Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Silent Kookaburra by @LizaPerrat #Australian #Thriller

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs at http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat

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My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with an ARC copy that I voluntarily chose to review.

The story —set in an Australia richly brought to life by the writing that describes landscape, animals, trees, food, furniture, cars, lifestyle and social mores— is told in the first person by Tanya Randall. Adult Tanya is back in her childhood cottage and a newspaper cutting from 1973, which her grandmother kept, makes her remember that time when she was only eleven. The story of adult Tanya frames that of her childhood memories, which take up most of the book (I had almost forgotten that fact until the very end of the story).

Young Tanya is quite innocent (of course, she doesn’t think so), overweight (she eats compulsively, seemingly to comfort herself when the situation gets difficult at home, when they call her names, when she has any upsets or… most of the time. There are long lists of biscuits and other foods she consumes at an alarming pace, well-researched for the period, although I’m not familiar with them), and loves her mother, father, cat (that she insists on walking as if it were a dog, even if that brings her even more unwanted attention), dog, true crime magazines, and her friend Angelina, although not so much her grandmother, Nanna Purvis.

Seeing (or reading) things from a child’s point of view is a good way to reflect on how adult behaviour might appear to children and how difficult certain things might be to process and understand. Her mother’s miscarriages and depression (that keeps getting missed until very late in the novel), her secret uncle’s devious behaviour (it’s hard to read the scenes of Tanya with her uncle, as she’s clearly craving for attention and we know from early on where things are headed, but Tanya doesn’t and she finds it more and more difficult to extricate herself from the situation). The author is excellent at making us share her point of view and her thought processes that create an atmosphere of dread and impending disaster. The dualistic life view of young children, for whom everything is black or white is reflected perfectly in Tanya’s reactions to her grandmother (whom at first she doesn’t like at all but later, as she realises she’s the only one to stick by her, goes on to become complicit with) and to her uncle, who goes from being perfect to being a monster (although the novel suggests that he had also been a victim).

The novel is not easy to classify, although it comes under the thriller label, but it is a psychological exploration of childhood, memory, tragedy, the lies we tell ourselves, and also a work of historical (albeit recent history) fiction, as it beautifully recreates the time and place (down details such as hit songs, records of the era, bicycles, toys, cars, magazines, foodstuffs, clothing and hairdos) and even historical events, like the opening of the Sidney Opera House. There is something of a twist at the end, and plenty of secrets, like in most domestic noir novels, but for me, the strong points are the way the story is told, and some of the characters. Nanna Purvis (who is a fantastic character and proves that grandmothers are almost always right) has old-fashioned ideas about relationships, sexuality, religion and race, but manages to surprise us and has good insight into her own family. Tanya reminded me of myself at her age (although I read other types of books, I was also overweight and wasn’t the most popular girl at school, and we also lived with my mother’s mother, although thankfully my home circumstances were not as tragic) and she tries hard to keep her family together. Her point of view and her understanding are limited, and her actions and frame of mind repetitive at times (she munches through countless packets of biscuits, pulls at her cowlick often, bemoans the unattractive shape of her ears, wonders if she’s adopted) as it befits a character of her age and historical period (so close but yet so far. No internet, no social media, no easy way to access information). Real life is not a succession of exciting events; even at times of crisis, most of our lives are taken up by routine actions and everyday tasks. Her mother’s sinking into depression and her bizarre behaviour, which is sadly misunderstood and left untreated for far too long, rang a chord with me as a psychiatrist. It is an accurate portrayal of such conditions, of the effect the illness can have not only on the sufferers but also on the family, and of the reactions of the society to such illnesses (especially at the time). Uncle Blackie is also a fascinating character but I won’t say anything else as I want to avoid spoilers. Although the setting and the atmosphere are very different, it brought to my mind some of Henry James’s stories, in particular, What Maisie Knew and The Turn of the Screw.

This is a great novel that I recommend to those who are interested in accurate psychological portrayals, reflections on the nature of memory, and books with a strong sense of setting and historical period, rather than fast action and an ever changing plot. A word of warning: it will be difficult to read for those with a low tolerance for stories about child abuse and bullying. If you’re a fan of good writing that submerges you into a time and place and plunges you inside of a character’s head, with an edge of creepiness and intrigue, this is your book.

Book Description

All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.

Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web. 

Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory. 

Unsettling psychological suspense blending the intensity of Wally Lamb with the atmosphere of Peter James, this story will get under your skin.

About the author

An image posted by the author.

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII German Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third in the series, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.

