Out of the house

Super Hero Free Afternoon: Gone Girl

As I was sitting through the previews at the movies on Sunday, I caught myself flinching and looking to my left when some Hollywood super star or another dropped the F-bomb. It was then I realised – there’s only grown-ups here with me today, and I’m pretty sure they can handle a swear word or two…

What a shock when it registered just how long it had been since I had gone to a movie with other adults, and not my kids. I sighed a contented sigh at the prospect of (1) seeing a film that did not have one single super hero in it; (2) seeing a film which was unlikely to involve any explosions and; (3) not needing to worry about what the person sitting next to me was hearing, seeing, or thinking.

tbyl reviewersIn short, despite the sometimes grubby content matter of the film, Gone Girl, it was always going to be a great day at the movies. The fact that a bunch of TBYL Reviewers and I had managed to get out of the house together made it all the sweeter.

I’d been looking forward to seeing Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, in the way that one normally does with a film based on a book they’ve enjoyed – with equal parts excitement and trepidation. The general assumption that ‘the movie is never as good as the book’ holds true in many instances, and many a good reading experience has been tarnished by a shoddy film adaption. Despite this, I had seen the trailer and my first impressions had been that the look of the film seemed pretty spot on, and the casting was right on the money. I thought it would be worth a watch.

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I’m not a huge Ben Affleck fan, I find him just a little bit boring (sorry!), but I really think that he was a perfect fit for Nick Dunne. Rosamund Pike is an interesting actor, with a most definite ‘dark horse’ aspect to her acting, so again I thought her pretty right as Amy Dunne.

As it happens Rosamund played Amy more in the realm of ‘mad as a cut snake’ than just simply dark, and created a truly deplorable character, quite clearly capable of anything. And I mean anything. The most violent and disturbing scenes of this film all centre around her, perpetrated as a means for her to see her way clear of the gigantic mess she finds herself in.

Affleck, as Nick played dull, disengaged husband to a tee. He was convincingly emotionally awkward, making the whole ‘most probably a wife-killer’ part of this story believable. This, of course, is very important to the story, we need to believe that Nick is not a nice guy.

Now, this of course is where I ponder on the great metaphysical conundrum of book-to-film adaptions. What would this film have been like if I hadn’t read the book?  Would the movie have been more suspenseful, if I’d not known the twist? Would I have guessed what was coming? Would I have been as gripped by this pretty detailed, fairly dialogue-driven story, if I was not, as a reader, waiting to see how the story would unfold on screen? My sister (and TBYL Reviewer) Tam was sitting with me, and she’d not read the book. I asked her after the movie what she thought, and she assured me that her head was still spinning. She didn’t see the Second Act coming at all, and the story did not at all end up where, at the the beginning of the film, she thought it would be.

She found it suspenseful, frightening and above all, pretty gripping. In her opinion, the reasonably long playing time of this film (about 2 and half hours) went really quickly, it didn’t drag at any point.


Personally, I felt the same way – Gone Girl held my attention from start to finish (as had the novel). Perhaps some of the chill, the suspense was taken out of it for me, knowing which way the wind was going to turn but I don’t think that’s a major problem at all, it was still a pretty wild ride.

Gone Girl is not for the faint of heart, and at times gets quite nasty. It’s necessary to the story so I didn’t have any issue with it, and it’s by far not the most disturbing film I’ve seen. Nonetheless, if you don’t like blood or swearing, perhaps give this movie a miss. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this movie, especially to lovers of crime and suspense. It’s a well put together story, well acted (mostly) and leaves you wondering, what next?

Gone Girl is in cinemas now.

If you’re interested, you’ll find my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, here…

 

My Picks: MWF 2014

It’s that time of year again, when I buy my one newspaper for the year, and carefully extract and peruse the Melbourne Writers Festival program for 2014. I booked my leave from work and bought my Paperback Pass.

I spent the better part of an afternoon working my way through the program, with an incredibly diverse range of writers, readers and thinkers to choose from, I didn’t want to rush it. There are over 400 events to pick from, on almost as many different topics.

