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Too Much Lip

Aboriginal family comedy-drama about love, land and luck

A new book club has started up at my work so of course I’m in the thick of it. We put together a list of critically-acclaimed and diverse books and encouraged people to choose whichever books piqued their interest from the list. Although this author’s work has been published extensively, I hadn’t heard of her before. I have been making a real effort to read more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors, so I thought I would start with this one.

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“Too Much Lip” by Melissa Lucashenko is a family drama about a woman called Kerry, on the run from police, who drops in to see her dying grandfather before fleeing across the border. When she arrives, her brother Ken is on edge, her mother Pretty Mary is a mess, and her nephew Donny won’t speak to anyone. Her girlfriend is in jail and she’s just met a dugai man who is very keen on her. The family’s beloved river is in danger, her backpack is missing and to top it off Kerry can’t keep her bloody mouth shut.

This is a necessary book that brings to life a dysfunctional but completely relatable family. Lucashenko has a real talent for realism and the small town of Durrongo and the Salter family are effortless to imagine. Piece by piece, she unpacks the family’s dynamics to uncover not only past traumas but to uncover a way forward. Kerry is a great point of view character through which Lucashenko explores the themes of power, racism and morality. Morally ambiguous herself, Kerry dances a fine line in almost every action she takes, seemingly pulled in several directions by respect for family, culture, money and doing what’s right. I thought Lucashenko did a really brilliant job of building empathy for the family while still being critical of their less-than-savoury actions.

Although I really enjoyed Lucashenko’s writing, characterisation and exploration of themes, I think the one thing I struggled with a bit was the plot. I completely get that part of the comedy was the outrageous actions and coincidences and everything being a bit extra, but there were a couple of parts in the story, particularly towards the end, that I would have liked a little more subtlety. I felt that Lucashenko already engaged the reader enough with the way she tackled real-life issues and wrote her characters, and some of the mayhem at the end of the book felt a bit superfluous.

Whichever way you look at it, this book is definitely a reality check. If you’re looking for an Aussie family drama about the kind of family that doesn’t get written about so often, this is a great book to try.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Too Much Lip – Amazon Australia

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Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, General Fiction

The Well of Shades

This book is incredibly special to me, not just because of what it is or who it’s by, but for how I came to own it.

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you might have noticed that I have a bit of an obsession with Juliet Marillier. This obsession has been long in the making, and I first read some of her books when I was a teenager in desperate need for sexy feminist fantasy.

One of her latest series that I’ve read (and have been blogging about) are the Bridei Chronicles. I read the first book, and the second book, but because I am completely anal when it comes to my books, I hadn’t yet found a copy of the third book that matched the first two that I had in my collection. That is, until, my thrice-annual religious holiday rolled around: The Canberra Lifeline Bookfair.

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For those playing at home, the Lifeline Bookfair is a huge fair selling secondhand books that have been donated in order to raise money for Australia’s biggest suicide prevention hotline. There is nothing not to like about this. The bookfair takes place in an absolutely ENORMOUS convention centre and pretty much every time I go (I always go) I nearly die with sheer happiness and excitement at all the books.
Anyway, I digress.

Last year I went to the September Lifeline Bookfair and I finally found a copy of the third book in the Bridei Chronicles: “The Well of Shades”. Unfortunately, this copy was wrapped in plastic as part of a set. I already had books one and two, I just wanted book number three. I asked one of the volunteers whether it would be possible to just buy book three, but she said no. I was dismayed. Another volunteer came over to ask if she could help, but I had to tell her what the previous one had said. She said she’d keep an eye out in case another copy turned up.

A little while passed, and there was an announcement over the PA. I don’t have great hearing, so it took a few seconds for me to process that the person they were after was someone who had been looking for “The Well of Shades” by Juliet Marillier in the sci-fi/fantasy section; i.e. me. I raced over to the guy with the microphone, and he pointed me towards that second volunteer (whose name was Petra). She said that she had bought the entire set herself, just so she could give me the third book. I was completely dumbstruck by her kindness. I clumsily tried to offer her money, but she politely refused and said that she’d give the first two books a crack. After I’d paid for my books, I snuck around to the front of the bookfair and left a note with reception thanking Petra for her generosity. I hope she got it, because it meant so much to me that she’d been so kind. She was definitely my Lifeline Bookfair Angel!

So, to the book! “Well of Shades” is the final novel in the Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier. It is completely engrossing and focuses even more on Faolan, the troubled but trusted adviser of Bridei, king of the Fortriu. After having his heart awoken then promptly broken in the previous book, Faolan returns home to the Gaels to face his past and finds that things are not even remotely as he had expected them to be. Meanwhile, Bridei’s foster father Broichan leaves White Hill to go seek spiritual guidance after being faced with a painful revelation. Without his two closest companions, Bridei must rely on his own judgment to find out who is friend and who is foe in his court.

This series just gets better with each book. The story is heart-wrenching and the characters and relationships are beautifully rendered. Marillier spends a lot of time explaining Pictish religion, politics and culture and the result is very immersive. This is historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and romance, and I just adore it.

I am trying (for your sake) to space out my Juliet Marillier reads, so I promise that this will be the last for a little while. If you haven’t read any of her books, while perhaps not my favourite of her series, this series is still a fabulous read and as good as any to begin your inevitable Marillier love affair with.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction