Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I really, really wish Victoria Hannan hadn’t started Kokomo with a sex scene. The tone of the scene is not representative of the remaining 294 pages, which are insightful, subtle, and wonderfully atmospheric.

On the other hand, maybe that sex scene is exactly representative of the book – that all is not as it appears. The book takes it’s name from the Beach Boys song. Apt, because while we think Kokomo is a song about a tropical island paradise, it is in fact “…not even a real place … Well, it is, but it’s an industrial city in Indiana…” And like the song, the characters in Hannan’s novel appear one way, but their inner lives reveal something quite different – full of complexities, insecurities, desires. Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

01. Saw the MTC production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time a fortnight ago. The set (I took a sneaky pic before the show started) and the way that it was used to ‘reshape’ the stage was extraordinary, with the grid points on the box stage lighting up to show emotions, places, and movement. Continue reading

Graeme Simsion and The Rosie Project


Last night I had the pleasure of popping along to the Fitzroy Town Hall to hear Graeme Simsion talk about his worldwide bestseller, The Rosie Project.

As I have mentioned, The Rosie Project is the only book I’ve read this year that I’d recommend to everybody – it’s very funny, it’s romantic (but certainly not in a schmaltzy way) and there’s a few twists to keep you reading right until the very last page.

Simsion’s path to publishing The Rosie Project was unusual. Although he had always harbored a secret desire to write a novel (and in fact read Hemingway and Miller in his twenties and thought, ‘Okay, I can do that!’, only to discover that it was not so simple), he embarked on a career in IT. And then he read a life-changing book – The Unkindest Cut by Joe Queenan. It’s a true account of trying to make a movie on a $7000 budget. Simsion, excited by the thought of doing the same, persuaded his wife (who is an author) to make one of her stories into a movie. Simsion set about writing the screenplay, filming it and eventually showing it in Melbourne’s Kino cinema. The exercise cost more than $7000… Continue reading

‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion

Ordinarily I finish a book and bang out a review a day or two later.

It’s more than two weeks since I finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. What’s taken me so long to write a review? I guess I’m a little conflicted about this book. First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s quirky, funny and a completely original love story.

It’s the story of Don Tillman, a university genetics professor. Don is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. He’s designed a very detailed questionnaire (The Wife Project) to help him find the perfect woman.

“Gene and Claudia tried for a while to assist me with the Wife Problem. Unfortunately, their approach was based on the traditional dating paradigm, which I had previously abandoned on the basis that the probability of success did not justify the effort and negative experiences.” Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Books I’ve Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new ‘top ten’ challenge is posted – anyone can join in. This week’s topic is ‘Top Ten Favorite Books You’ve Read During The Lifespan Of Your Blog’. I have a 5/5 section so that great books are just a click away but here are my faves (since December last year… I’m new to this gig) – Continue reading

‘Of A Boy’ by Sonya Hartnett

How did Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett escape my attention in the decade since it was first published? I have just finished it and I am shaking like a leaf.

The year is 1977, and Adrian is nine. He lives with his gran and his uncle Rory; his best friend is Clinton Tull. He loves to draw and he wants a dog; he’s afraid of quicksand and self-combustion. Adrian watches his suburban world, but there is much he cannot understand. He does not, for instance, know why three neighbourhood children might set out to buy ice-cream and never come back home…

I read this book with a mother’s grief as my constant companion. Grief over the missing children. Grief for Adrian – separated from his mother and feeling so alone in the world. It was in fact Adrian’s loneliness, combined with that special brand of self-centred pragmatism that kids have, that I found incredibly heartbreaking. If you’ve ever observed a child sitting alone in a playground, you’ll know what I mean. Continue reading

‘House of Sticks’ by Peggy Frew

I was looking forward to House of Sticks by Peggy Frew – it was getting rave reviews, including this enticing description of Frew’s style – “Helen Garner meets Henry James”.

I love Helen Garner! I really love Henry James!

Oh dear. I didn’t love House of Sticks.

It’s the story of Bonnie, a musician who gave up performing to become a stay-at-home mum. She tells herself she has no regrets, but sometimes the isolation and the relentless demands of three small children threaten to swamp the love between Bonnie and her partner, Pete.

I won’t dwell too much, short of saying I found the characters obvious and one-dimensional. Frew’s attempt to build tension around the character of Doug, a family friend, seemed contrived. Yet, just when that part of the story is progressing, it falls away and other characters become the focus.

Peppered throughout the story are Frew’s close observations of everyday life –

“Pete passed her the cup, and she fitted it to the thermos and wound it tightly, feeling the seal take hold.”

Again, I wasn’t a fan. These little details didn’t read seamlessly with the rest of the text. Maybe if I was a Year 12 student using this book as a study text I’d look for all the nice analogies that are no doubt buried within the pages. But I’m not a Year 12 student, I’m a mum who was looking forward to a good beach read. Bummer.

Read House of Sticks with an ice-cold Vitamin Water – you’ll need the energy.

1/5 (in other words, stick to Garner and James).