After much consideration these are my selections…

GeraldineGeraldine Doogue: Women of Influence
“Geraldine Doogue and Louise Adler discuss The Climb: Conversations with Australian women in power, Doogue’s inquiry into how the beliefs and values of Australian women are changing, informed by candid and personal conversations with 14 of Australia’s most powerful women.”

I don’t know who the fourteen women are, but I can’t wait to find out. I’m fairly sure I’ll be inspired but the end of this session.

Sonya Hartnett: In Conversation
“Sonya Hartnett is an outstanding and versatile author who can probe psychological states with uncanny accuracy and depth. A writer who has always pushed the boundaries of literature for both adults and young people, Hartnett returns to adult fiction with Golden Boys, a dark suburban tale. In conversation with Jo Case”

Probably no surprise to anyone that I booked a ticket for this one, quick-smart. I’m a big fan of Sonya’s writing, particularly her books Of a Boy, and The Midnight Zoo. As an special treat, this is a free session, being held mid-week at the Wheeler Centre.

mwf2014fullPhilip Hensher: Handwriting
“When English writer Philip Hensher realised he didn’t know what a close friend’s handwriting looked like, he felt that something essential was missing. Hensher explores the lost art of handwriting, how it made us who we are, and why it still matters. In conversation with David Astle.”

I love handwriting, and am always buoyed when I hear of someone else who does too. Plus, I’m looking forward to hearing from David Astle, I’ve been part-way through reading his book Cluetopia for months.

Media Makers: Media Darlings
“Simon Crerar (Buzzfeed), Emily Wilson (The Guardian) and Barrie Barton (The Thousands) will take part in a broad-ranging and diverse discussion about media in Australia and how a new spate of international online mastheads are changing our media landscape. In conversation with Gay Alcorn.”

In today’s life and times, this topic is not only interesting, but incredibly important. Diversity is key.

Limits of Fiction
“Australian Mark Henshaw and British writer Philip Hensher discuss the interplay of voice, form and structure in their writing and how novelists can exploit other forms of writing, such as thrillers and memoir, to create something new. In conversation with James Ley.”

With this session, I continue my quest to pin down exactly what makes a good novel tick. What makes some writing work and some not, how can an author drag you in to their tale and not let go until the final page (and them some)??

john safranTrue Crime
“John Safran (Murder in Mississippi) and Julie Szego (The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama) have each turned their hand to writing true crime after stumbling across their Truman Capote moment. They discuss their immersion into the complex worlds of crime and justice. In conversation with Damien Carrick.”

Having read Murder in Mississippi earlier this year, I’m keen to hear from John and Julie. I’m hoping they might be able to shed some light on what it is about True Crime that fascinates readers so much, despite (or because of) all its horror.

There are also a handful of free sessions I’ll try and get along to as well. As you can see, I’ve been able to pick a really interesting range of sessions – different topics, people, opinions. Now to just wait until August!

The festival will be held, at venues around Victoria, from 21 – 31 August 2014, and you can find out more about MWF 2014 at their website. You can check out this year’s program here…

Are you going to be at MWF 2014? I’d love to hear about what you’re going to see…

Epic: The Turning

You might remember that a month or so ago, during the Melbourne Film Festival, I attended a session at The Forum that featured a varied cast of writers and directors, who’d come together to talking about their part in the epic film project The Turning.

A unique cinema event The Turning involved seventeen talented Australian directors from diverse artistic disciplines, each given the task of creating a chapter of the hauntingly beautiful novel by multi award-winning author Tim Winton.

Hugo Weaving as Bob Lang, Commission (based on Tim Winton's The Turning) - Photograph by David Dare Parker Commission David Dare Parker

The end product promises to be nothing short of spectacular, the linking and overlapping stories explore the extraordinary turning points in ordinary people’s lives in a stunning portrait of a small coastal community. As characters face second thoughts and regret, relationships irretrievably alter, resolves are made or broken, and lives change direction forever.

Long Clear View

This watershed film reinterprets and re-imagines Tim’s classic novel for the screen.

