26 October 2014

Two States - One Nation? by Günter Grass

This book was written in 1990 on the cusp of Germany's reunification. While many were praising the idea of merging the GDR and the Federal Republic, there were a few, like Günter Grass, who felt that it was a step in the wrong direction. In a number of essays and speeches, he argues the case for retaining two separate states, each following separate policies in regards to domestic, social and political questions while, at the same time, sharing a definite German culture. The structure of the book means that it is easily read, and it also allows the reader to 'pick and choose'. Grass's arguments are well-rounded, and the book gives the reader much to think about, especially now, more than twenty years after reunification. Was Grass right? Read the book and decide.
  Photo of  Günter Grass from

22 October 2014

Take Your Best Shot: The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard by Jacqueline Kent

This book, only 123 pages in length, gives a very good portrait of Julia Gillard during her three years and three days in office. It is intelligently written with many references to things Julia said, and it gathers together the highs and lows of her prime ministership into an 'easy-to-handle' bundle. Kent makes no personal evaluation but presents everything so that the reader can make his/her own evaluation. I feel that the only evaluation that can be made is that Julia Gillard, with her tenacity, her clear vision, her efficiency, her graciousness and her strength of purpose, would have to be one of our very best prime ministers. Although Kent did not refer to it directly, the contrast between Julia and the two men in opposition to her - Rudd and Abbott - is striking to say the least. Both men failed miserably in most of those things that made Julia the person she was and is.

Photo of Julia Gillard (above) from   

Photo of Jacqueline Kent (to the left) from  

19 October 2014


Beginning on the 4th November, I will be publishing a Newsletter twice a month. There will be a course on Numerology, running over four or five months, and articles on vegetarian cooking, gardening, hiking and much more. There will be information on how my books came to be, as well as background information to both The Space in Between and Room Nineteen. Special offers and giveaways will also be a feature of the Newsletter. However, to receive the Newsletter, you must subscribe. The information in the Newsletter will not be available anywhere else.

Sign up today and be sure of receiving the very first Newsletter (and the first part of the course in Numerology). Your email address will only be used for the Newsletter, and, if you eventually decide that you do not wish to continue subscribing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

16 October 2014


The Giveaway (two copies of Room Nineteen) has now ended, and I would like to congratulate the two winners, Mónica from Portugal and Kristy from USA. For the more than fifteen hundred people who missed out, the book is being offered at a very reduced price from my website.   

This is an offer that definitely cannot last, so don't miss out.

13 October 2014

Desert Queen: The Many Lives and Loves of Daisy Bates by Susanna de Vries

As a novel, this book does not work; however, it does work as a collection of interesting information about Daisy Bates and the period in which she lived and worked - late nineteenth century/early twentieth century. (Daisy, originally from Ireland, spent many years living in the Australian desert, studying Aboriginal culture). The writing, unfortunately, is mediocre and there is a lot of repetition which, as the book progresses, becomes extremely irritating. Whether this can be totally attributed to the author or to bad editing is difficult to say.

Having read The House of Mirth earlier in the year, it was interesting to compare Lily Bart of that book with Daisy Bates of Desert Queen. Both women are from the same period, and both are intent on attaining financial and social security in what is most definitely a man's world. It is, however, interesting to see that while Lily Bart lacks the moral strength to achieve what she sets out to achieve and, in all probability, commits suicide, Daisy Bates actually does have the moral strength but, in the end, although she probably would never have admitted it, is unable to break through the male-erected barrier to female academic recognition. This is the book's very sad reality: had Daisy been accepted on the same level as any male doing similar work, I doubt that she would have spent almost twenty years camped in the desert, handing out dishes of porridge to the native people. Instead, she would have had economic security which, together with the acceptance of others working in the same field, would have allowed her the freedom to pursue her important research in a variety of directions.

That said, Daisy's vivid imagination, and the fact that she invented an entire history for herself, does tend to reflect badly on the complete authenticity of her research: one cannot help but wonder where Daisy the scientist disappears into the background and where Daisy the imaginative story-teller takes over. However, I have chosen to accept that, in essence, her research is probably fairly accurate. As a Christian, she "... insisted Christianity was irrelevant for Aboriginal people who, she thought, should maintain their unique culture and traditional way of life..." which, I feel, says a lot about Daisy's moral values and also about her sincerity.

Like The House of Mirth the message in this book is depressing; however, while The House of Mirth is beautifully written and can, therefore, be appreciated as a work of literature, Desert Queen is a mere collection of depressing information (much of which we must take with a grain of salt), without the satisfaction that comes with good writing. To sum up, I found the book interesting because of the information about Daisy Bates, but I was totally disappointed with the book itself.

08 October 2014

Perfect Stranger by Kay Schubach

This is a book about domestic abuse, and the most admirable thing about it is the honesty of the author. Kay Schubach is writing about herself in an extremely vulnerable situation, and yet she manages to describe the sequence of events without moulding her reactions to fit preconceived ideas of how, in hindsight, she should have acted. That said, I was amazed that such a sophisticated and world-aware woman could have been taken in by such a man as Simon Lowe. Even at her first meeting with him, all the signs are there warning her to leave him alone. That she should have extended that first meeting with sex at a nearby hotel is difficult to fathom; however, given her utter desperation for a child, it is possible to see why she may have ignored her intuition and clung to an erroneous image of Simon as the man of her dreams and, hopefully, the father of her child.

Kay makes a disastrous mistake by pretending that Simon is the man for whom she has been searching, but her mistake can in no way justify the way Simon then treats her. The few months she spends with him are a nightmare, and, at times, it is difficult to comprehend that anyone could be as violent, cruel, vindictive, jealous and immature as Simon Lowe.

The book is well written, and Kay makes it very obvious just how difficult it is for a domestic-violence victim to break away from her oppressor. The fear that fills Kay's every day is both tangible and terrifying. That she is eventually able to extricate herself from the situation is an indication of her inner strength and her sense of self; many other women would, unfortunately, not be able to do what she did. A book that is definitely worthwhile reading.

Photo from

05 October 2014

Books and Book Shops

Once upon a time book shops were quite ordinary. There were no glossy posters screaming at us to buy the latest best seller - in fact, the word best seller was not part of the language - no shelves of brightly bound books where seductive artwork tried to wrest our attention away from the actual writing within the book, and no tables, positioned right at the entrance to the shop, piled high with the remnants of last week's best sellers. Book covers were plain, and rarely did they give any indication of what the book itself might be about. The book itself was the main player - if it was good, people bought it; if it was not good, then it eventually disappeared.
The book is no longer the main player. Everything now revolves around that one word marketing, with the glitz not always the sign of a great book. The need for profit has elbowed itself to the top of the pyramid; 'greatness' is relative only to the number of copies that can be sold in a certain period of time. Like most other things in our society, books have become a consumer item with a use-by-date.
Whereas the book was once able to 'talk for itself', the voice now belongs to a marketer whose main ambition is to sell more books and make more money.

01 October 2014

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

As with all books by Anne Tyler (at least, the ones I have read so far), the theme is always ordinary. In this case, it is about a family and all the everyday things that happen during the life of that family - a life that spans the years from the early 1940s through to the twenty-first century. This sounds quite uninteresting, but Anne Tyler shows that ordinary can actually be quite fascinating. Let's face it: ordinary is what we all have to cope with, day in and day out; it is refreshing, therefore, to encounter an author who is able to sift through all the layers of ordinariness and find the things that enthral and move us emotionally. The writing is particularly good; the characters are believable and well structured. This is definitely a book that I would recommend.

 Photo from