Orlando

For those of you who listen to my book podcast Lost the Plot, you may be aware that I have a Patreon page where listeners can sign up for different reward tiers to help keep Lost the Plot on air. There are lots of different awards, and quite frequent giveaways. However, the top tier reward is The Bookworm where you, the listener, get the singular ability to choose a book for me to review. I currently have one patron on The Bookworm tier, her name is Kendall, and she nominated this book for me.

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“Orlando” by Virgina Woolf, is a book that really cannot be boxed neatly into a genre. Part love letter, part historical fiction, part magic realism, part gender exposé – none of these categories on their own quite do the novel justice. The story is about a young man called Orlando who grows up in a wealthy family in Elizabethan England. Both energetic and whimsical, Orlando has a number of love affairs and secretly longs to be a poet. However, after his heart is broken by a Russian princess, and a number of other social setbacks, Orlando flees England to work as Ambassador to Turkey. However, once there, Orlando undergoes a mysterious change and his – or her – life is never the same.

My first thought upon reading this book was how intricate and complex it is. This book is steeped with so much meaning, that it has pages upon pages of footnotes at the back to explain the personal significance of each of Woolf’s references. I’m not sure if it’s a testimony to the kinds of books I’ve been reading recently or a symptom of modern writing, but it has been a long time since I have read a book that felt like every single word was a deliberate choice. The writing really is spectacular and if you’re looking for inspiration for beautiful writing, you really can look no further than Woolf.

My second thought is that this is a deeply intimate book. There’s something almost voyeuristic about reading this book, because it makes the reader examine in minute detail the character of Orlando, who is modelled on Woolf’s friend and lover Vita Sackville-West. This makes it, thematically, a fascinating story about sexuality and gender. The introduction by Sandra M. Gilbert sheds further light on this by explaining that distinctions between being a lesbian and being transgender in the 1920s were much blurrier than they are today.

However, although it is an intricate and compelling book, it is not a perfect book and there were a few things that grated on me. First of all, you can tell it nearly 100 years old because the opening sentences include flippantly racist violence. Woolf describes a decapitated ‘Moor‘ and uses far, far worse terms at certain points throughout the novel and it was a pretty appalling way to start a book.

Another issue for me was less about inappropriate content and more about plot and pace. I think perhaps because this book is so closely modeled on the life and family history of Woolf’s lover, there was some sacrificing when it came to the book’s plot. The story meanders through the ages, more a comment on the societies of Vita’s various ancestors than a cohesive story. In fact, because there were so many footnotes in my edition explaining each reference to something in Woolf’s or Vita’s life, it took me quite a while to get through this book because I kept flipping back to read each note.

Ultimately though, this is a beautifully-written, intimate and insightful novel that says a lot about society then and now. What it lacks in story arc, it makes up for with language.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Classics

Lost the Plot – Episode 22

Support Lost the Plot
Become a Lost the Plot Patron
Subscribe, like and comment on SoundCloud
Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes
Follow Tinted Edges on Facebook

Show Notes

Book Updates

Australian Podcast Awards
Vote for Lost the Plot

Libraries ACT Reading Challenge
Download challenge here

75 Books Recommended by Ursula K. Le Guin
Bookriot article

Sally from Asia Bookroom named New President of International League of International Antiquitarian Booksellers
Episode 8 with Sally
Episode 19 with Sally
Fine Books Magazine write up

Books for the World

Street Libraries on Gardening Australia
Watch the episode on iView

Missing Street Library in Newtown
Facebook post

Story Dogs
Libraries ACT website

Returning the Favour – Get Focused Program
Watch the episode on Facebook

Sekolah Gunung Merapi: Building Hope from the Ashes
Donate via Chuffed
Books for the World
The original campaign
Episode 13

Book News

Canberra Libraries Flooded (content warning: damaged books)
Canberra Times article
Second Canberra Times article
Libraries ACT Facebook post
ABC News article

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards announced
The Guardian article

Stella Prize 2018 Shortlist
Full shortlist

2018-19 Children’s Laureate Announced
Children’s Laureate Website
ABC article

Aurealis Awards
Full list of finalists

Golden Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize website

Shakespeare Plagiarism Software
New York Times article

Mysterious Manuscript at the National Library of Australia
NLA Facebook post

“Welcome to Country” by Aunty Joy Murphy
Watch the Matter of Fact excerpt on facebook

“Marvelous Miss May: Queen of the Circus” by Stephanie Owen Reeder
Canberra Times article

“Tempests and Slaughter” by Tamora Pierce
Hatchette Australia facebook post

“Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier – 80th Anniversary edition
Virago Press facebook video
Virago Press photo essay
The Guardian article

“Silent Invasion” by Clive Hamilton
Hardie Grant facebook post
ABC News article

“Growing Up Black in Australia” by Anita Heiss
Anita Heiss’ website

“A Miniature Christmas Anthology”
Christmas Press facebook post

“The Outsider” by Stephen King
Hachette Australia facebook post

“No Country Woman” by Zoya Patel
Hachette website

“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts
Deadline article

Fahrenheit 451 Teaser Trailer
MHP Books website

“Working Class Boy” by Jimmy Barnes
The Book Club ABC facebook post

“The War of the Worlds” by H G Wells
The Verge article

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Trailer
Watch on Studio Canal’s facebook page

Picnic at Hanging Rock Date Reveal
Foxtel website

An Epic Tale of Redwall Computer Game
Steam listing

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” – Kindle in Motion
Pottermore facebook post

The Crimes of Grindelwald – Dumbledore’s Sexuality
The Independent’s article

Rose McGowan book event controversy
The Independent’s article

Book Censorship in Western Australian school
ABC News article

Lionel Shriver on ‘political correctness gone mad’
The Guardian’s article

Claire G. Coleman on ownership of stories
The Guardian’s article

Terry Goodkind publicly criticises own cover art
Screenshot
Joanne Harris’ commentary on Twitter
Goodkind’s ‘apology’

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on reading to his grandkids
Facebook post
News.com article

Drag Queen Story Hour
Sputnik News article

 

Interactive Fiction

Felicity Banks
Author website

Choice of Games – Felicity is writing an official story for them but is not associated or affiliated with them in any way
Website

Felicity’s Interactive Fiction
The Interactive Fiction Database

Hosted Games
Webpage

Choice Script
Webpage

Penguin Qantas Somerset College National Novella Writing Competition for School Age Students
Website

“Heart of Brass” and “After the Flag Fell”
Odyssey Books website

Peter Lalor
Wiki

Other Steampunk
Della Mortika series
Madeiline D’este
“Ichabod Hart and the Lighthouse Mystery” by James Roy
Richard Harland
Michael Pryor

Choices that Matter, Tinman Games
App in Google Play store

Odyssey Books
Website
Publisher Obscura

Hunt A Killer Boxes
Website

Laura E. Goodin
Website

Murder in the Mail
Kickstarter campaign
murderinthemailstories@gmail.com
Messageboard

Book Events

World Read Aloud Day
Website

Library Lover’s Day
Australian School Library Association post
Books on the Rail Blind Date with a Book
Queanbeyan Library Event

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Canberra Times article

Canberra Lifeline Book Fair
Canberra Times article

No automatic alt text available.

Upcoming book fair dates

Stephanie Parkyn at Harry Hartog
Event

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting

“Egyptian Enigma” Book Launch
NLA Event

50 Years of the Library Building
NLA Event

The ANU/Canberra Times Meet the Author Series
Upcoming events

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Festival Muse

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This long weekend just past had a lot of things going on in Canberra, but one of the most exciting was the second annual Festival Muse. Muse is several things: bookshop, cafe, restaurant and wine bar but it is especially a venue for fantastic literary events. The schedule was jam-packed over four days and I managed to get along to two very interesting talks.

Turn Me On – Festival Opening

The opening event was at 6pm on Friday 9 March 2018. I had just finished a very long week at work, and so I very pleased to be ushered in with a glass of wine so I could take a seat and watch some intellectual weightlifting.

There were five speakers at this event from a broad range of backgrounds, experiences and beliefs and each gave a short monologue about what kick-started their engines and got them passionate about their chosen fields.

The first speaker was Michael Brissenden, ABC journalist and author, who is one of those rare people who actually grew up in Canberra in the 1960s. The Canberra nightlife wasn’t then what it is now, and people had to make their own fun. He described the house party culture as one of “cheerful desperation” – full of politicians and poetry, drunks and musicians. Brissenden read from his father’s book of ballads about Canberra, “Gough and Johnny Were Lovers“.

Next was Zoya Patel, editor of Feminartsy (a magazine I contribute to) and soon to be published author. While acknowledging the special kind of “affluent, privileged political echo chamber that is Canberra”, Patel nevertheless found plenty of opportunities while growing up to “keep the pilot light of her feminism burning”. Growing up in an Indian-Fijian household, Patel was an early adopter of feminism and began writing from a young age. When she became an editor for Lip Magazine, she witnessed the onslaught and impact of internet trolls against her writers first hand. Patel said that feminism is not about the individual but about the sisterhood and this experience motivated her to lift up her writers’ voices even more.

