Book Review: ‘Black Rock White City’ by A. S. Patric: Five Stars, Baby!

I’m off to Melbourne to catch up with My-Friend-Jarrod next month and what better way to ready myself than to indulge in new Melbourne fiction. And my goodness. What fiction this is. Five, oh five, oh five glorious and shining stars, Mr. Poetic-Patric.

He can’t speak to any of it because it isn’t about words anymore. It’s about another existence. Neither of them is sure about the present but this is some kind of afterlife (17).

A spot of reading. (Image copyright C. Barron 2015)

A spot of reading. Unposed, of course.
(Image copyright C. Barron 2015)

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Book Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder is like holding up a cut crystal to the light—from each angle it reflects and refracts differently. In Wonder, 10-year-old Auggie Pullman’s experience is refracted through his own point of view and those of people close to him: his sister Via, his friends Summer and Jack, Via’s boyfriend Justin, and Miranda (Via’s friend). In this edition (Borzoi 2012) there is also ‘The Julian Chapter’ written from the point of view of Auggie’s enemy.

Oh yeah, you should know: Auggie has serious facial abnormalities.

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Auckland Writers Festival: Hope in the Faces of Strangers: Tim Winton

Before seeing Tim Winton at the Auckland Writers Festival, if I’d seen him walking down the street I’d have pegged him as an aging surfer dude. And maybe tried to sell him drugs. Not really. But apparently that often happens to him.

“Most people expect clever symmetry in life. But most people die mid-sentence” – Tim Winton.

Image credit: Hank Kordas

Image credit: Hank Kordas

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Auckland Writers Festival: Writing Tips and Orgies with Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom. Image copyright Caroline Barron 2015

Amy Bloom. Image copyright Caroline Barron 2015

To look at Amy Bloom you might not guess she once went on ‘A Cruise to Nowhere’ with 40 cross dressers and their wives. You also might not guess she has been a barmaid, a psychotherapist and the server of canapés and drinks (carafes of vodka) to the Yiddish Opera cast.

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Book Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom (2014)

It seemed to me that if you had to have a mother who’d dropped you off like a bag of dirty laundry and a father who was not above stealing from you (or your sister), you were pretty lucky to have that same sister take you to Hollywood and wash your underpants with hers and share her sandwiches with you (28).

Amy Bloom is coming to town, for the Auckland Writers Festival and will be in the audience, dangling off every delicious, erudite word. I first discovered Bloom in a fiction class – Silver Water remains one of my favorite short stories ever. I had high hopes for Lucky Us; and – Lucky Me – hope soared and found its mark in a carriage house in Ohio crowded with achingly flawed and real characters.

Amy Bloom reading book

C’est moi, sneaking in a bit of reading over Easter. Image copyright to Caroline Barron

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Book Review: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver (1990)

My-Friend-Jarrod is like one of those fortune-telling Magic 8 Balls; you know the ones – shake it, ask a burning question, get an answer. Thankfully Jarrod is not actually a Magic 8 Ball, because his answers are far more useful than “Reply hazy try again” or “Outlook not so good”.

When I asked him to recommend books or films “with non-linear narrative structure and several points of view and possibly an unreliable narrator” to help with my novel, he had an immediate reply: “Better not tell you now.” Bugger off 8 Ball. He had an immediate reply: Continue reading

Book Review: The Widow’s Daughter by Nicholas Edlin

Edlin’s descriptions of my home turf – Freeman’s Bay and Ponsonby – during World War Two brought alive much of the dry, factual reading I’ve recently done about U.S. troops in Auckland during that time (I can recommend Denys Bevan’s United States Forces in NZ and The Yanks are Coming by Harry Bioletti). Most Kiwi soldiers were away fighting in the Middle East, so when the Japanese became a threat, the U.S. sent their troops to New Zealand as a base from which to defend the Pacific, and for rest and recuperation between Pacific campaigns. Oh, and to teach Kiwi girls how to jitterbug.  Continue reading

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



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