Monthly Archives: June 2019

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 26-31 May 2019

Background Briefing: The sexual abuse scandal nobody’s talking about.  Putting someone you love into aged care is such a hard thing for everyone. The current commission into aged care and this Background Briefing program must make it even harder. The sexual abuse in this program is not from other patients but from the ‘carers’ in a system where providers seem to have all the clout. Carers are not registered, and there’s no mandatory reporting. What a terrifying situation to be in for people in aged care who realize what is happening.

eustace_hamilton_miles

Eustace Hamilton Miles Source: Wikimedia

Arts and Ideas (BBC) Healthy Eating Edwardian Style. This program tells the story of Eustace Hamilton Miles, an Olympian  real tennis player (yes, real [royal] tennis was an Olympic sport in 1908 only) who promoted many different fad diets over his career. He started a vegetarian restaurant in Charing Cross, (even though he eschewed the term ‘vegetarian’), which became notorious for its links with the suffragettes, who regularly ate their. Although his restaurants and health food stores prospered during WWI, his ideas went out of fashion and he died leaving only 175 pounds. His ideas were at their most popular in the first two decades of the 20th century, a time when sleeping in the fresh air on a verandah was very popular.

New Books in History  This is pretty hard-core history which assumes that one is on top of all the historiographical debates that surround the book being featured. In this case, it was Jeremy Black’s The World at War 1914-1945.  My word, what a productive historian Jeremy Black is, with 100 titles to his name – five in 2019 so far: no wonder he’s known as “the most prolific historical scholar of our age”. Anyway, he snipes at other historians, refutes the idea that the first and second world wars replicated each other, and argues that the Germans started it. This episode, steeped in military history, is very bloke-y and combative and this article, from the centre-right Standpoint magazine, tells more about this historian I’d never heard of.  This is not entertainment-light by any means, and I think you’d have to be interested in military and world history to really enjoy this.

Conversations (ABC)  Felafel and Fatherhood a rather lacklustre conversation with John Birmingham  who wrote He Died with a Felafel in his Hand (which I’ve never read) and has recently released On Father, one of those small ‘On…’ books. Not one of the better interviews.

Movie: Destroyer

Counting up on Wikipedia, Nicole Kidman’s filmography comes out at more than 60 movies.  She can be forgiven, then, for the occasional dud. But Destroyer isn’t a dud, and she is brilliant. Told in present day, where Kidman plays haggard, dysfunctional cop Erin Bell, the film flashes back where she plays that same cop some 30 years earlier, operating undercover in a gang that holds up a bank with tragic consequences.  There’s a fair bit of violence in the film, both in the present day and flashback sequences, and rather too much of ‘old’ Kidman staring impassively at the camera. The makeup is excellent, as ‘young’ Kidman doesn’t look all that different to how she looked 30 years ago in her early films.  Certainly, there’s little of the cool sophistication of many of the characters she tends to play now.

My rating: 4 stars

‘The Glad Shout’ by Alice Robinson

The-Glad-Shout-Alice-Robinson

2019, 310 p

This book opens right in the middle of the action, with Isobel clutching onto the arm of her husband Shaun, with her daughter Matilda clamped to her hip. They are in what reads like the MCG in Melbourne, which has been turned into an emergency evacuation centre after Melbourne has been lashed by a destructive storm. Set in a near future, encroaching sea levels have poisoned bayside gardens and lap the boulevards along the bay, and with storm damage making places uninsurable, the suburbs have become increasingly derelict and dangerous.  We have seen flashes of this in our news already: the Louisiana Superdome stadium after Hurricane Katrina, the huge waves crashing onto the Malecon in Havana Cuba, people sitting on their roofs in Queensland floods, awaiting rescue. In The Glad Shout, Robinson sets her story after the consequences of climate change have come crashing, literally, into Melbourne. Tasmania, which has heeded the perils of climate change, is still safe; Western Australia has finally seceded, and the other states are closing their borders against the climate refugees who want to join family members interstate and escape this climate nightmare.

The book has two narratives, told in alternating chapters. The present-day chapters, written in the present tense, have Isobel having to fend for herself in the stadium and finally making the decision to leave, putting her own life and that of her daughter into the hands of people-smugglers. We’ve seen this scenario too: people crammed onto dinghies with insufficient food and water, the lifejackets and the oil slick of dysfunctional engines.

The other narrative is flashback to Isobel’s tense relationship with her mother Luna, her sometimes ambivalent love for her husband Shaun, her guilt over her own mothering of Matilda. Her mother Luna, who had purchased the house that was swamped by floodwaters, was a real-estate agent and property investor. She placed great store on possessions and wealth, and she grieved intensely when Isobel’s brother, Josh, left home. Much of the flashback sections is involved with the nuances and Isobel’s sense of grievance over the people who surround her, and her conflicted relationship with motherhood, both as daughter and mother herself.

There’s always a risk in having double narratives running through a novel. Too often, as in this case, one is more compelling than the other, and so the reader feels a sense of impatience at having to wade through this section before reaching the next. I tired of the flashbacks, which bordered on the banal, and rather implausibly, they increasingly found their way into the present-day-disaster section as well. I suspect that the author herself has young children, and perhaps its my middle-agedness that makes me impatient of her obsession with her birth-experience with Matilda: something that is only a small part of the relationship between mother and child, in the long run. I wouldn’t presume to know what those exhausted, bedraggled mothers we see on television stumbling ashore from refugee boats had been thinking on the journey. But I suspect that they haven’t been mentally rehashing the slights and annoyances of their relationship with their mother, or castigating themselves for their ambivalence over their own motherhood.

On the other hand, I liked her celebration of  women’s strength in an emergency. I liked the politics of climate change and refugee policy being brought into the personal realm, and her exploration of the instincts of maternity, survival and communality in the midst of disaster.  I think that these will be the things that I take away from the novel, and that will keep it memorable. I just wish that there had been less of the emotional angst over relationships and human frailty.

My rating: 8/10

Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

AWW2019I have included this on the Australian Women Writers Challenge database