It’s hard to describe in words the beauty of these films, so I’d encourage you to take a look at some of the shorts yourself, here…

Sand

It promises to be an event, not just a film. Running for around 3 hours with an intermission, limited screenings of this exciting film is a complete night out. You can find out where it’s showing via their website www.theturning.com.au

Reunion
What a wonderfully bookish way to spend an evening – I hope you’ll consider going along, I know I’m certainly going to! Feel free to pop by and let us know what you think, it promises to be a very special experience…

 

MWF 2013 Take 2

I’ve finally caught up on everything that I’d put to one side while I was at the MWF, which means I’ve got time now to give you a run down on my second weekend at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

With Oscar now at school, I was able to swing into the city for a few Friday sessions, a first for me.

20130909-133130.jpgWith barely a minute to spare, I found a seat just in time to listen to Eric Beecher, Pamela Willams and Mark Forbes in the session; ‘The News About News’ (as part of the New News Conference). This incredible panel, filthy rich with journalism experience, provided a level of insight into the workings of media that I’d never thought I’d get. It was a rare opportunity and one I relished.

Eric provided a vital, impartial and slightly rebellious perspective to the conversation, whilst Pam and Mark spoke passionately about the future of Fairfax, the nurturing of quality journalism and the economic challenges facing traditional media, particularly as it struggles to find a new, workable business model. It was even suggested at one point that newspapers may in fact need to be run as not-for-profits or charities in order to ensure their survival. They are that important.

The panel was trying to communicate hope, whilst at question time, the audience brought to bear a far greater degree of scepticism. It was difficult to know whether Pam and Mark spoke positively from a position of employee-loyalty, professional passion or blind optimism. It was, nonetheless reassuring to hear that individuals working at top levels of the media game are still talking the talk, and hopefully also walking the walk.

I finished up at this session and headed to ‘The Politics of Sex’ featuring Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel and Anna Krien, author of Night Games. It was chaired by Sophie Cunningham who added her own experience and intelligence to the topic.

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Shereen spoke of her experience of sexuality in the Arab world and Anna concentrated mainly on her investigations into sexuality as found in amongst the sporting clubs of Australia. Their contexts were different, as were their experiences, but the central issues were similar – the balance of power between genders, the perception of women – positive, negative and indifferent, and the overall conversations occurring within these environments (or in fact, the lack thereof).

I found this session frightening, and at times confronting. Still, it was quite constructive, with both writers suggesting ways that they believed change might come about and communications that might aid in addressing the current disconnect between the genders and help us all to behave a bit better towards each other.

I travelled home pondering on some pretty big topics.

Saturday morning was an absolute highlight for me, as I attended a seminar called ‘The Art of Literary Criticism’ with Jeremy Harding, contributing editor and Mary-Kay Wilmer, editor of the London Review of Books.

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As you know, I love to review books – to read them, to reflect on their content, their context, and their purpose. I enjoy putting them into place within my own experiences and to consider who might love them and why.

This session provided some incredible advice regarding evaluating a text, describing it to a reader, essentially telling the story of the book. Mary-Kay and Jeremy offered advice as to how best approach reviewing a book, should you not like it, treating it in such a way that a constructive and readable account can still be created.

The London Review of Books are publishers of the fine art of long-form journalism, and as such, I was thrilled to hear more of what it takes to put three, four, or five thousand words together on a bookish topic, how it is then edited and finally the joy that comes of having it read and appreciated by many.

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After this session, I put aside my pride and had Jeremy and Mary-Kay sign my copy of London Review of Books and had a little chat with Jeremy about That Book You Like. I hope I came across okay…

Finally, before heading home I had the privilege of having tea with the very talented Claire Scobie, author of The Pagoda Tree (Penguin). We had a great chat about her book, which I’m reading at the moment, and tee’d up the next TBYL Event. Claire will be joining us online in October as part of the TBYL Book Club (The Pagoda Tree will be our book for October!)… keep an eye out for full details later in the week.