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The third speaker was not a writer, but conductor and musical director Roland Peelman. Peelman acknowledged early that he is a musician, a job of “no great political feat or activitism”. Rather, the is more interested in how music can bring people together with their hearts beating at the same pace. Peelman was born in Belgium, and reflected on the differences in politics between his native home and adopted home. He reflected that in politics, despite what people may think, compromise is not disfunctional and messy can be functional because an untidy government means making room for minorities. Coming back to his music, Peelman said that traditional formulas of economic rationalism do not necessarily apply even though he has encountered plenty of skepticism about how his organisations would remain sustainable. Art isn’t about satisfying shareholders, it has different objectives, and Peelman finished on the note that music is about building community.

The next speaker was neither writer nor musician, but local politician Elizabeth Lee MLA. Lee began by saying that even if her political beliefs are different, she still felt like she has lots in common with the other speakers. She drew parallels with Patel’s experiences and said that in her family, a Korean family with three daughters, her dad was the original feminist. Lee said that he would tell her that as the oldest, she was the needle and her sisters were the thread and where she goes her sisters will follow. After progressing in her legal career in both private practice and as a lecturer, Lee decided to follow her passions of organising people and getting people involved and run for the ACT Legislative Assembly. Lee has also experienced her fair share of sexist and racist online trolling, however has found that her firm responses have been a source of inspiration for young Asian women.

The final speaker for the evening was ACT Marriage Equality campaign director, Jacob White. He opened with a question: why are people into politics? For White, he was born into it. As the middle child with two sisters either side, he was born to be an agitator. He was also inspired by his Nanna and her disability advocacy for her daughter, White’s aunty. Although raised among political attitudes limited to “Paul Keating is an arrogant prick, John Howard is a weirdo and Mark Latham is a psychopath”, from an early age White was writing letters to his local council complaining about lantana in his cubby house. Using that gumption as a springboard, he eventually found himself leading the charge for marriage equality in Canberra.

After such a diverse array of speakers, the formal part of the event closed and Muse opened the restaurant area up with drinks and canapes. It was a great evening with plenty of opportunity for me to pursue one of my favourite hobbies: telling strangers what books they should be reading.

The Burning Issues of Now

Like a little bookend, the second event I went to was on Monday 13 March – the other side of the festival. Three panelists, journalist Gabrielle Chan, writer Siv Parker and reporter, presenter and broadcaster Dan Bouchier settled in for a robust discussion on what is going to be the next “big issue” in Australia now the marriage equality campaign is done and dusted.

Now, I must admit here that I was so captivated by the discussion that I actually didn’t take especially good notes, but on top of the list for Parker’s burning issues was the treatment of Aboriginal women. Parker reflected on her own upbringing as an Aboriginal woman in black-soil country in north-western New South Wales and Bouchier compared his own experiences in Tenant Creek, Northern Territory – “the Red Centre”. Parker explained that during her professional life working around the country, one constant that she has seen among Aboriginal women from all backgrounds is that they feel like they don’t have the opportunities to do what they want to do with their lives.

One of the biggest issues standing in their way is domestic and family violence, which Aboriginal women experience and even die from at far higher rates than other Australian women. Family violence has unavoidable spill-on effects on children’s outcomes as well. The panelists turned then to two issues that have been flooding the media: Aboriginal kids in youth detention and Aboriginal kids in care.

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Bouchier talked about the reaction to the terrible crime that happened in Tenant Creek recently, and the erroneous conflation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being in out of home care at 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children and the Stolen Generation. Parker explained that where the Stolen Generation was the result of a racist policy designed to make a generation of servants, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in care is an issue tied to trauma and disadvantage.

Bouchier noted the reluctance of governments and media to explore these issues deeply due to a fear of not being politically correct. Chan said that as a journalist following the schedules of politicians, having to get across and report on multiple issues in a day with only limited opportunities to get a question in, it’s very difficult to report on issues in very great detail. The panelists talked about the many, many Royal Commissions that are supposed to investigate these issues in depth, but that even those get manipulated and the recommendations which are handed down can be ignored for decades.

The panelists then turned to last year’s historic Uluru Statement From the Heart, which, despite being a statement achieved from a convention of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from around the country, was dismissed by the Government. However, despite it not turning out to be the magic solution, the panelists were hopeful that this is not the end and that the Uluru Statement feels more like a strong beginning.

Both Turn Me On and The Burning Issues of Now were great, thought-provoking events with engaged, diverse speakers. Even though it’s only been a day, I can’t wait to see what Festival Muse 2019 brings.

If you want another perspective, check out Whispering Gums‘ post.

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Filed under Literary Events

The Tuscan Child

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publicist, and this is actually my second review of a book by Rhys Bowen.

