October Biographies Discussion

Biography 1 (Small)

Pageturners discussed memoir, autobiography and biography at the October meeting. Everyone read a different book and shared it with the group:

Mary Shelley by Muriel Spark – found out more about her – the author of Frankenstein. 4/5

Publisher: Traces the life of Mary Shelley, describes her relationship with her poet husband, and discusses her own literary achievements.

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Michael Jacob Quigley WWI Diary – Grandfather from mother’s side, very moving, he was university educated, highly intelligent, lots of Australian sayings, descriptions of leaving Australia and the landing at Gallipoli.

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Kurt Fearnley Pushing the limits: Life, Marathons and Kokoda – About the life of wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley who grew up in Carcoar, he mother was told not to bring him home from hospital, he’s won three Paralympic gold medals, seven world championships and more than 35 marathons and he crawled the Kokoda track, and the China Wall. At  school he had a teacher who helped him get into wheelchair racing and the community bought him a racing wheelchair. He’s inspiring.  5/5

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Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth – totally enjoyed it, more of a memoir, series of little vignettes and reflections, not the same stories as in the TV series. 4/5

Publisher: The highest-rated drama in BBC history, Call the Midwife will delight fans of Downton Abbey. Viewers everywhere have fallen in love with this candid look at post-war London. In the 1950s, twenty-two-year-old Jenny Lee leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in London’s East End slums. While delivering babies all over the city, Jenny encounters a colourful cast of women—from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives, to the woman with twenty-four children who can’t speak English, to the prostitutes of the city’s seedier side.

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A Kangaroo Loose in Shetland by Lachlan Ness – prose boring with some interesting tidbits about scenery.

Publisher: A heart-warming story, full of humour and occasional pathos (for after all, it’s all about life), is a “must read” for those who may want to visit the North Isles and discover for themselves the remarkable beauty that abounds in the ancient islands of Shetland

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A Fence Around the Cuckoo and Fishing in the Styx by Ruth Park – New Zealand born Australian author, heard Muddle-Headed Wombat on the radio, then read her books Harp in the South about slums in Sydney which was quite controversial at the time, she grew up very poor, spent her early childhood on her own, but lived to learn, read and write, married writer D’Arcy Niland, wrote travel stories including Sydney. But my favourite books are her autobiographies. She won a Miles Franklin award and her characters are amazing and she has a feel for atmosphere.

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Kitty’s War: The remarkable wartime experiences of Kit McNaughton by Janet Butler – There are bits from her diary and other letters, it is slow going and a bit tedious.

Publisher: The remarkable wartime experiences of Kit McNaughton Kitty’s War is based upon the previously unpublished war diaries of Great War army nurse Sister Kit McNaughton. Kit and historian Janet Butler grew up in the same Victorian district of drystone walls, wheatfields and meandering creeks, except many decades apart. The idea of this young nurse setting out on a journey in July 1915 which would take her across the world and into the First World War took hold of Janet Butler and inspired her to research and share Kit’s story.

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Jane Austen: A Life by Carol Shields – it’s getting tedious, so little facts about Austen’s life they have compared her family life to those in her books and make lots of assumptions.

Publisher: With the same sensitivity and artfulness that are the trademarks of her award-winning novels, Carol Shields explores the life of a writer whose own novels have engaged and delighted readers for the past two hundred years. In Jane Austen, Shields follows this superb and beloved novelist from her early family life in Steventown to her later years in Bath, her broken engagement, and her intense relationship with her sister Cassandra. She reveals both the very private woman and the acclaimed author behind the enduring classics Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice,  and Emma. With its fascinating insights into the writing process from an award–winning novelist, Carol Shields’s magnificent biography of Jane Austen is also a compelling meditation on how great fiction is created

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Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley – to read.

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Thicker Than Water by Cal Flynn – it is two stories in a way, the story of her journey to discover Angus McMillan. Thought he was a great explorer opening up Gippsland and she’s very proud of her ancestor, then discovers he killed Aborigines. She takes on the guilt of what he did.

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Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill – she was brought in the world of Scientology and was left with other children in an apartment, then a ranch and would only see parents occasionally. It is really full-on and crazy what she had to do as a child. 4/5

Publisher: Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member of Sea Org—the church’s highest ministry, speaks of her “disconnection” from family outside of the organisation, and tells the story of her ultimate escape.

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The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd. I like reading fiction but I had this book on my shelf. It is about Burke and Wills and is well written, reads like a novel, she did a lot of research, I can recommend it. I read it in half a week. 4.5/5

Publisher: In 1860, an eccentric Irish police officer named Robert O’Hara Burke led a cavalcade of camels, wagons and men out of Melbourne. Accompanied by William Wills, a shy English scientist, he was prepared to risk everything to become the first European to cross the Australian continent. A few months later, an ancient coolibah tree at Cooper Creek bore a strange carving: ‘Dig Under 3ft NW’. Burke, Wills and five other men were dead. The expedition had become an astonishing tragedy.

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The Churchills: A Family at the Heart of History – from the Duke of Marlborough to Winston Churchill by Mary S Lovell. The first part was hard, it’s about the start of the family, lineage. I felt I needed a family tree. Then it’s about Winston Churchill, his life, the people he met. 4/5

Publisher: There never was a Churchill from John of Marlborough down who had either morals or principles’, so said Gladstone. From the First Duke of Marlborough – soldier of genius, restless empire-builder and cuckolder of Charles II – onwards, the Churchills have been politicians, gamblers and profligates, heroes and womanisers. The Churchills is a richly layered portrait of an extraordinary set of men and women – grandly ambitious, regularly impecunious, impulsive, arrogant and brave. And towering above the Churchill clan is the figure of Winston – his failures and his triumphs shown in a new and revealing context – ultimately our ‘greatest Briton’.

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Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler. This is an easy read, based on true fact, very floury. 5/5

Publisher: A beautifully imagined tale of the Bronte sisters and the writing of Jane Eyre

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Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner – it’s a true story of two students, a girlfriend ends up killing her boyfriend at a dinner party with all their uni friends.

Publisher: In October 1997 a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests-most of them university students-had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of rohypnol and heroin. His girlfriend and her best friend were charged with murder.

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Theresa May autobiography – really enjoying it. She is to be admired. She also wears a diabetic pump and it not embarrassed to show it.

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Kick – the True Story of Kick Kennedy, JFK’s forgotten sister and the heir to Chatsworth by Paula Byrne

This is one for anyone interested in the Kennedy family. A story about JFK’s forgotten sister Kathleen known as “Kick” who went to London when her father was US Ambassador and she made her debut. At 24 years of age she married Major William John Robert “Billy” Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington and heir apparent to the 10th Duke of Devonshire. He went back to war and was killed. They had been married a few months but had only spent 5 weeks together as man and wife. She was later killed in a plane crash during a storm with a married man (the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam) when they were on their way to the French Riviera. She had planned to marry him. She was 28. 4/5

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The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 14th November at 5.30pm to discuss the new book by Holly Throsby called Cedar Valley. Please book your place online through eventbrite.

You are also invited to attend a launch for Cedar Valley with special guest Holly Throsby on Wednesday 24 October at 5.30pm at Orange City Library. To book your place please go online through eventbrite. 

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