All up, the Melbourne Writers Festival 2013 has been fantastic. I’ve learnt so much and meet some really wonderful people. I’m already counting down the days until next year’s program…

 

MWF 2013 Take 1

After having such an incredible time last weekend at the Melbourne Writers Festival, I’m not quite sure where to start…

I’m getting set to go to more sessions tomorrow, but before that I thought it might be good to share with you guys a few choice statement, take-home messages, and curiosities from the sessions that I attended last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

An extremely busy Friday saw me running around after kids, backwards and forwards for the better part of the day. By the time I hopped on a train heading to Fed Square, I was well and truly ready for a little sit down and some me time. And what better way to wind-down than with a lecture from Peter Singer on how to best demonstrate effective altruism?

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Okay, so maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for me and I took home a lot after this session.

Singer weaved a well-considered logic, making it pretty clear that all of us can and should strive to find a way to contribute to the improvement of the lot of the world’s children, those who are unwell or vulnerable and creatures with no voice to speak up for themselves. He stopped short at saying that we have a moral obligation to do so, but essentially…

What was refreshing and inspiring was Singers’s focus on the variety of ways in which we might contribute. Suggestions were not prescriptive, rather, they were respectful of individual income, skill sets and personal motivations. Singer acknowledged and encouraged us to ask questions around the integrity of aid organisations and charities, encouraging a healthy level of scepticism and emphasising the term ‘effective’ in his Effective Altruism movement. The basic idea is to find the best way we can to do the most possible good.

Peter can sometimes be a little extreme in his beliefs, but tonight he avoided the ‘shock and awe’ and as I result, on leaving the auditorium, I felt convinced and compelled

Next up were a couple of sessions on Saturday afternoon, the first being ‘Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard’ with Catherine Deveny, Max Barry and Sean Condon. Essentially this session tried to get to the bottom of what it takes to write funny, and although wonderfully entertaining, I think the audience might of left none-the-wiser as to the answer to this question…

In short, being funny, for these three at least, isn’t as much a craft as it is a language. It’s the way they communicate and how they observe the world. As it is, that just happens to be humorous to others. And you know what? I think that’s fair enough.

20130829-144402.jpgMax read from his latest novel Lexicon, and although he offered the explanation that this was his least funny book, it still had that tell-tale smart-arsery that comedians can’t seem to altogether avoid. Catherine read from her novel The Happiness Show, in which her character’s internal dialogue suggesting shades of Catherine’s own busy, rapid external dialogue. I got the impression that her ‘accident novel’ would be pretty sharp and a bit of a trouble-maker. After sitting impatiently, shuffling and rolling his eyes while he waited for his turn, Sean Condon read next, but not from his newest book Splitsville but rather, two short pieces from an earlier work. They were funny pieces, but what was more entertaining was seeing just how funny Sean seemed to find himself.

At the end of the session, each writer did offer a pearl of wisdom regarding being funny… From Max, it was make sure you always pick something that amuses yourself. For Catherine, her philosophy is to ‘shit where you eat’ – I can only imagine this is so as to stir up as much trouble as possible, and Sean suggests starting with a great first sentence, and for that sentence to never start with a B. Righteo…

20130829-144338.jpgAfter this, I gathered my giggles and headed to ‘Tartan Noir’ where I heard from Doug Johnstone and Liam McIlvanney. Both readers of Scottish fiction and writers of crime fiction, Doug and Liam were wonderfully knowledgeable, offering a fascinating insight into Scottish culture and literature.

I now understand more of why literature is so important to Scotland, how authors like Ian Rankin, Irving Welsh and Doug Johnstone help to give Scotland a new, independent voice of its own.

Suffice to say I now have about a dozen new titles and authors to add to the reading list, Liam and Doug, Denise Mina and Caro Ramsay, as well as a hunt to track down a copy of the classic Laidlaw by William McIlvanney (on good authority, worth pursuit).

Sunday morning was an early start, and with tea in hand I bunkered down for a full day of MWF. It began with ‘No Safe Place’ featuring Deborah Ellis and Morris Gleitzman. This session was incredibly moving, and I think, very important. Deborah and Morris shared a little of their stories, of their conversations with children living in terrible circumstances and of the importance which they place on teaching children to consider their own ability to making the world that they want to live in.

The thing that stuck me the most about these two authors was the great admiration and respect that they had for their readers, in particular children between the ages of about 9 – 12 years-old. Morris reflected on the fact that “our awareness at 9 to 12 is starting to develop as we form our own individual moral landscape.” It is no doubt for this reason that he and Deborah feel to strongly about communicating with this audience – to teach them a little of what is going on the world, in the hope that they might grow up wiser, strong and more inclined to make a difference for the better.

I’ve always been a little worried about having Evan read these more seriously-themed books. I think now I’m convinced of the importance of doing so.

Next was an in conversation session with Michelle de Kretser, Miles Franklin Award winning author. Her newest novel Questions of Travel has been incredibly well received (she’s just won the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction) and her career has clearly gleaned her a huge following of loyal fans – the auditorium was full to the brim.

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I’ve not read her book yet, but nonetheless, it was very interesting to find out more about just why someone would take it upon themselves to write about what it is to travel – what does it mean to move around the world; for fun, for work or for protection?

Questions of Travel, with its starkly contrasting characters of Laura (young, wealthy, professional) and Ravi (seeking asylum from Sri Lankan unrest) is topical, highly relevant in our currently political environment.

Another book for the reading pile…

20130829-144442.jpgMy final session for Sunday (after a long lunch and a look around the Ian Potter Museum of Art) was ‘Destroying the Joint?’ with Stella Young, Jane Caro and Aidan Ricketts. They pondered on the question… “how many likes does it take to change the world?

You could sense the electricity in the air, a gathering of people searching for a way to influence their community for the better. Many were asking the question – can a Facebook page (i.e. Destroy the Joint) really have any kind of impact when trying to redress the gender imbalances that are becoming more and more obvious as a result of conversation, political events and social media?

After listening to Jane, Stella and Aidan (an expert in activism) I was in no doubt that it can certainly contribute, as every action to call out crappy behaviour is a good one, one worth making.

I’m so glad that I went to this session as next time I despair at the discrimination and difficulty that I see as pretty rampant in our current landscape, I’ll reassure myself a little with these three reminders:

1. Three people talking about equality can fill an auditorium.

2. Expressing outrage achieves nothing. You can use it to drive you, but take it out of your argument (Stella Young)

3. There is no magic key that will unlock good will. Rather, we must learn to appreciate the wins as they come and continue to move forward (Jane Caro).

And with that, Sunday was done and on that note, buoyed and encouraged I headed home.

I’ve more sessions coming up (you can see what I’m going to here) so stay tuned for Take 2 next week!

Do you go along to the Writers Festival in your area? What kinds of sessions do you like the most?

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It’s on: MWF 2013

The Melbourne Writers Festival kicks off for me tonight and I feel a little bit like it’s Christmas!

I’m starting off my festival experience with some philosophy, hearing Peter Singer speak on ‘Effective Altruism’ as part of the Big Ideas series.

Effective altruism is an emerging movement of people who have  accepted that we ought to live more altruistically, and make our altruism as powerful as possible.  Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer will discuss the ethical issues that effective altruism raises, and introduce this developing concept by presenting the effective altruists themselves: who they are, how they live, and why they have chosen to live that way. 

As controversial as he might be, Peter Singer I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts.

altruism

I often ask myself about the complexities of altruism, especially in terms of what’s reasonable to expect of each ourselves and others, and I expect this session will be extremely enlightening.

Are you going to anything at the festival this year? If you’d like to join me at the MWF this year, don’t forget to tune in to FacebookTwitter and Instagram for updates.

If you’d like to know more about what I’m going to check out at the Melbourne Writers Festival, read more here…

Lisa Sewards: White Parachute

It’s been a little while since I last attended an art exhibition, and even longer since I’ve been to one of my favourite Melbourne venues, Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time I visited 45 Flinders Lane, it was to see one of my heros, Samual Johnson in a three-person play The Haunting of Daniel Gartell. It was a fantastic evening, and I’ve been looking forward to a chance to visit the venue again.

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This week I had that chance, and this time it was to share in an experience; a raw, beautiful and moving experience. Tuesday night was the opening of Lisa Sewards’ first solo exhibition, White Parachute. This stunning show, featuring works on paper, paintings, objects and installations explores the memories of the artist’s mother who, after having spent five years of her young life in a displaced persons camp in northern Germany shares her experiences of uncertainty, loss and hope.

