Burial Rites

‘Charged with the brutal murder of two men, Agnes Magnusdottir has been removed to her homeland’s farthest reaches, to an isolated farm in Northern Iceland, to await execution…’

Hannah Kent’s first novel, Burial Rites, is a semi-fictional retelling of the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir, punctuated by excerpts from original letters and documents related to the case. My favourite thing about this book was Kent’s ability to paint the bleak, cold setting of this story so vividly. I could almost feel the chill and smell the pungent odours present in the farmhouse to which Agnes was sent. I could feel her desperation at her present situation and indeed at circumstance that had confronted her throughout her life.

The story is told primarily in the third person, following various character’s point of view, with Agnes herself picking up the narrative in parts. Despite already knowing Agnes’ fate, I still found her story gripping and my interest was also held by the parallel stories of those around her.

I was really thrilled to find a novel by an Australian writer that was ‘un-put-down-able’. Heavy as the subject matter was, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see what Hannah Kent produces in the future.

 

 

 

The White Earth

I have a history of disliking award winning novels. I have a history of particularly disliking award winning Australian novels. I didn’t mind Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda but I didn’t really enjoy Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, and I thought the ending to Dirt Music was ridiculous. So it was with much trepidation that I decided to read the 2005 Miles Franklin Award winning The White Earth, written by Andrew McGahan and published by Allen and Unwin.

The novel is set in a fictional region of the real-life Darling Downs, west of Brisbane. It charts a year in the life of a young boy named William who, having recently lost his father to a fire, moves along with his mother into a dilapidated mansion – Kuran House. Kuran House is owned by William’s Great Uncle and the history of the great House and its inhabitants is woven throughout the story. It is part family saga, part supernatural thriller, part history lesson, and deals with some heavy themes including Native Title.

I really enjoyed the first ten or so chapters of this book where the scene was set and I got a glimpse into both the past and the present, describing how life at Kuran House and in the surrounding district was shaped; however, as the novel progressed I began to struggle. The main protagonist, William, is said to be eight years old. The dialog, thoughts and emotions attributed to William seem far too advanced for a child of that age and the adults seem to interact with him in a manner that suggest he is much older than eight. Had he been perhaps thirteen or fourteen years old I may have swallowed it, but my inability to believe in William experiencing the events of the novel as an eight year old really ruined the story for me. Additionally, in the final third of The White Earth the narrative becomes very dialogue heavy, almost as if McGahan lost his ability to describe events without dialogue and decided to have each character spell out every thought, action and decision verbally. The ‘he said / she said’ seemed a little … basic? Certainly not what I would expect from a Miles Franklin Winning novel. And then there’s the bunyip…

So once again here I am, left unsatisfied with what is supposed to be great Australian literature. I feel very disloyal. Many critics loved the novel – maybe I’m just missing the point.

It’s ok though, I’ve found another Australian author to read. Maybe not so award winning … but so far I’m loving her book! Stay tuned for a review.

My favourite boots

Durango BootsI purchased these beautiful Durango boots while on holiday in Nashville last year. For me, boots have always been a practical item rather than an aesthetic accessory; keeping my legs warm, protecting me from creepy crawlies while gardening, or saving my toes from those heavy objects I drop while working. Travelling through America’s South gave me a much greater appreciation of how boots can be really pretty as well as stylish and practical. With heels varying from flat to crazy high, and flowers and crosses and other designs stitched in every colour, not to mention a multitude of leather varieties, Southern cowgirl boots really are a work of art. So I broadened my boot horizons and dabbled in snazzy boots, complete with coloured stitching and hearts, albeit in slightly muted tones.

EMU

I’ll tell you a secret though… they’re not my favourites. My favourite boots are still my faithful EMU black leather boots (currently in need of some boot polish). They’re comfortable and warm, are almost moulded to the shape of my legs by now, and have nice flat soles for which I am forever thankful. There’s something comforting about putting them on, my old friends that have traveled the world with me.  I do love my snazzy new cowgirl boots, but I think my heart will always remain with my old faithfuls.

Do you have a favourite pair of boots?