The Silent Kookaburra, a dark psychological suspense novel set in 1970s Australia, was published in November, 2016.

Friends, Family and Other Strangers From Downunder is a collection of 14 humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia, for readers everywhere.

Liza is a co-founder and member of Triskele Books, an independent writers’ collective with a commitment to quality and a strong sense of place, and also reviews books for Bookmuse.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

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Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton @roberteggleton1 #RBRT #Bookreview

Today’s team review comes from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Barb has been reading Rarity From the Hollow by Robert Eggleton

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My review: 3 out of 5 stars for Rarity From the Hollow

Magic Realism:  a literary genre or style that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction. (Miriam Webster)

[Image credit: Stacy Kranitz: The Rape of Appalachia] http://www.readingthepictures.org/2014/02/stacy-kranitz-the-rape-of-appalachia/

 

Set in Appalachia, Rarity From the Hollow deals with one of the most painful topics possible—child abuse. We meet two little girls, and hear them try to live in a world that includes violence, sexual assault, incest, drug and substance abuse, mental illness, and murder. When little Lacy Dawn turns to inanimate objects such as the trees around her for emotional support and guidance, it’s a compelling and believable image.

But it’s also the story of magical realism in which the the squalor of Lacy’s life is systematically repaired by a bemused alien. The alien, DotCom, hails from a giant shopping mall planet called Shptiludrp that involves a complicated rewards system for those who do just what the planet’s name suggests and “Shop Till You Drop”.

And that’s the problem. For me, the two very different stories never successfully match up. Since the author was a children’s psychotherapist with a particular focus on victims of child abuse, I accept that those aspects of the story are accurate reflections of past incidents and patients. However, when it comes to integrating the stories, there is just too big a disconnect for me. Child abuse isn’t an ideal topic for humor, although Roald Dahl does make the most of its possibilities.  By the same token, the light-hearted spoof of our modern materialistic world never fits comfortably against the horrors of abused little girls.

The characters in the novel do develop and grow from their shallow, often violent and/or mentally ill beginnings. Unfortunately, because this occurs as a result of magic alien technology, it’s not clear what their changes mean in the long run. On the one hand, the writing itself takes risks that support the overall storyline, such as the decision to have a variety of characters’ internal thoughts presented as simple text following their verbal statements. But I found the pace of the story uneven, the character-development driven by alien’s magic “cure” somewhat unsatisfying, and the plot deeply divided between a description of Lacy’s abusive and dangerous world and the whimsical, vaguely Ayn Rand-meets-Willie Wonka world of her alien mentor.

I would give Rarity From the Hollow three stars. Author Robert Eggleton has created a believable and compelling world where a robot risks capture in order to rescue the one little girl destined to save the universe. I just wish he had spent more time tying the two stories—child abuse victim and destined Chosen One—together better.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rarity From The Hollow by Robert Eggleton @roberteggleton1 #Bookreview #SundayBlogShare

Rarity from the HollowRarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Rarity from the Hollow straddles several genres; fantasy, sci-fi, social science to name but a few. It comes from an author with a very experienced background in American social services, child welfare, veterans, juvenile youths, homeless youths and the unemployed. This knowledge is weaved through-out the book and shows a deep knowledge of the subjects.

Add to this the author’s own personal background where members of his family suffered domestic abuse, alcoholism and PTSD. First hand experience of these issues allow the author to include these in his book with a great degree of knowledge.

The book is set in West Virginia and there is good use of local dialect and language from the dialogue. We meet Lacy Dawn an incredible eleven year old who has been chosen to save first her parents and then the Universe. She has an alien friend called DotCom who lives in a spaceship in a cave near by. He teaches Lacy Dawn great wisdom which she uses to advise her friends. They also work together to “Fix her family”.

DotCom is supervised by Mr Pump from a fantasy shopping Mall called Shptiludrp, where Lacy Dawn and her mother experience a wonderful stay and shop amongst the other aliens. There are subtle analogies and multiple layers which are all there to be picked over in this complex storyline.

This book isn’t an easy read, the subject matter is at times shocking and made me uncomfortable as a reader. Lacy Dawn’s choice of words and subjects of discussion are at times very disturbing. It reflects a part of society which many of us are sheltered from. The book is dialogue led and this for my reading experience was like wading through deep water, it slowed the pace of the book. I was unable to connect to any of the characters and felt I was watching one of DotCom’s educational videos.

I understand the author has turned to fiction to raise money to prevent child abuse, this is a heavy read but know that your money will go to a good cause.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads