Upcoming December Discussions

Join us for the Daytime Discussion about the novel Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally on Wednesday 8 December at 12.30pm. Please book your place online or call us on 6393 8132.

How did Corporal Hitler’s Luger from the First World War end up being the weapon that killed an IRA turncoat in Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1933?

When an affluent Kempsey matron spots a young Aboriginal boy who bears an uncanny resemblance to her husband, not only does she scream for divorce, attempt to take control of the child’s future and upend her comfortable life, but the whole town seems drawn into chaos.

A hero of the First World War has a fit at the cinema and is taken to a psychiatric ward in Sydney, his Irish farmhand is murdered, and a gay piano-playing veteran, quietly a friend to many in town, is implicated. Corporal Hitler’s Pistol speaks to the never-ending war that began with ‘the war to end all wars’. Rural communities have always been a melting pot and many are happy to accept a diverse bunch … as long as they don’t overstep. Set in a town he knows very well, in this novel Tom Keneally tells a compelling story of the interactions and relationships between black and white Australians in early twentieth-century Australia.


And you can watch Tom Keneally talking about the book here courtesy of the NSW Public Libraries Association.


And the Evening Discussion group on Wednesday 8 December at 5.30pm will chat about The Magician by Colm Toibin. Please book your place online or call us on 6393 8132.

When the Great War breaks out in 1914 Thomas Mann, like so many of his fellow countrymen, is fired up with patriotism. He imagines the Germany of great literature and music, which had drawn him away from the stifling, conservative town of his childhood, might be a source of pride once again. But his flawed vision will form the beginning of a dark and complex relationship with his homeland, and see the start of great conflict within his own brilliant and troubled family.

Colm Tóibín’s epic novel The Magician is the story of a man of intense contradictions. Although Thomas Mann becomes famous and admired, his inner life is hesitant, fearful and secretive. His blindness to impending disaster in the Great War will force him to rethink his relationship with Germany as Hitler comes to power. He has six children with his clever and fascinating wife, Katia, while his own secret desires appear threaded through his writing. He and Katia deal with exile bravely, doing everything possible to keep the family safe, yet they also suffer the terrible ravages of suicide among Thomas’s siblings, and their own children.

In The Magician, Colm Tóibín captures the profound personal conflict of a very public life, and through this life creates an intimate portrait of the twentieth century.

Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of ten novels including The Master, Brooklyn, The Testament of Mary and Nora Webster. His work has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, has won the Costa Novel Award and the International Dublin Literary Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.

One thought on “Upcoming December Discussions

  1. Paul Anderson December 7, 2021 / 9:54 am

    Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally

    Story, story, story. Keneally spins a yarn of historical, social, and cultural fibres around Kempsey in 1933, a country town in a Depression year. The novel is good on the trauma of war – The Great War and the Irish Civil War both – and on the themes of power and prejudice. Flo Honeywood is under the coercive control of her husband; Chicken Dalton suffers a miscarriage of justice because he is homosexual. There are a lot of threads and consequently not all characters are rounded. Chapter 16, in which Christian Webber threatens to turn the pistol on himself, is melodramatic in extremis. And you just know the gun should not then be left on the bookshelf …

    I enjoyed the novel on its higher plains, where socioreligious, such as the consideration of ‘chance’, here:

    “Bert now understood this. And on the basis of what he had been through, the psychiatrist was playing with a new psychiatric term, ‘chance trauma’, and with ‘chance syndrome’. The human desire for a structured and predictable life, an endeavour to which we devoted every skill and every trade and each gesture of our social organisation, was at odds with a universe in which chance was the sole constant and the enduring rule. Civilization protected the individual from the raw edges of contingency. To experience war, however, was to be exposed perpetually to chance, to discover at each instant that there was no human reason in operation and enough unreason, in fact, to encourage doubt of divine purposes. If the lesson of chance came as a shock, evoking a depth of recognition in the subject, it could undermine every proposition by which men and women manage to live.” (239)

    Bert Webber’s treatment by hypnosis is convincing and moving.

    I had not read Keneally before and found some of the syntax unusual, the style almost antiquated – viz. ‘unreason’ in the example above. I cannot recall many dashes used for punctuation and had to reread a line or two for meaning.

    I would be interested in the group’s recommendations for other Tom Keneally books. If you are new to him, which of Keneally’s fiction do you recommend reading as an entry point?


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