Well, another book that I haven’t read to start off this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. For the rules of the game, see here. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.
The first book is Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham. I don’t know anything about this book except that it’s a fictionalized story of Hilary Clinton. Of course, Hilary never got to be President, but someone who did get to be Prime Minister was Julia Gillard which leads me to…
The Gillard Project (2015) was written by her speechwriter, Michael Cooney. I really intended to read Julia Gillard’s own autobiography – which I even purchased and even now is still sitting in its paper bag unopened- but I picked this up while waiting for books to be delivered at the State Library. It’s interesting that Julia Gillard is best known for her misogyny speech (“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man”) which was delivered off the cuff, and not written by a speechwriter at all.
One of the best known recent prime ministerial speechwriters is Don Watson, whose Recollections of a Bleeding Heart I loved, but did not review in this blog. However, Don Watson was originally a historian and Caledonia Australis was a very early book, first published in 1984 and republished in 1997 and 2009. It is about the Scots emigration to Australia, starting back with the Highland Clearances, then hones in on Angus Macmillan, the so-called ‘Father’ of Gippsland. Although lionized as a ‘pioneer’ in times gone past, Angus Macmillan bears a more ambiguous reputation today – and indeed, his statue was recently targeted as part of the Black Lives Matter Campaign (although it still stands – for now).
Don Watson wrote about Gippsland, to the east of Melbourne, but Margaret Kiddle wrote about the Western Districts in her Men of Yesterday, which was written in 1961. It’s a rather unfashionable and blinkered book today, with its blithe dismissal of the dispossession of the indigenous people on the lands that her forebears “took up”. But it is beautifully written, and I wish that I had blogged about it in more detail (and in fact, I’ve included it in a Six Degrees previously, so it certainly made an impression).
Clang! Here I go off onto a digression. “Yesterday” surely evokes the Beatles, rousing all my baby boomer enthusiasms. Looking Through You: Rare and Unseen Photographs from the Beatles Book Archive is a collection of photographs of the Fab Four taken by photographer Leslie Bryce. They were originally published in a small A5 booklet format called The Beatles Monthly Book. They’re beautifully clear photographs, many of which I hadn’t seen before.
The Beatles came from Liverpool of course, and Liverpool is one of the settings in Peter Behren’s The Law of Dreams (2006), which awarded the Canadian Governor-Generals Literary Award for Fiction. It reminded me of a Canadian version of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, because both books are written about one of the author’s forebears and their journey to a British settler colony. In this case young Fergus, orphaned by the Irish Potato Famine, ends up in Liverpool working on railway construction, before heading for America.
And here I’m feeling very smug at ending up with Barak Obama’s Dreams from My Father (1995), which of course leads me right back to where I began with the American presidency (although, of course, Obama actually won). A beautifully written book, penned years before the Presidency, which makes you miss him even more and despair at what replaced him.