The Man Booker winner – raw and real

Narrow Road to the Deep North

I've just read this year's Man Booker Prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Talk about  wrung out. Me, I mean, not the book, which is brilliant. It is so gruelling that at times I had to put it down. I was however compelled to come back and keep reading. Australian Richard Flanagan's fictional story is informed by the prisoner-of-war experiences of his own father. Flanagan was so … [Read more...]

Stories we tell ourselves

Strung out after days of frown-ridden hunching over my computer, I took myself off for a restorative session with  Dew, a Thai masseuse who works nearby. She is a sweet five-foot-nothing with hands that can administer' a steely wake-up call to every muscle in your body. After my very excellent pummelling we chatted for a minute. I was curious to know a little of her story. ‘How long have you … [Read more...]

One out of the box

We've used boxes for a long, long time to hold precious things - jewellery, love letters, keepsakes, feathers, beads, diamond rings... There’s something irresistible about boxes. Think of curious Pandora. Her mythical box had a "Do not open!" label. She did it anyway in a rush of impatience, and out came all the world’s troubles. Just as well there was one last small detail that fluttered … [Read more...]

Some respect, please

How's your attitude to married couples? It's a very nuclear-family sort of reference in changing times, but irritatingly useful for the media in categorising half the adult world. Mum and Dad have become very adjectival. It changes a bit from country to country – in the States they are tagged 'Mom and Pop' – and you know them well. It's the scenario involving a range of Mum-and-Dad entities, … [Read more...]

When fiction works like truth

I just finished Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. Super novel. And proof of the enduring power of of super novels. I'm embarrassed because although I suck up good novels like they're ice-cream, it has taken me 13 years (!) to get round to this one. It hasn't aged a bit. It's about a crowd of men – and one famous female opera singer –  holed up by terrorists in an elegant house in South America. The … [Read more...]