Award Winner The Yield

The Yield, by Tara June winch has swept this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, claiming three prizes: Book of the Year, Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and People’s Choice Award.

The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha.

Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.

August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.

Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

Read more in the SMH

Virtual Book Launch

You are invited to join author Hilde Hinton talking about The Loudness of Things Unsaid, LIVE Wednesday night 29 April at 8pm AEST, on the Better Reading Facebook page.

An unforgettable story of loneliness, isolation and finding your way. Heart-wrenching, wise and wryly funny, this novel will make you kinder to those who are lost.

Miss Kaye works at The Institute. A place for the damaged, the outliers, the not-quite rights. Everyone has different strategies to deal with the residents. Some bark orders. Some negotiate tirelessly. Miss Kaye found that simply being herself was mostly the right thing to do.

Susie was seven when she realised she’d had her fill of character building. She’d lie between her Holly Hobbie sheets thinking how slowly birthdays come around, but how quickly change happened. One minute her Dad was saying that the family needed to move back to the city and then, SHAZAM, they were there. Her mum didn’t move to the new house with them. And Susie hated going to see her mum at the mind hospital. She never knew who her mum would be. Or who would be there.

As the years passed, there were so many things Susie wanted to say but never could.Miss Kaye will teach Susie that the loudness of unsaid things can be music – and together they will learn that living can be more than surviving.

Julia Baird Online Book Launch

Join Better Reading every Wednesday night at 8pm (AEST) for a virtual book launch via Facebook live.

Each week one amazing author will launch their book on the Better Reading facebook page. They will talk about their book, show you the book and take questions and comments from you… live!

All you need to do is have a glass of champagne ready, and then sit back and enjoy. See you at the launch…..

Join us tonight for Julia Baird in conversation with her publisher Catherine Milne.

The book is a beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.

Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them?

And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?

Ivan Book Comments

Hello, hope you are enjoying time to read…. Here is some Pageturner comments about One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in case you missed them:

From Di:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Beautifully written – anyone that can describe one day in such minute detail and make every single thing seem so vital is clever indeed. When you realise that the monotony of each day is also full of really important details of survival and many gains and losses, it brings home just how long and unforgiving a stretch in these camps must have been. He talks about twelve year sentences, or even the fact that some men are on their second sentence. This absolutely overpowers the mind as you try to grasp the brutality and hopelessness of the men. He doesn’t complain much and just seems to accept each day, or each small event as it comes and tries to make the most of it. Amazing that a crust of bread can take on such momentous proportions. Add in the freezing weather and it is a wonder that they even survive. He even accepts that he will probably never go home again and doesn’t seem to dwell on it. I thought it was an amazing piece of writing and imagine that it must have been seen as seditious propaganda by the powers that be in Russia. Brave man! It is interesting to read this during our own lockdown period. We don’t really have it too bad at all, do we?At the end of the day, Ivan reflects on the good things that have happened that day. Quite inspiring.Even though it is a novel, you have no doubt that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is writing from first hand experience.

From Paul:

Thank you for selecting this book. I approached it with some trepidation, however it is accessible to read and a fine testament to Solzhenitsyn’s courage. 4/5.

1. Why does Solzhenitsyn call the protagonist by the name “Ivan Denisovich” in the title but by the name “Shukhov” almost everywhere else in the narrative?

Is it his family name or a nickname through which we feel we know him? He is referred to as Ivan Denisovich Shukhov on first page. It may also be a cipher for Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, a Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union, who was reportedly able to speak bluntly to Stalin.

2. In what ways does the camp attempt to eliminate individual identity?

The prisoners numbers were painted on their camp clothing and had to to always be visible. The prisoners were mustered in the morning and evening and repeatedly counted and recounted in their teams of twenty four.

3. In what ways do the inmates attempt to hold on to their individual identities?

I was surprised to read that prisoners were permitted to receive letters and parcels. Other possessions were smuggled and hidden: Alyosha has a secret bible for example.

4. Why did the author choose to write a work of fiction in order to share his Gulag experience with an audience? Why not nonfiction?

It was presumably safer to publish as fiction although there would still have been great fear of reprisal.

5. Why does Solzhenitsyn describe only a single day of Shukhov’s life?

He could have picked any day to show the oppression of gulag life, day after day. This device works because it allows the author to magnify small details of a monotonous day. Food vitally. This is one of the ways Shukov is able to survive: living in the moment, attentive instantaneously to everything around him. He is quick-witted and we see him sum up situations in his mind’s eye. “Shukhov’s fingers worked fast but his mind, planning the next move, worked faster.” (p25.)

6. Why does the author show a day in which the main character feels slightly less miserable than others?

I think it is show the resilience of the human condition. The descriptions of Shukov building the wall in the late afternoon, wanting to finish and do it well, were compelling. I was really with Shukhov in these passages, cheering him on.

7. The narrator asks, “Can a man who’s warm understand one who is freezing?” What are the larger implications of such a question as it applies to our lives? What are some of the possible answers to this question? How do you respond to this question?

I marked this insightful question when reading. We possess an innate capacity for empathy; then there is character. There is humour in places which explores this: “You don’t have to be very bright to push a hand-barrow. So the team-leader gave such work to people who had been in positions of authority.” (p52.)

***

And is a New York Times Review dated 1963 when it was published in America.

Wednesday Night 8pm

Announcing the Better Reading Book Launch Series:

We’ve organised a special treat for you all… Join Better Reading every Wednesday night at 8pm (AEST) for a virtual book launch via Facebook live.

Each week one amazing author will launch their book on the Better Reading facebook page. They will talk about their book, show you the book and take questions and comments from you… live!

All you need to do is have a glass of champagne ready, and then sit back and enjoy. See you at the launch…..

Ivan Discussion Questions

Our next group discussion has been cancelled due to Corona Virus (COVID-19) Regulations and rapid changes in the workplace as a result.

So here are some questions about our April book for discussion One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to get you thinking. And if you like to make a comment ~ please click on the comment tag under the heading ~ and go for it. The comment will appear below the post.

First published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World), the story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.

The book’s publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history, since never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed. 

Why does Solzhenitsyn call the protagonist by the name “Ivan Denisovich” in the title but by the name “Shukhov” almost everywhere else in the narrative?

In what ways does the camp attempt to eliminate individual identity?

In what ways do the inmates attempt to hold on to their individual identities?

Why did the author choose to write a work of fiction in order to share his Gulag experience with an audience? Why not nonfiction?

Why does Solzhenitsyn describe only a single day of Shukhov’s life?

Why does the author show a day in which the main character feels slightly less miserable than others?

The narrator asks, “Can a man who’s warm understand one who is freezing?” What are the larger implications of such a question as it applies to our lives? What are some of the possible answers to this question? How do you respond to this question?

Pageturners Update

Hi everyone,

We nearly made our online book club happen for the next meeting on 8 April, but world events have taken over.

Please note that due to rapid changes in the workplace as the result of Corona Virus (COVID-19) Regulations, we are unable to host the online event.

We will let you know when Pageturners returns – this will be when the library reopens. We will keep you informed via this blog, the website and facebook.

You are most welcome to add your comments to this blog. We’ll update the blog and include questions for discussion when we can.

In the meantime happy reading. Please stay safe and take care.

American Dirt Discussion

Pageturners enjoyed a lively discussion about American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins in March. It is a fiction story about a mother and son on the run from a drug cartel in Mexico.

Comments included: ”enjoyed it, ignorant of the controversy, beginning quite violent, wanted to read on, it was brutal, it was a coincidence that Jaivier visited the bookshop, guilt theme runs through the book, books used as devices, people are jealous of the money the author made, book didn’t work for me, the use of Spanish was interesting, it was educational, I learnt things, the corruption was relentless, an example of cultural misappropriation, shone a light on the life of illegal immigrants,  there were many random acts of kindness, it is a complex issue, the best part was the writer explained why she wrote the book., it exposed us to cliched people, people were profiting from human tragedy, there were goodies and baddies, it is about a mother’s love for her son, it raises the question what would you do in that situation? I enjoyed the drama, it contained different voices, some more credible than others, about real people with back stories of injustice, about human misery.”

Read more about the book controversy and apologies from the publisher.

Read more about writing outside identity.

Pageturners rated it from 2 to 4.5 so a wide scope of opinion.

Our next Pageturners discussion will be held online via Zoom Technology on Wednesday 8 April at 5.30pm for 40 minutes to talk about A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Please download the free Zoom App to your phone, tablet or laptop. Register with Eventbrite that you will be attending via Zoom and we will send you the link to click onto. If you need any assistance with Zoom please call Jasmine on 6393 8125.

Keep your fingers crossed and we hope the technology works as they are experiencing a huge volume of online sessions.

Talk to you all soon. Take care, Jasmine

Upcoming Reads

So with COVID-19 changes we are trying something new! Our next two discussions will be held online via Zoom technology. Download the free Zoom app to your device – phone, laptop or tablet and we will let you know the link to click onto for the night via eventbrite. These meetings will go for 40 minutes. If you need help with Zoom, please call Jasmine on 6393 8125. Our upcoming reads are:

  • 8 April – Classic read – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and
  • 13 May – The Convert by Stefan Hertmans