Despite the fearfulness the situation, central to Lisa’s mother’s memories is a WW2 parachute, of white silk, abandoned and subsequently found by the women and children of the camp. The women refashioned the parachute into much needed dresses, underwear and as a small luxury, fine silk ribbons.

20130703-220023.jpgThe ribbons, white and silky, stood out from the despair of the camp and in turn, stand out from the works on display in Lisa’s show.

Through Sewards’ reconstruction she creates a postmemory of the space of that parachute falling into the lives of those in the camp. Sewards, like most children of camp survivors, is engaged in a process that is not yet complete and may never find resolution. The silence of falling white parachutes is akin to the silence of her mother in relation to the events of those years – Essay by Dr Julie Cotter, exhibition catalogue.

Having read a number of war stories, of displacement and heroism, novels such as The Book Thief, In Falling Snow, and most recently, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, this exhibition has provided a series of illustrations to accompany the  words that I’ve read over the past year. To have such haunting images available, to illustrate the equally haunting stories I’ve read, seems to have helped me to form a better understanding of what a terrifying period of time this must have been.

20130703-220031.jpgAlthough this show is reverent and clearly aims to raise an awareness of the circumstance of displacement, it is not somber. The hopeful image of the artist’s mother as a child, the repeated imagery of the billowing parachute and the silken ribbons themselves create a theme of hope, of finding comfort.

In addition to this beautiful treatment of a difficult theme, Lisa’s ability to master a wide range of mediums was on full display in this exhibition. Her works on paper are always stunning and her print collections are easily some of my favourite works. In saying that, her larger pieces in oils, collages and photography are impressive and add a real impact, a punch, to her shows.

The inclusion of Lisa’s installation piece, a parachute not unlike that which her family found all those years ago, helps to draw a very real connection between the audience and the art.

Lisa’s show, White Parachutes is showing at Fortyfive Downstairs until 13 July 2013 and will conclude with an artist talk and Russian high tea on Saturday, 13 July. For more information visit here…

 

TBYL Events: The Next Step

I’m thrilled to be able to reveal the details of the next TBYL Event, which will be held on Wednesday 22 May 2013, 7pm – 8pm at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne.

“The Next Steps” is a perfect session for all of us who dream of one day being published, but who aren’t quite sure where to start…

the next step

It’s your chance to get some tips, straight from the source, on how best to achieve your dream of being a published author. TBYL Events is proud to present Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor from Escape Publishing (the exciting new digital publishing arm of Harlequin) and two successful Escape authors Rhian Cahill and Charmaine Ross.

They’ll be sharing their experiences of writing and publishing, offering advice on everything from pitching your ideas, developing your story, manuscript presentation, and hints on the submission process.

This one-hour session is an opportunity to tap into the exciting world of publishing, to ask questions and to share experiences with other aspiring authors.

If you’d like some take-away information, you can download a brochure here and you can find out more about Escape Publishing and our special guests Kate, Rhian and Charmaine on the TBYL website.

Tickets are just $20 ($15 concession) and seats are limited. You can book now…

Join us: Facebook and Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Past, Present, Future: Flavours of Urban Melbourne

In usual style, Jonette and Daniele have been eating well…

Their latest publication, Flavours of Urban Melbourne (Smudge Publishing) is true to form – full of gorgeous photographs, inviting restaurant profiles and inspiring recipes from some of urban Melbourne’s finest.

Urban Melb 1

‘Flavours of Urban Melbourne’ showcases the profound ebbs and flows of styles and cultures within the café and restaurant culture in this capital city of food.  East meets west, meets north and south.  A fusion of cultures flourish together, as well as side-by-side.  It is hard to put a finger on the pulse, let alone describe the free-fall movement that the city’s suburbs are experiencing today.​

It might be difficult, but not impossible, and Jonette and Daniele have done an amazing job at putting their finger of the eclectic mix that makes urban Melbourne such an incredible place to explore.

For me, this book achieved three things; it fondly reminded me of stunning suburbs I frequented when I was younger, it highlighted the embarrassment of riches available in my own Bayside suburbs, and lastly provided brand new ideas about what to do in suburbs I’ve never had the opportunity to visit.

Urban Melb 3Kicking off with a little history and an ode to coffee, the book then separates out into Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western suburbs.

The highly cultural, inspirational and linguistically diverse suburbs of Melbourne have a poignant past, a vibrant present and a wealth of opportunities moving into the future, with many different population groups making their presence felt…

Flavours of Urban Melbourne is sure to have something of interest for all readers. Personally, I was drawn to the delicious range of cafes – I think I’ll do a bit of a tour with the boys for the next few weeks!

Urban Melb 2I must admit that I’d hoped to find a few of my local favourites, but didn’t find many Hampton spots listed. Of course though, on reflection I realised that that wasn’t really what I needed from this book. What this guide offers is new ideas! New ideas, new places to visit – established venues full of history and achievements, as well as new endeavours staffed by inspired hosts, barristers and chefs.

This big, gorgeous book has been sitting on my coffee table for the last month or so, and I’ve very happily picked it up many times over to take a look at photos of the establishments, their food, the surrounds and most interestingly, the people who enjoy this rich urban life.

If you’d like to find out more about Flavours of Urban Melbourne visit Smudge Publishing online, and check out their range of books. 

Join us: Facebook and Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

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Produce to Platter: Daylesford and Surrounds

The wonderfully talented Jonette George and Daniele Wilton’s have been at it again, this time exploring the food and wine bounty of Daylesford and its surrounds in Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and The Pyrenees (Smudge Publishing).

Produce to Platter: DaylesfordI’ve reviewed a few books from this team now, and one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about Jonette and Daniele’s books is that they highlight the fact that we here in Victoria enjoy an absolute embarrassment of riches! We’ve so many stunning regions, both urban and rural, all of which are unique and abundant with produce and also skilled chefs and wine-makers who can in turn bring great food and wine to our tables.

The Daylesford region is a fine example…

Defining a region and highlighting its features is the privilege of only a few. When Jonette George and her daughter, Daniele Wilton, decided to write a book about the Macedon Ranges region, they were confronted with a challenge. Within two hours of each other, they discovered 3 distinct regions, bursting with outstanding produce and wine.

Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges blurs boundaries with the Ballarat and District wine region, which in turn blurs into the Pyrenees. With such  thriving regions like pigeons in a row, the girls decided to create their own treasure box, and showcase the three-in-one.

Producers, providores, viticulturists and chefs are all featured in this guide to the regions, with local produce exulted and wine revered. Signature recipes with full page food shots are mingled amongst pages of stunning photography of the regions. Stories, history and local anecdotes abound in yet another Produce to Platter sensation.

As with their previous guides, this latest is a satisfying blend of description, photography and tantalising recipes. It begins with a well-considered history of the region and a welcome from fellow foodie Rita Erlich. It shares with us the secrets of local markets, local growers and famous restaurants, including the likes of the Lake House, Frangos and Frangos and the Lydiard Wine Bar.

It’ll come as no surprise to my friends and family that the inclusion of Daylesford Cider Company was my favourite…

But why cider? What was the impetus to make this interesting drink? Surely it had something to do with its long history but also because his family came from Somerset, the home of cider for many generations. Cider was the topic of discussion in his family for many years growing up. David points out that cider actually originated in the Middle East where the first apple trees appear to have been cultivated more than two thousand years ago. Indeed, cider seems to have been an important drink the evolution of societies, playing a strong role in both France and England. The drink even made it across the pond as Pilgrim settlers brought the tradition to America in the 17th Century. Of course, those same traditions made their way to Australia and continue to be propelled by cider makers such as Mr. Stagg.

…but I also loved reading about cottage restaurants, country al a carte dining and cafes and bars of all shapes and sizes.

I’ve spent a little time in the Daylesford and Ballarat region, but it’s only now that I realise that I’ve only just scratched the surface of this amazing culinary area. Looks like it might be time for another weekend away…

You can check out more about Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and The Pyrenees at Smudge Publishing.

Stay tuned to the blog on Friday to find out how you could win a copy of the book for yourself, with the launch of a massive book give-away!

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