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“The Tuscan Child” by Rhys Bowen is a historical fiction novel that spans and interlaces two eras: World War II and the 1970s. In 1944, a British pilot shot down by the Germans makes an emergency landing in a small Tuscan village. Hiding out in a bombed and abandoned monastery, Hugo relies on the generosity of local woman Sophia to survive. Thirty years later, Joanna has returned to the sad remains of her family’s lost manor to arrange her father’s funeral. While going through his things, she discovers hints of a love left behind in Italy. Joanna decides to try to learn more about her mysterious father’s past and travel to Tuscany herself.

Bowen’s strength is clearly in recounting World War II history and, like her novel “In Farleigh Field”, she excels at capturing the decline of the English country house. The tension between the shame and the inevitability of the loss of the family home is explored in a really interesting way, and I found the Joanna’s interactions with the principal of the girls’ school that took over Langley Hall especially fascinating.

The parts of the book set in Tuscany had a very different flavour. Although we don’t see much of the Tuscan countryside through Hugo’s eyes, the his relationship with Sophia is incredibly intense. When Joanna arrives in the village, I felt like although she quickly becomes immersed, her experience in is much less internal and the reader gets to enjoy a broader sense of Tuscan life and culture (inspired by Bowen’s own experiences).

However, there really are two very different stories in this book: Joanna’s sad and difficult English experience, and the much more mysterious Tuscan story of her father’s. While this divide is appropriate given the divide within Hugo himself, I think at times the transition between the two stories is a bit difficult to bridge.

Whether you are interested in romance, historical fiction, World War II or travel writing, I think most people will get something out of this story.

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Filed under Book Reviews, eBooks, Historical Fiction

The Rabbit Back Literature Society

I can’t remember where I got this book from. Maybe the Canberra Lifeline Book Fair? Wherever it came from, I know exactly why I chose it. It has a gorgeous cover design with blue metallic lettering and any book title with the word “rabbit” in it is always going to hook me instantly.

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“The Rabbit Back Literature Society” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen and translated from the Finnish by Lola M. Rogers is a magic realism novel about a woman called Ella who has returned to her hometown Rabbit Back to live with her parents. Reeling from a bad breakup and not fully equipped to deal with her father’s deteriorating health, Ella tries to focus on marking high school papers on literature. However, when she is given a copy of “Crime and Punishment” with a different ending after accusing a student of cheating, the book leads her to the Rabbit Back library. From there, she finds herself more and more drawn into the secretive and wildly successful lives of members of ‘the Society’, and the mysterious Laura White behind it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Jääskeläinen has a piercing and intimate style of writing that is utterly engrossing. The characters, power plays, intrigue and history of Rabbit Back were endlessly fascinating and the story keeps you guessing the entire way through. Ella starts out seeming like a bit of a lightweight, but Jääskeläinen brings a lot of depth to her character and I enjoyed watching her unfurl in different and unexpected ways. I also really liked the other characters and their complicated relationships with each other. There is a lot going on in this book and it’s the perfect blend of quaint and dark.

I think the only issue I had with the novel was that there were maybe one too many loose ends left untied. I am definitely an advocate for leaving things to the imagination and not spelling out every single detail in books, but I think that there were a few things that could have been rounded out a little more. Some of the members of the Society got a lot less airtime than others, and I would have liked to have seen more interactions amongst them and between them and Ella. I also would have liked a bit more on Ella’s parents. Ella seemed to have very few memories of her childhood and I was expecting that gap to get filled in to a degree as she continued researching. However, it never did and I think more backstory on Ella probably would have facilitated even more character development later.

As it stands, this was a very enjoyable book that will appeal especially to lovers of books and secrets.

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Filed under Book Reviews, General Fiction, Magic Realism, Pretty Books, Uncategorized

Bodacious Creed

I received a copy of this eBook courtesy of the author.

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“Bodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western” by Jonathan Fesmire is exactly that: a steampunk, zombie western. The story is about US Marshal James Creed who arrives in 1876 Santa Cruz, California, USA to assist with a murder investigation. One of the most successful entrepreneurs in town is Anna Lynn Boyd, a former sex worker and brothel madam who has a secret profession: inventor. When Anna hears that Creed is in town, she swiftly tries to arrange a meeting to reconnect over a lost past. However, with the town rife with bounty hunters, a criminal underground, sex work politics, business deals and automatons, Anna’s plans go very awry.

This is a fun, action-packed novel with an interesting premise. Fesmire draws heavily on his hometown for inspiration for the book’s setting which brings a real sense of authenticity to the story (despite the steampunk zombie setting). I really liked the character of Anna, and most of the novel hangs on her genius and her compassion. The book deals with some complicated moral questions and the story is kept alive by the unresolved relationship between Anna and Creed. I don’t want to give too much away, but I really loved the coyote later on in the story.

I think the only thing that I found a bit challenging about this book was that the second half seemed quite long. The plot is both action-packed and convoluted and I felt like maybe a couple of the story lines could have been condensed.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in dipping your toe into the wild world of steampunk, this is a great place to start.

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Filed under Book Reviews, eBooks

Lost the Plot – Episode 21

Support Lost the Plot
Become a Lost the Plot Patron
Subscribe, like and comment on SoundCloud
Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes
Follow Tinted Edges on Facebook

Show Notes

Lost the Plot reached 1,000 listens!
1000 listens

Australian Podcast Awards
Vote for Lost the Plot

Dymocks Top 101

My votes
My Votes

Full list of 101

Book Club Contest
Contest Page

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Future Library
Official website
Elif Shafak announced as fourth author

Street Library
Books for the World Street Library Page
Street Library Australia Website
Lost the Plot Episode 9 – Street Library

The Book Retriever

Storytime Pledge
Alan Finkel’s Pledge
Australian Library and Information Association

In the Night Garden
TV Show
Makka Pakka: Time to Wash Faces

Ursula K LeGuin Dies at Age 88
ABC News article
Tor article
The Guardian article

Man Booker 50
Instagram Contest
Website

Booktopia Australia’s Favourite Authors
List of Australia’s Favourite Authors
My review of Di Morrissey’s “The Reef”
My review of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies”

Captain Blackbeard’s Book
Gizmodo article

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
ABC News article
ABC News article – Wikileaks
The other Fire and Fury becomes a bestseller
Video interview with Michael Wolff

“King of Ashes” by Raymond E. Feist
Cover reveal

“The Numair Chronicles” by Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce’s website
Penguin website

Fantasy Book Café’s List of Anticipated Speculative Fiction Releases 2018
Full list

2018 Film Adaptations
Book Bub’s List
Readings’ List

Theatre Adaptations
Alice in Wonderland starring Aboriginal woman
Alice in Wonderland website
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Margaret Atwood TV Adaptations
Maddaddam Trilogy
Handmaid’s Tale, Season 2

Big Little Lies
Meryl Streep cast

Harry Potter News
ABC News article – fan adaptation
Voldemort: Origins of the Heir
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery photos
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Website and video
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: tinted edges edition
Wonderful Wizarding World Happiness Generator
Quidditch Through the Ages Audio Book
New Crimes of Grindelwald photos
Daniel Radcliffe on Grindelwald Depp casting controversy

 

Literary Controversies
Nick Holland’s blog post about Bronte Society patron Lily Cole
ABC News article about Bronte controversy
Observer study of gender in children’s books
Are there libraries in Nigeria?
Original backwards book article
Follow up backwards book article
Mamamia backwards book article
Upside down books
Storm in a D-cup

 

40th Anniversary of Kate Bush’s Song Wuthering Heights
Video Clip
Guardian article
The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever, Canberra

20th Anniversary of Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet
Guardian article
20th anniversary edition

ACT Libraries
Most Requested Books of 2017
Libraries ACT to become more accessible to homeless people

Bikes in School Library
Taunton Gazette article

Bowie Book Club
Rolling Stone article
David Bowie website
David Bowie top 100 books
Duncan Jones’ Twitter account

The Canberra Zine Machine interview
Smith’s Alternative
Canberra Zine Emporium
Polyester Bookshop, Brunswick Street (Now Closed)
Mandy Ord
Girls Rock! Canberra
Vanessa Berry
You Are Here Festival

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Minecraft
New Acton
Other Worlds Zine Fair
Childers Festival
Zine and Indie Comic Symposium
Zine Machine #2 at ANU Pop-Up Reunion Village
Zine Machine #1 at Canberra Institute of Technology
We Make Zines: Zines 101
George R R Martin on zines
Sticky Institute
Small Press Zines Hobart – Thylazine Fair in November 2018
World’s Tiniest Zine Fair in Perth
National Library of Australia Zine Collection
Mulgara No Front Fences 2

My Zine

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200 Year Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Mary Shelley 200 year anniversary

Too Many Mirandas at Hanging Rock
Event page
My blog post for the ACT Lit Bloggers of the Future program

ANU/Canberra Times Meet the Author
Jacqui Lambie

Enlighten Festival
National Library

Reviews
Terra Nullius” by Claire G. Coleman
The Lucky Galah” by Tracey Sorensen
Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent
The Power” by Naomi Alderman

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