by Tim Winton
AS a person who loves reading, it was certainly difficult for me to come up with just one “favourite” book.
I ended up settling on Cloudstreet by Tim Winton because it is the sort of book I can pick up anytime, anyplace and it will make me smile.
As one of Australia’s much-loved classics, it tells the story of two families, the Lambs and the Pickles who in post-WWII come to live together in an old, very strange house in Perth.
Over the years, with very different outlooks on life, the families grow up and somehow learn to live together, irrevocably changing themselves and the house forever.
Through his use of language, particularly the way he arranges dialogue and description, Winton is able to capture so much of what I know and imagine Australia to have been like in that era.
For me, the characters and the landscape come alive. They are vibrant with an energy that is so unique to his writing.
I am able to picture the house, with its moving shadows and sighing walls. I can see Oriel’s white tent, Fish rowing the dory through the field of wheat and Rose and Quick sipping whisky on the river, telling stories to each other in the dark.
Winton has the ability to somehow put into words the everyday things we experience and feel we know, like; family, love, loss and coming of age.
No matter how many times I read Cloudstreet, I am still able to find something new in it to love and for me that is the sign of not only a good book but a great book.
by Peter Fitzsimons
WHEN my father gave me the biography of Nancy Wake by footballer-come-author Peter Fitzsimons I wasn’t too keen and the book sat on a shelf for a number of years unopened.
Last year, determined not to start Harry Potter again until I had read something new, I pulled down the dusty biography from the shelf.
I was hooked from the first page. Reading Fitzsimons’ book is like sitting across the table from him having a chat and you barely want to leave long enough to put the kettle on.
Nancy’s childhood in Sydney with a distant mother, a journalist father she adored and the demise of their marriage was a story like so many others but that’s what makes it important. Nancy’s strong, rebellious nature was the reason her story was different.
Through America and on to pre-war Europe, Nancy began work as a journalist and became witness to the best and the worst of human nature.
“To that point I did not know I had such emotion in me, …this Nazi thing seemed to have just taken them over and turned them into something that I had not thought humanly possible. But I wanted it stopped, smashed, obliterated from the world.”
What I really like about this book is it shows an average person in many ways, through sheer strength of will, do what most of us hope that we would, but very often find excuses not to. She stood up for what was right no matter what the cost.
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
I HAD to re-read this book to remember why I had loved it so much.
Just a quick skim of the book, I thought. But there is no skimming To Kill a Mockingbird. Once it’s started, there is no going back.
To me, it is a beautiful book. This story of attorney Atticus Finch and his defence of a black man charged with attacking a white girl in the Deep South in the 1930s is a powerful portrait of racism in a small town.
It’s told simply, without mawkishness, sentimentality or outrage. It’s fascinating in the way it immediately makes the reader a citizen of this town and unfolds its wonderful characters.
But for me, the true beauty in Harper Lee’s book comes from the way the story is told. The reader watches and participates in the events through young Scout Finch, Atticus’ daughter.
Scout is a tomboy who knocks about with her older brother Jem. While she is, to her strict aunt, deplorably unladylike and too ready with her fists, she is honest and funny.
The story is made even more powerful because it is seen through the eyes of a child. The day-to-day activities that make up Scout’s life weave a pattern through which the story of Atticus’ court case cuts a crazy path.
Harper Lee writes with gentle strength and it is mesmerising.
While it is entirely up to the reader what he or she takes away from To Kill a Mockingbird, there are so many lessons here to be learned.