certain of his friends and fellow writers, and through it all the fact that he didn’t bemoan his poverty, but allowed it to be a spur towards discipline.
I shall have to purchase a copy of this for my own book shelf as a re-read in moments when I wonder about why I like words, or to write them. It will be a spur to maintain a discipline of practise and to not fear the process of redrafting and refinement until the best one can do is the goal.
I have just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLaine and found it so moving even though it is a fictionalised account of the marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway.
Now I’ll just have to rear some Hemingway.
Couldn’t stop reading this one. I like Peter Goldsworthy’s writing, having come across his short stories previously. The development of a relationship around the central theme of music whilst not necessarily a new theme is dealt with in a most refreshingly insightful way in this novel. Then there’s the element of ‘coming-of-age’ that almost tattered reference to a story that documents youthful passage into the next phase of the transition from child through youth to almost adult.
Paul Crabbe the young pianist who is the narrator of much of the story, is a young hopeful in the music scene. Parental expectation is balanced with the always mysterious driving force to prove to The Maestro, Eduard Keller, that he, Paul Crabbe, is the stuff of which concert pianists are made, indeed that he is almost above expectation. The Maestro takes it all on board, but also continually drips luke-warm responses that drive this youth all the more forcefully.
Alongside this is the mystery of just who Eduard Keller, The Maestro, really is. Is he a has-been on the concert circuit for instance, now reduced to alcoholism and solitude? What lies in The Maestro’s past that he refuses to address even when questioned directly?
An excellently told story, containing well chosen imagery. I could feel the claustrophobic steamy Darwin Wet and welcome the clear blue-skied, frosty night times of the Dry. The cicadas and frogs and whining hum of the mosquito not far away throughout reading this wonderful book.
Likewise as realisation of just what was within grasp hits the mature Paul Crabbe, I too felt the sadness of opportunities missed as choices were made. A reminder that it is important to remember to listen, not just to words, but to body language, to look closely in order to read the soul behind the eyes, the smile, the gesture of a hand. To read the signs that sometimes speak more loudly than any words uttered.
This was a Christmas gift and one I shall return to many times in the future.
My most recent book review for Transnational Literature Online Journal is available at
Thanks to Gillian Dooley, Editor, Transnational Literature for the opportunity to contribute to the November 2012 issue.
I’ve just finished reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - a debut novel of great beauty. Inspired by the discovery of a children’s picture book retelling the Russian folk tale of Snegurochka - a snow maiden. The author includes a version of the tale titled The Little Daughter of the Snow by Arthur Ransome as a conclusion.
I really couldn’t stop reading this book and had to make myself put it aside to take the dog walking, to do necessary tasks. I also didn’t want it to end it is so well told, and I enjoyed spending time with the characters who are still very much alive in my thoughts as I return to the everyday.
It is a magical story. Jack and Mabel have moved to Alaska at Mabel’s instigation. She expects them to build a new life following the birth of a stillborn child. Both are grieving; they longed for child, but being older know there isn’t a likelihood of another baby. Initially they barely communicate, but at the first snowfall, as if the universe intended it, they suddenly head out to play snowballing one another like they are once more youthful lovers. Suddenly inspired they build a snow child, a little girl. Mabel dresses her in a red scarf and mittens and Jack creates a beautiful sculptured face, they stand back to admire their creation. So begins a most unlikely event for this aging couple as the next morning they find their snow child was destroyed overnight and the mittens and scarf are gone. Later, much later, they spy a girl in the forest wearing the scarf and mittens and gradually befriend her.
What follows is an interesting story that in the telling explores love and friendship; grief and depression alongside moments of fun and laughter; freedom and partnership between husband and wife, parents and children, friends and community. It also brings to life the remotness experienced by the early settlers in areas of Alaska. The environment both in its beauty and its harshness exploring it’s forests and mountains for the abundance of indigenous edible plants as well as that of animal life. It depicts the hardship borne by settlers in early Alaskan communities as they clear and establish crops gradually making productive farms and eking out a simple livelihood. It also shows how the human spirit that makes peace with hardship and looks at human creativity to draw from nature’s bounty and beauty to create a sense of home.
I highly recommend this novel.
If you are interested to know more here are links to the author’s website
and there is a delightful animated promo for the novel at the head of the home page as well as selection of cover artwork that is equally gorgeous.