More reading this month, thanks to some time off and finding some great, rocketing fiction to read.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
This was a good novel to read after work as the twisting, intertwining and somewhat magical plot was really engaging and kept me wanting to know what would happen next. Alongside the great plot, Murakami’s writing itself is beautiful and full of gems – turns of phrase, sentences, paragraphs – that beg to be written down and revisited. For example, the following paragraph absolutely hit a nail on the head:
Adults are forever raising the bar on clever children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks they are set and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they naturally have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were. Next to impossible, in most cases.
The Dry by Jane Harper
Another totally engaging novel which I read in two days (admittedly one of those was a day off). I loved it so much that almost as soon as I had finished it, I started (and rocketed through) another Harper novel, this one titled The Lost Man. Both The Dry and The Lost Man are murder mysteries set against the vast Australian outback with its cattle stations, droughts and small yet incredibly complex and fraught communities. If you’re looking for something well-written but easy to sink your teeth into, both The Dry and The Lost Man are for you.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
This is a slim book featuring two short(ish) stories which share a magical quality with Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. This is a book about serendipity and the way our lives, however seemingly separate, are connected by shared experiences of love and loss.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
A few months after this was the assigned book club reading, I finally got to it. Becoming is a rare book in that its appeal spans the generations – my Great Aunt read and loved it, as did my Mum, as did my fourteen-year-old cousin, as did I. I particularly enjoyed learning how Michelle and Barack met, as well as getting a behind the scenes look behind being First Lady of the USA. Michelle’s drive to do something meaningful and useful with her life and skills really resonated with me as someone whose whole aim in work and life more broadly is to live a life filled with meaning and purpose.
Beauty by Bri Lee
This slim tome by the author of the incredible Eggshell Skull is quite an intense read in that it is a brutally honest account of Lee’s struggle with her eating and body. But for that very reason, it is also a mightily important read. Its description of the double standard we hold – one expectation for ourselves (having to be perfect and never quite attaining that), another for everyone else (they are perfect just the way they are) – hit home for me as someone who rages against the unfair beauty standards society sets for women but then still looks in the mirror and picks apart the body reflected there. One of my housemates read it after me and found it similarly intense because for her, as for me, it totally hit the nail on the head. Housemate number three is currently reading or preparing to read it. A housemate book club of sorts is likely to ensue.
One Story, One Song by Richard Wagamese
I must confess I haven’t actually finished this book yet, but I am more than half way through and absolutely loving it. Having read two of Wagamese’s novels, Indian Horse and Medicine Walk, I knew this would be a well written piece of non-fiction and my goodness it is. Broken up into short (typically three to five page) reflections, I find myself nodding, smiling and wanting to write down quotes with almost every page I read. This book contains so much wisdom, kindness, warmth. So much of all that is good and wonderful in this world. I am reading it slowly to really savour the beauty of Wagamese’s words and the depth of his reflections. Cannot recommend highly enough and cannot thank my housemate enough for introducing me to Wagamese.
A new discovery for me, although the existing podcast episodes were released earlier this year. Hosted by Amy Thunig, each episode is a yarn with a First Nations academic. Guests include Professor Marcia Langton AM (Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies and Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne) and Professor Anita Heiss (author of some amazing fiction and non-fiction books I have written about on my blog). I love the way Thunig goes back to basics with these esteemed academics, asking them about their families and getting them to explain academic concepts like doing an Honours year.
The second season of this wonderful podcast focuses on lessons we can learn from history about the current COVID-19 pandemic. The way creator and host Tim Harford links different ideas, research and historical events together into digestible 30-minute episodes is fantastic. A great way to get some perspective on what’s happening in the present, which often seems overwhelmingly bad.
In My Blood It Runs
This critically acclaimed documentary is told through the eyes of 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, Dujuan, and his family. It shows just how far we still have to come as non-Indigenous Australians in revolutionising our institutions and attitudes. The scene which stuck with me is the one where a white teacher reads a picture book about Captain Cook ‘discovering’ Australia to a group of mostly Indigenous children. Their very presence in the room highlights the absolute untruth of the story the teacher is telling and yet that’s still the story on the curriculum.
Self-care action and event
My major self-care action and the major event for July was five days away at Freycinet National Park. I am incredibly lucky to live in Tasmania where there are currently no active COVID-19 cases, meaning it is possible to go on a trip within the state. I had a very Emma few days of hiking during the day, then snuggling up in the late afternoon/evening with a cup of tea and a book or a crossword or a TV show, or all three (not all at once of course).
The highlight hike was climbing Mount Amos (photo below is me on top of it). This is a challenging climb which requires use of all four limbs to safely make it to the top. Part hike, part rock climb, the concentration required to navigate the slippery granite slabs helps you to forget about your bursting lungs. The view when you emerge from the climb is sensational and an appropriate reward for the effort. Not one to attempt unless you are fit and well kitted out (hiking boots are a must).
The highlight bird sighting were the hooded plovers I encountered on Hazards Beach and again on the Friendly Beaches. These birds are classed as vulnerable in Victoria (my former home) and while I had seen signs warning visitors to certain areas to avoid walking on the dunes to protect the plovers and their nests, I’d never seen one of these birds before. In Tasmania, the species is classed as secure and the dozens of birds I saw seem to reflect this. They are petite shorebirds with beautiful markings and a hilarious habit of standing near the water but running away as if in fright every time the water touches their feet – ie every minute or so. The photos below shows a group of seven hooded plovers on Hazards Beach.
Special mention must also go to a Sunday outing a few weeks back down to Snug Falls just south of Hobart. I took a friend with me to the hike which was run by a hiking group I am part of. The group of seven of us had fun squelching our way through the mud down to the falls and back again. The friend and I then came back to Hobart via Margate where we stopped in at a lovely fresh produce store called Meredith’s Orchard followed by an amazing and decadent lunch at Margate’s ‘Pancake Train’, a pancake restaurant in an old train. Pictures of the falls and my pancake lunch are below.
That’s it for July, although I feel certain I’ve forgotten something!
Love, hope and peace from Emma.