Book Review: Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)

‘Even War must end some time, and perhaps if we are alive in three or four years’ time, we may recover the hidden childhood again and find that after all the dust and ashes which covered it haven’t spoilt it much.’- Letter from Vera to Roland, 1915

Dedication

Dedication

Testament of Youth is a momentous historical text preserving for us – the lucky generations – what war really meant. Most poignantly it is the portrait of Vera Brittain’s unrelenting and tragic psychological annihilation during and after World War One. Through loss after tragedy after loss we see the breakdown of Brittain’s hope, which we would now label ‘post traumatic stress’. Through Brittain’s diary extracts, letters and poems we see her decline from hopeful, energetic, burgeoning feminist and Oxford student – giddily in love for the first time – to a broken, traumatized, suicidal twenty-something who hallucinates that her face is covered in fungus each time she looks in the mirror. Continue reading

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1985: Mt. Smart Stadium: My Freddie, My Dad and Me

Ticket queenconcerts.com

TIcket stub courtesy of http://www.queenconcerts.com.

The music thumped through me as if Freddie, Bryan, Roger and John were playing on a tiny stage deep inside my chest, rather than on the huge stage 100 meters ahead of our spot on the grass bank. Dad’s hand – dry and warm like pages left out in the sun – squeezed mine; he tapped his chest and laughed. His smile may have out-watted even mine. We were here. Together.

QueenGH2011

The album that started it all. Bohemian Rhapsody on rotate.

The band launched into the baseline of “Under Pressure” and the crowd went mad, hands in the air, screaming: Pressure! Pressure down on me! Pressure down on you! I leapt to my feet – I couldn’t help it! – then sat down again, embarrassed. I was nine. I’d never been to a concert before. Dad laughed his head off.

“C’mon you,” he said, and dragged me back up.

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Book Review: Other Halves by Sue McCauley (1988)

Other halves

On the face of it, Other Halves is a captivating love story about a mid-thirties woman’s love affair with a 16-year-old Maori boy. But beneath the fascinating mechanics of how it all worked – the hot sex, drugs, rehab and dawn raids – lies an important snapshot of political and cultural attitudes of late 1970s/early 1980s New Zealand. Continue reading

Book Review: Barefoot Years, by Martin Edmond (2014)

Barefoot yearsEdmond’s writing transports me to a dream-world, where things are viewed as if through a filter – colors are more vivid yet muted – and almost anything can happen. It’s as if I’m floating through layers of Edmond’s memory and consciousness, much like wading through one of those layered colored-sand jars you used to get at the Easter Show.

I first discovered New Zealander Edmond through Luca Antara, a chapter of which was held up by a tutor as an ingenious take on the travel writing genre. I thought it strange, very strange indeed. I then read Dark Night: Walking with Colin McCahon – this really was an ingenious take, this time on the biography genre, based on a 24 hour period in 1984 when McCahon went missing in Sydney. Am I really here? I thought as I travelled Sydney’s streets with McCahon, lost as Mary’s little lamb. I was beginning to understand why Edmond is so revered.

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