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We had no choice except to survive

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Reviewed by Jill 

A national competition in 2002 asked school students to find someone who had come to Australia as a refugee, and listen to their story.  Young writers aged 11-20 took up the challenge.  Dark dreams: Australian refugee stories  is the result.  Some interviewees had a meandering journey to Australia, when an original destination offered more of the terror they had left.  Some had only one endpoint in mind.  Others simply sought sanctuary.  There are stories from World War II, colonial Queensland, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans.  Some paid for their journey, and others came via UN registration centres.  And there are journeys that at the time of interview, had not yet achieved a happy conclusion.

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The Road To Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot

 

Reviewed by Sandra Hogan

 Some British critics of The Road To Middlemarch complained that it added nothing new to knowledge about the great Victorian writer, George Eliot; nor did it go deep enough to be a memoir. True, but perhaps they are missing the point. New York journalist Rebecca Mead went to England, the land of her birth, to enter into the life of George Eliot as she wrote the much-loved novel, Middlemarch. Mead’s intention was to recover the sense of intellectual and emotional immersion in books she had known as a younger reader, before her attention was fractured by the daily deadlines of journalism. Her aim was not to add to scholarship about George Eliot, but to recover the joy of reading and to discover why this particular book had been so important to her and why it still felt ‘urgent’ to her. The fascination of Mead’s book lies in her consideration of the way books shape us.

 

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BACK TO THE PILLIGA

 

Reviewed by robinhood 

Modern detective stories are rarely set in the Australian bush and this novel by the popular author Tony Parsons effortlessly weaves an intriguing tale written in the Aussie bush vernacular. The story is a fairly straightforward plot of a retired copper (now a private investigator) commissioned to detect the whereabouts of a hi-jacked wealthy young woman who has possibly witnessed a bank heist and in tracking her down, he leads the police to capture the criminals. Against the background of the outback NSW Australian bush is woven the plot of bringing in the criminals with a hint of romance and reconciliation of previous family fracture.

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Behind the Doors: An Art History from Yuendumu

 

Reviewed by Jill 

In 1984, graffiti crept onto buildings in Yuendumu, particularly the school.  Five artists began a project to paint motifs on the school’s doors in an effort to discourage further graffiti.  More importantly, it was an opportunity to record the significant matters of their people, to reveal these matters to the children, and to explain them.  The images were to act as teaching aids.  This strategy worked, but within a short time, the graffiti had reasserted itself, and the images were disappearing under a new rhetoric.  Fortunately, there was a groundswell of interest and concern, and a massive restoration project has enabled the stories to live on, sometimes aided by sheer luck.  Behind the Doors: An Art History from Yuendumu presents the artists and their people, the Doors and their restoration, and the extraordinary rituals and stories in the motifs.  It is also a marvellous account of a small community.

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Cinema: Only Lovers Left Alive

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Jim Jarmusch certainly picked an odd moment to rethink the vampire film. There have been Too many of them of late. Earlier this year we had the dismal Vampire Academy and the Twilight franchise thankfully wound down not too long ago so why Only Lovers Left Alive? After watching this curiously dull, verbose film about a married couple that has been alive for centuries, you may wonder too. Worse still, Jarmusch has underestimated us by assuming we need a lesson in vampire lore. By never letting us forget about their lifespan and how they cannot take sunlight, he has created a comically literal treatise and worse still, barely given them a story. He seems more interested in the psychology of his characters but by the end, all we learn is that they’d rather not bite.

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DVD/Blu Ray: How I Live Now

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Those who remember the 2010 Australian adventure Tomorrow When The War Began will probably find the new Kevin Macdonald film How I Live Now familiar. It comes on with the same trappings but Macdonald gives his film more of a charge, and its sleeker. A children's adventure it is but there's more honesty, more guts and he holds little back in the trials and tribulations of a heroine who has to grow up fast. Adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff, it features Saoirse Ronan as Daisy, a moody and rebellious young American sent to live with her cousins in the English countryside in an unnamed era of the 21st century. She steps off the plane into a looming apocalypse. News feeds broadcast bombings in Paris, the global political crisis is worsening, and there’s a strong military presence lurking everywhere.

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DVD: In Bob We Trust

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

“I don’t understand the Catholics! On the one hand they say let’s be all Mary Mackillop, and on the other hand as soon as you do it, you’re under arrest!”


Lynn-Maree Milburn’s In Bob We Trust is a fantastic documentary. In strictly limited release in cinemas last year (if you'd blinked you missed it), Milburn’s fast moving study of Father Bob Maguire, a character if ever there was one and who author Sue Williams christened “The Larrikin Priest”, tells the story of the Melbourne clergyman who received his marching orders at the age of 75 from Archbishop Denis Hart. It is the typical age of retirement for priests but Milburn quickly makes it clear there were other motivating factors, disturbingly covert in fact, behind what amounted to his dismissal. Often priests who receive such a motion resist the idea and are then gently eased out but the much-loved Father Bob, who has over 95,000 followers on Twitter, had no intention of stepping down so quietly.

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Moghul Cooking: India's Courtly Cuisine

 

Reviewed by robinhood 

Historically the Western world (and particularly Australia) has a paucity of knowledge and appreciation of Persian and Indian Moghul cuisine. ‘Take away’ Indian food has been such a nondescript grab basket of a limited style of dishes catering to local tastes. The complexity, subtlety and richness of India’s and Iran’s regional cooking has not been fully appreciated except by discerning western diners and cooks and travellers. The pinnacle of Indian cuisine was perfected in the period of the Moghuls (1526 – 1707) who succeeded in bringing together the finest cooking of the Indian Hindu Moghuls and the Muslim Persians. This magnificent cook book fills this culinary gap in both scope of recipes and the wonderful notes on the history and culture of the fusion cuisine of the Moghul Empire of India.  

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There's a caterpillar on my plate!

 

Reviewed by Jill 

Or a space shuttle, a walrus, Roger Rabbit, a tractor.  Lindy Smith’s Quick and clever party cakes will have the littlies squealing in delight.  Smith presents 20 recipes for fantastic cakes – no two in any way alike.  Elegant, simple, decorative, realistic, technicolour.  Some for girls, some for boys.

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Crossing the street in Hanoi

 

 

Reviewed by Jill 

Whatever Crossing the street in Hanoi : teaching and learning about Vietnam suggests to the reader, this book will deliver something else.  The title comes from the author’s first journal entry for 1993, but after a few paragraphs on Hanoi’s traffic conventions, she moves on to a series of essay and diary-like chapters.  The content leaps in time, and moves from imprisonments, to popular Vietnamese leaders, to personal connections and the 1970 deaths of US student protesters.  The common thread is the recent undeclared war in Vietnam, and how it persists, in diverse ways, in the lives of diverse people.  Carol Wilder uses her own stories and those of others as starting points for an exploration of the conflict’s representation in media over many years, and in some surprising contexts.

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