September Discussion Points

We missed our meetings today but Pageturner Di wanted to share her thoughts about our September books. Let us know your thoughts by adding your comments below.

Sincerely Ethel Malley by Stephen Orr

I thought the premise of the book was intriguing :  ” What if a man who never really existed had a sister!!” great idea.  Very easy to read, but I did get a little bit tired of all the detail after a while. It would be interesting to read the book not knowing the truth, but of course I googled the hoax straight away! Ethel was well painted as a loyal and loving sister who wanted to give her brother the recognition he deserved. Max Harris was certainly an interesting and somewhat unpredictable character. Interesting at the end we are told Ern died as a child. Why then do we hear about his discharge from the army and Ethel meeting his lover????  I have to say, I loved the cover. What a perfect depiction of someone who never was!  I was really sorry that we missed our discussion on this book as there were so many things to talk about.

The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald

For the first half of the book I was quite mesmerised and so taken by the two friends’ reaction to Stacey and the children’s deaths. Paula obviously did suffer PTSD from what she saw and found in her house. When that horrible man came into her surgery after his wife and child had visited earlier, I can just about believe that she would be very tempted to kill him to make the family safe. She obviously felt guilty that she couldn’t keep Stacey’s family safe. In her traumatised state, it is believable that she would give him the fatal injection. However, the stalking and second killing were a bit less credible, firstly for the fact she did it and secondly that her plan worked so perfectly. Then when the third family came to her notice down the coast, the coincidence started to bug me. Anita was quite savvy to put two and two together and suspect Paula – it’s not a conclusion I would have automatically jumped to! However, when Paula told her the truth she landed her with an unbearable burden. Speaking of coincidence, the fact that Anita was then covering the trial of another domestic violence victim in court was another bit that bugged me. The end was a bit too “tied up with a bow” for me. I also found it hard to believe that a good and honest policeman like Rohan would happily agree to the “ask no questions” agreement he made with Anita.

Despite all this however, I have to say that the book shone a bright and uncomfortable light on the huge rate of domestic violence in society and the amount of perpetrators who get away with it. Debra Oswald is to be commended for that over riding theme of her novel. It is a shocking part of society and any attempts by the author to draw it to the attention of the public should be lauded.

One thought on “September Discussion Points

  1. Paul Anderson September 15, 2021 / 3:02 pm

    Sincerely, Ethel Malley by Stephen Orr

    I loved this book. It’s a very clever counterfactual, or counter-hoax, and a ripping read: character- and plot-driven. Ethel Malley’s ribald voice and the state of Australian letters in the 1940s are brilliantly done (with apologies to Adelaide!). There was indeed a war on.

    The historical record has been superbly harnessed to create a coherent novel – so many rabbit holes to google down – with dramatic twists and turns throughout its over four hundred pages. It can be read as a good yarn or for philosophical insight. Here is Ethel musing about her brother’s poems:

    “Not that I’m saying Ern was any Charles Darwin. But it made sense. Anything worth saying, thinking, writing, publishing, is going to cause trouble. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, but it does mean you’ll need internal fortitude. And you will doubt. And show weakness. But that’s when you should stay the course.” (p207).

    The aspect of writing craft here I enjoyed most is the way Ethel’s credulous thoughts and vivid imaginings are integrated in the narrative. Her ‘descending’ and ‘returning’. The reader is never entirely sure of, or able to tell, fact from fiction. Quite a feat by Stephen Orr.


    Liked by 1 person

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