David Bowie was so many things. That’s obvious from the most basic understanding of his career. He was also, as we all are, different things to different people, and I suppose that is the strength of this book, that it is a collection of stories or recollections about Bowie at different tones in his life, from a huge range of people. It’s a weakness, too, though, in that it can be, as you would expect, contradictory, and sometimes repetitive. Reading about the early years was a slog, because while I loved the music, his lifestyle was pretty repugnant. I am glad I stuck it out, His was certainly a fascinating life with a massive impact on so many, but I didn’t find it an easy, or even greatly enjoyable, read.
Another beautiful, sad, complex and moving film about Indigenous policeman, Jay Swan, solving a mystery in an outback town. Jay Swan, burdened with grief, is struggling to keep himself together as he searches for a missing girl, and meaning for his life. The cast is stellar, the scenery is stunning, and the story is about human trafficking, land rights, racism, corruption, and a place to belong.
Four and a half stars. At a great, crumbling, old country house, a party has gathered, at the end of which Evelyn Hardcastle will die. She will die over and over on this one day until one of the guests can solve the murder. It’s like Agatha Christie with major twists; it’s clever, funny, insightful, and very hard to put down.
An English lecturer, Tom, is staying in the Victorian bush, trying to finish the book he is writing, when his dog goes missing. From that starting point we go back and forth, to India and Melbourne, to the past and the present, exploring Tom’s life and relationships. There is mystery, but it’s not about what happens, but about place, love, relationships with parents and lovers, art, poetry, and belonging. The language is beautiful, and it’s full of thoughtful insights on things like ageing, and consumerism.
The Transit of Venus follows Caro and Grace, two Australian girls who try to leave their unhappy childhood behind and make new lives in England. It’s a story about love; steady, faithful, violent, and surprising. The language is dreamy, complex and utterly beautiful. I will return to this book.
You know what you are going to get with a Kate Morton novel; a lush, English setting, and an historical mystery solved in the modern day. This time the setting is a beautiful house in Cornwall, with lush gardens, and there are two mysteries to be solved. The resolution is perhaps neater than it needs to be, but it was in keeping with the book – quirky characters, twists and turns, happy ending.
This is the movie that came before the television series. Having recently watched the television series, I was keen to find out Jay Swan’s back story. Recently returned to his home town after time in the big city, Jay doesn’t fit in with the other policemen, all white, or his own community. He is estranged from his wife and daughter, and seems to be the only one who cares about the murder of a young black girl. The cinematography is striking, capturing the starkly beautiful countryside. The story is bleak and violent, but the film is somehow quiet and contemplative, reflecting the complexity of the issues that face outback towns and Australia as a whole. The mystery itself may not be neatly tied up at the end, but the performances and thoughtful story make it a very satisfying film.
The Hamilton Case is set in Sri Lanka, beginning in the early 1900s. Sam Obeysekere is born to wealthy Sinhalese parents and grows to be so very English in a country of changing identity. There is a murder case, a glamorous mother, and a lush, very alive setting, but the book isn’t just about those things. It’s about how we see ourselves, how we struggle to relate to others, and how we live with the differences between who we are and who we want to be.
Philip is eleven, and his father has just died in a car accident. His father’s ghost appears to him, and asks him to do something momentous so that he can be at peace. It’s a retelling of Hamlet, and as I am reasonably unfamiliar with the story of Hamlet (!), I found it very suspenseful. It is also funny and endearing. I really enjoyed it.
An older man makes his last move, from a capital city (not named, but Melbourne) to a small town on the border, and ponders. This short book is a report of his thoughts; reflections on light and mental images, with lots of references to coloured glass, being Catholic, and horse racing. There is little emotion, some coherence and no actual plot, so it was just some quality in the writing that kept me going.