Monday, 12 February 2018

Reading Challenge Week 6 - A Book By a Male Author

So, did you manage to find a book written by a male author?

Choosing a book based on the gender of the writer isn't something we normally encourage, although people have been doing it for centuries (which is why a lot of female authors wrote under male pseudonyms, and why universities started to teach courses specifically on women's writing). But, when the only criteria for a book is "what third-person singular pronoun should you use?", then you do get quite a wide variety of options.

For example:

Scott Dale read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I chose to read Fahrenheit 451 (810 BRADB 1B FAH) this week, written by the male author, Ray Bradbury. This book has been on my list for many years and I was glad to finally read it. One of the interesting things about this book is the way it was written. Bradbury wrote the material in the basement of a library on a typewriter that he hired for ten cents per half hour.

But what is it about and what does the name mean? Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. The book’s main character, Guy Montag, is a “fireman”. In the world of this novel, it is a fireman’s responsibility to burn outlawed books.

Fahrenheit 451 may be a dystopian nightmare that gives librarians the terrors but it sure is a page-turner.

Brenda Carter read The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

I was lucky to pick up this gem at a garage sale, but you can always borrow it from the JCU library (820 BARN(J) 1C SEN). The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is a short, beautifully written novel of life and relationships that won the man Booker Prize in 2011.

Tony is a quiet, passive young man. He has a group of friends, a rather unsatisfactory relationship with a girl and admiration for newcomer Adrian, whose apparent maturity and philosophical beliefs outstrip them all. Later in life, Tony receives some information that changes everything. He has to reconsider his memories and perceptions of the past, while also evaluating how he has lived his life. “I thought of the things that had happened to me over the years, and of how little I had made happen”.

If you like a healthy dose of self-reflection with your fiction, you will love The Sense of an Ending.

Sharon Bryan read The Red House Mystery, by A. A. Milne.

I’ve been going through an A. A. Milne stage at the moment, and fortunately we have quite a few of his works in our collection. The Red House Mystery (820 MILN 1C RED) is Milne’s foray into the world of murder mystery and it’s not half bad.

Okay, so Milne was never going to give Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers a run for their money, but the book is a serviceable mystery novel and shows a lot of promise. I expect his second book would have been better, and his third book would have been a classic in the genre. Unfortunately, he only wrote one, so our amateur detective, Antony Gillingham didn’t get the chance to develop into the next Poirot.

Gillingham’s special talent is being independently wealthy and able to amuse himself by observing people – plus, he has a photographic memory. He will notice the details that end up solving the crime, even if he didn’t realise that’s what he was seeing at the time. He also has a fondness for Sherlock Holmes, and his “Watson” – a typical thirties “bright young thing” called Bill Beverley – is happy to play along. It's almost more of a "how to host a murder" game than a mystery novel.

Bronwyn Mathiesen read Three Crooked Kings by Matthew Condon.

I was interested In reading this book (the first in a trilogy) because I grew up in Queensland in the 80' s and 90's when the Fitzgerald Inquiry was a large part of the nightly news in our household. This book is available at 364.132309943 CON in the library and as an eBook. I downloaded it and read it on my tablet with the BlueFire Reader App.

This book amazed me from the start, in that it actually starts in the 1940’s and describes the long and often complicated beginning of corruption in the Queensland Police Force. I had not been aware of the beginnings and growth of the culture that enabled corruption to flourish in the decades preceding the 'Joh' era. The murder of Shirley Brifman and the disappearance of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters and these women’s connection to people who should have protected them really bring home the horror of this time. Two men were charged with the McCulkin murders in 2014, after this book was published, and forty years after the crime happened. 

How did Queensland society accept this kind of thing for so long? Well, read this if you want to find out. The author describes in such a factual way the reality of how this happened in Queensland. The story reaches from the Atherton tablelands, out to Mount Isa and Charleville. 

I am looking forward to getting in to what really happened in the Joh era in Jack’s and Jokers and All Fall Down, the other two titles in the trilogy. 

Thankfully this era is now in the past fro Queensland and I’m grateful to the author for writing it.  It would not be a library reading challenge if I did not point out that in his acknowledgements the author thanks the State Library of Queensland, Fryer Library and other archives without which important stories like this cannot be told. 

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