Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving Among Strangers: Randolph Stow and My Family by Gabrielle Carey

Moving Among Strangers: Randolph Stow and My Family
Gabrielle Carey
UQP, 2013

100+ Challenge

About The Book
Longlisted for the 2014 Stella Prize.

As her mother Joan lies dying, Gabrielle Carey writes a letter to Joan’s childhood friend, the reclusive novelist Randolph Stow. This letter sets in motion a literary pilgrimage that reveals long-buried family secrets. Like her mother, Stow had grown up in Western Australia. After early literary success and a Miles Franklin Award win in 1958 for his novel To the Islands, he left for England and a life of self-imposed exile. 

Living most of her life on the east coast, Gabrielle was also estranged from her family’s West Australian roots, but never questioned why. A devoted fan of Stow’s writing, she becomes fascinated by his connection with her extended family, but before she can meet him he dies. With only a few pieces of correspondence to guide her, Gabrielle embarks on a journey from the red-dirt landscape of Western Australia to the English seaside town of Harwich in a quest to understand her family’s past and Stow’s place in it.

Moving Among Strangers
 is a celebration of one of Australia’s most enigmatic and visionary writers. (from

My Thoughts
The only novel I've read by Randolph Stow so far is Merry-Go-Round in the Sea. We read it for book group a few years ago and I remember being impressed by his writing. There is something about Western Australian writers and their way with words!  I also felt a bit of a connection with him when I found out that we share a birth day and month and that he was interested in the shipwreck of the Batavia.

After reading Moving Among Strangers, I really want to read more of his writing and to find out more about him. It is such as shame that most of his books are out of print... and that there are so many books that I want to read. 

The book isn't really about Randolph Stowe, it's about how Gabrielle Carey got to know her mother through her relationship with Randolph. I haven't read her previous book about her relationship with her mother, but I'll add it to my To Be Read list.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger
Vintage, 2004

Reading Challenges
100 + Challenge

About The Book
This extraordinary, magical novel is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences are alternately harrowing and amusing. The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's passionate love for each other with grace and humour. Their struggle to lead normal lives in the face of a force they can neither prevent nor control is intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. - See more at:

My Thoughts
We are reading this book for book club this month. It is only the third or fourth time I've read it and it feels like I've come back to visit old friends. Yet there were still parts that I had forgotten about, as well as parts that I remembered quite well.

We've talked about this book in both of the book groups I run at work and I think there have been mixed responses each time. This time one lady was rather concerned about the fact that Henry appeared before a very young Claire without any clothes and her thoughts immediately went to child a. Other responses have been that the characters aren't very nice and that it isn't a happy love story.

All of these views are valid. Although I don't happen to agree with them... well ok they aren't nice people... but they aren't completely repellant, so that I am able to suspend belief enough to really enjoy the story... And well hello it's about time travel!! Really the characters could have been really bad and I still would have enjoyed it because it makes time travel some what of a fictional reality.

It isn't a happy love story and this time I guess I was struck by the fact that both Henry's father and Claire don't recover from the death of their spouse. By recover I mean move on with their lives. I believe in true love but I don't believe that there is just one person for everyone. We don't really see enough of Henry's parents relationship to know why his father never moved on. With Claire, we know that there is the possibility that Henry will see her again, that keeps her waiting for him. Perhaps Henry telling her that he will come back was his perverse way of keeping her for himself.