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'romulus, my father', by raimond gaita

i had my suspicions about this book. i had heard that it was a wonderful novel, but i wasn't in a huge hurry to read another book written by a wistful, nostalgic old man about how great and noble his father had been. i couldn't imagine what i could find to relate to in a book of this kind.
i think i should stop judging books by what their blurbs lead me to believe they will be about.
this was a completely honest, involving, and beautiful text. it confronted themes of mental illness, suicide, and the migrant experience in australia, with unsentimental honesty. he writes like a philosopher, in a measured, thoughtful, and clear manner, and that saves the novel from being a romanticised history of 'growing up tough in the bush'.
i'd strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good auto/biography.
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'a private performance: a sequel to jane austens pride and prejudice', by helen halstead

after the unmitigated craptacularity of the last austen-related novel i read, theis book was recommended and leant to me by a friend. i must say that it was a vast improvement on the tripe the preceded it.
while this novel is clearly another work of elevated (by publication) fanfiction, it was at least written by someone who had, at some point, actually read 'pride and prejudice'. halstead's interpretation of the characters was interesting and while the narrative did at times become fragmented by the introduction of a few too many new characters and storylines, it had direction, and held my interest. especially when lydia got syphilis - HA!
in the end, i agree with michael mcgirr when he writes of this attempt: "austen would not be austen if it were possible to emulate her prose [and] helen halstead has set herself an impossible challenge."
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'mr darcy's diary', by maya slater

hmm. well. what can i say? i knew we were off to a bad start the moment darcy called the parlor maid to his room for a romp, and it kind of went downhill form there. i almost gave up in disgust when darcy visited his good friend lord byron, found the master of the house to be fond of drinking his wine from a goblet made of a human skull (apparently he actually used to do this?!), and proceeded to participate in an orgy with him. no kidding. apparently orgies with bizarrely morbid poets is the only way to get elizabeth bennett and her fine eyes out of your head. who knew?
another thing that i couldn't get past was the author's seeming inability to come up with a better name for darcy's valet than 'peebles'. given that the master was a member of 'boodles' it kind of seemed like overkill on the silly names. a small thing, but it all added up and undermined darcy's dignity further.
in all fairness, the last 1/5 of the book was actually quite good. once darcy saw the error of his proud ways, and set himself to rescuing the bennetts from their disgrace, he became quite emotionally honest, and almost endearing. this part of the novel presented an interesting take on the character i have loved for so long. unfortunately he bore little resemblance to the darcy of the previous 4/5 of the story. it as as if the author decided that writing darcy's diary would be a cool idea, wrote the last part, and then had to cobble together the rest of the book in order to make it fat enough...
anyway, i wouldn't recommend this one as more than a bit of a giggle. i bought it at an airport, and it is very much the kind of book that is intended to be read on a plane by tired, uncritical persons who just want to go to sleep.


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December 2010

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