stephanie hunt

Taking us Back of Beyond

Today’s review from TBYL Reviewer, Stephanie Hunt takes us to the back of beyond

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Former sheep shearer, dingo trapper and horse breaker Hugh Tindall reminisces on his extraordinary life in outback Queensland…

backofbeyondBack of Beyond by Freda Marnie Nicholls (Allen and Unwin) is a great read, one I thoroughly enjoyed. If you have ever had an older member of your family who told great stories, true or not, reading this book will bring back memories of listening to them tell their tales. Part history book, part biography, you don’t have to have a rural background to enjoy Hugh’s story as the history and his insight into the past are fascinating. His experiences give you a great respect for those who persevered in the face of adversity in the early years of agriculture in Australia.

Hugh Tindall has had a rich and interesting life and from the very first chapter I was hooked. Freda Marnie Nicholls has captured his voice perfectly and you feel as though you are sitting listening to Hugh tell his story in person. I am so pleased that Freda has recorded Hugh’s memories as all too often, gems like Hugh don’t have the chance to pass on their stories to a wider audience. Reading Back of Beyond reminded me of listening to my grandfather tell stories about his life growing up in rural Tasmania, doing many of the same things as Hugh.

The descriptions of life in the early 1930s and 40s are fantastic and Hugh’s admiration and love for his mother, a woman who raised six children in very tough conditions, shines through in every word. Later, we hear about shearing and the big strike in 1956 and again we see the admiration and respect Hugh has for rural women, this time his wife. It’s a fascinating first hand recount of the debate and strike over wages, conditions and roles. Hugh’s descriptions of how he learnt to shear as a teen, events that occurred during the strike and the effect the strike had on his family and friends is insightful and non-judgmental. Incidents are recalled matter-of-factly, that’s just how it was.

In the latter part of the book we learn about dingos and sheep and Hugh’s life after retirement, not that old farmers ever really retire!

Back of Beyond is a book that anyone can read and enjoy. Hugh not only recalls his personal experiences in the outback but also gives us a fascinating glimpse of how rural Australia emerged and what life was like for the extraordinary men and women who lived on and developed the land. It’s important for all of us to understand how people like Hugh and his family shaped the Australia we have today.

This book will be top of my list of books to give to my Dad, as I know he would enjoy reading every word.

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You can find out more about Freda Marnie Nicholls’ Back of Beyond here…

What are ‘The Rules of Conception’?

Handing over today’s novel to one of the TBYL Reviewers was difficult, I really wanted to read it myself. But alas, in order to be timely I am learning to  share, and to that end, the lovely Steph recently took a look at the hilarious and engaging, The Rules of Conception by Angela Lawrence (Harlequin). She was also able to ask a few questions of Angela, giving us further insight into how this fascinating story made it to the page.

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“Rachel Richards is ready to be a mother. She’s got a great job, a good income, a beautiful inner city apartment and a great group of supportive friends. All she needs is a father to have the child with….”

Rules of ConceptionSingle motherhood is an emotionally charged topic often hotly debated in the media. Angela Lawrence’s The Rules of Conception from Harlequin should be mandatory reading for anyone entering into the debate.

“While I’m watching, the little boy reaches up and gives his mother a big smacking kiss on the cheek. She tickles him and he laughs hysterically before being so tired that he puts his arms around her neck and closes his eyes. And it hits me right then and there, while sitting on the bus, looking at the little boy’s chubby arms and sleeping angel’s face. I am not going to miss out on that.”

Angela Lawrence has written a fantastic story about one woman’s solo journey to become a parent. From the moment we first meet Rachel, as she is being stood up by her boyfriend on her birthday, to the final exciting chapter of her story, we are drawn into the emotional rollercoaster that is pregnancy. Who could begrudge Rachel the chance to experience the unconditional love that she sees between mother and son on the bus.

Rachel is a great character, likeable and easy to relate to. She has a nightmare boss in a job she loves, great friends and a supportive family. Rachel could easily be your sister, cousin or workmate. She explores many options for solo pregnancy and along the way encounters supportive and discouraging people in the most unlikely of situations.

Angela Lawrence shows the ups and downs of pregnancy and going it alone. Rachel’s birthing class experience is hilarious and totally relatable to anyone who has been to one.

I really enjoyed reading The Rules of Conception. It is a funny, engaging book which will appeal to mothers and singles alike. You will love Rachel from the moment you meet her, and will be cheering her on as she embarks on a sometimes turbulent, sometimes hilarious journey.

It was wonderful to be able to ask Angela a few questions last week…

You present a well balanced and realistic portrayal of single parenthood. Was it almost cathartic to write about the single mother road as it is one you, yourself have travelled? 
I decided to write The Rules of Conception after seeing a couple of interviews with single mothers by choice and felt that these women were represented by the media as lonely and slightly disappointed. It occurred to me that people are willing to accept a stereotype about single mothers that is increasingly becoming outdated – particularly with reference to those who have children alone by choice, or are happy to fall pregnant even if they are single. So, in that sense that I was pleased with how Rachel’s character and choice developed as the story progressed.

I guess, the main area that was cathartic for me, was writing about being single and pregnant. There are so many great things about it – but at the same time, it is unchartered territory and not without it’s challenges.

How supportive was the donor and planned single parent community when you were researching the book?
In my wider circle, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a small group of men who had become known donors or co-parents. It was great to get their perspective on how they pragmatise their decision. A lot of my perspective however is from observing and talking to men and women on donor forums and some were quite happy to talk about their actions and choices. These people have thought about their decisions and have taken a really bold step in going online to make it happen. Given they’d reached this point, those who I spoke to, could articulate their reasons extremely well.

Rachel is an immediately likeable character – how did you go about putting her on the page in such an endearing way? 
I think that Rachel’s likeability comes from her imperfections. On the whole, she’s very level headed and her plan is well thought out and executed – but she’s still capable of doing dumb things, making bad decisions, and expressing her own human frailty. Plus, she can always see humor in less than ideal scenarios

Initially, when I started writing The Rules of Conception, Rachel was far less flawed and she came across as a little too smug as a result. I remember reading what I’d written and thought to myself: If I don’t like her, who will? So I went back and made her a lot more self deprecating.

Was it important to you to present this quite emotional topic with humour and lightness?
Absolutely. The moment I decided to write The Rules of Conception, my plan was to create something accessible and entertaining. This is a subject that is relevant to a generation of women who have grown up on chick lit and fiction that takes a light approach to their big issues. I really wanted single parenting to be treated in the same way.

What’s next for you Angela? 
It’s a good question. I’ll probably spend some time in the short term, Googling reviews for my book and alternating between being really happy and somewhat mortified as a result. Other than that, I’m in the midst of writing something new, child wrangling and taking each day as it comes.

You can find out more about The Rules of Conception here…

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We’ve got two copies of Angela’s book up for grabs this month at That Book You Like… courtesy of Harlequin. Check out this month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… for details of how to enter to win!

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Interwoven: Triburbia

As you know, I love anything New York, and I’ve had today’s book on the Reading Pile for a number of months. I was looking forward to reading Triburbia, by Karl Taro Greenfeld (Allen and Unwin), but alas it just didn’t seem to happen. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t seem to get far enough up the reading pile to get read.

One of the things that I like the most about having so many great people reading and reviewing for TBYL is that I get to try and match friends to books, and when my friend Stephanie agreed to do some reading for me, I thought that Triburbia would be just her cup of tea. Here’s what she thought of it…

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Tribeca is a well-known, ultra-cool area of Manhattan that we’ve heard lots about from the likes of Sex and The City and many movies. The name conjures up images of beautifully dressed women like Carrie or Charlotte, handsome men and to die for apartments. Triburbia shows another side to Tribeca, a side that is not always pretty or to be envied…

triburbiaWith an unflinching eye, Triburbia explores Tribeca, Manhattan, a neighbourhood synonymous with western affluence, in which an artists’ community has been overrun by the faux-bohemian haunts of those made staggeringly wealthy by the world of finance. Thrown together by circumstance, a group of fathers – a sound engineer, a sculptor, a film producer, a writer, a career criminal – meet each morning at a local cafe after the school run. 

Over the course of a single year, we learn about their dreams deferred, their secrets and mishaps, their passions and hopes, as they confront terrible truths about ambition, wealth and sex. Seen through the eyes of these men and the women with whom they share their lives, Triburbiashows that our choices and their repercussions not only define us, but irrevocably alter the lives of those we love. 

The first chapter introduces us to Mark, a sound engineer and father. Through Mark we’re introduced to a group of fathers who catch up for breakfast each day after school drop-off. With each chapter we learn more about each father, their children, wives and friends. As we learn more we begin to see how interwoven their lives are, links that sometimes even they aren’t aware of.

Karl Taro Greenfeld has written an intriguing book. As we learn more about each character we start to make connections and I found myself re-reading sections so that I was clear on who knew whom, and who they were married to or sleeping with. I found it very hard to stop reading as I wanted to find out how each family was connected and what would come next. Sometimes it was almost as if I was eavesdropping on conversations between characters that could have been sitting at a table next to me in a cafe.

“The irony of everyone supposing that Brick wasn’t the type to have an affair was that he was exactly the type. A more voluble man, a talkative fellow, would never have been able to pull this off. No one expected conversation from Brick, so he could go wordlessly from Bea to Ava, unchanging, unflinching, unmoved. The same metronomic nods as he listened, occasionally a tilt of the head or, and both women love this, he would open those blank, big eyes even wider, like he was redoubling his attention.(He didn’t even know he did this.) But keeping your trap shut around two woman isn’t much harder than maintaining radio silence around one.”

I highly recommend Triburbia, it was an entertaining and enjoyable book. It will keep you reading, wanting to find out about each family and how they will affect or have affected each others lives.

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If you’d like to find out more about Triburbia, by Karl Taro Greenfeld visit the Allen and Unwin website here.

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