Book review: The Devil’s Garden – The Claremont Serial Killings

There was controversy when Debi Marshall’s true crime book about Western Australia’s Claremont serial killings was published in June this year.  WA police criticised her approach, her research and the credibility of her sources of information.

The book begins by relating the events around the disappearence of three women from Claremont in 1996 and 1997. It also spends many chapters discussing alleged police mishandling of other cases in Western Australia.

The book’s content aside, it suffers from too many cliches. The attempts to get inside the heads of the family of victims and suspects do not ring true.  However, the subject matter makes the book compelling to Western Australians for whom the case is still vivid in their minds.

If your local Western Australian public library doesn’t have a copy, they can get one for you on interlibrary loan. There is also a copy on the third floor of the State Library of Western Australia.

– Nathan Hobby.

Book Review: Road Story by Julienne Van Loon

Julienne Van Loon has lived in Western Australia since 1997. In 2004, she won one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes – the Australian Vogel. Her winning novel was Road Story.

Road Story is a short novel in the dirty realism mode. It tells the story of Diana, a nineteen year old who runs away from a car crash and gets a job at a roadhouse in country New South Wales. She leaves her unconscious friend, Nicole, in the wrecked car. As the novel progresses, we learn the story of Nicole and Diana as they ran away together to Sydney and their friendship is challenged by drugs and Nicole’s boyfriend. Finally, by the end of the novel, we have understood just what happened and why Diana started running.

In between these well-handled flashbacks, Diana experiences the life of truckies as they stop at the roadhouse. The roughness of their lives is skillfully depicted.

Road Story is a polished and accomplished novel. However, I found I couldn’t connect with Diana; she was neither profound, or good or evil. Just blandly messed-up – probably like most of us.

Julienne Van Loon has a webpage with some interesting information on her life and writing:

Two of the influences she lists are Western Australian writers – Randolph Stow and Tim Winton.

Julienne teaches creative writing at Curtin University.

Book Review: Rhubarb by Craig Silvey

Craig Silvey’s Rhubarb has an amazing sense of place. Because the central character is a blind girl there is added emphasis on sensory detail, which delivers real depth and richness to the Fremantle context.

The prose is beautifully and poetically crafted, but the effort behind it is distractingly obvious; you tend to notice the unusual sentence structures and big words, rather than sinking into the narrative.

Rhubarb is an engaging look at the human response to trauma and the range of lives lived beyond the fringe of mainstream society.

Book Review: The Fur by Nathan Hobby

The Fur plays out realistically, despite the fact that in it Western Australia has been quarantined from the rest of the country due to an infestation of fur. Because Hobby uses simple language, a matter-of-fact tone and sets the scene slowly and carefully, this context becomes believable and so doesn’t take over the central story of Michael Sullivan’s maturation. This is important, because whilst the concept of the fur adds interest to this scenario, ultimately Michael’s struggle to find his place in society represents a modern dilemma, relevant to a range of cultures and societies.

Hobby’s intellectualism and Christianity pervade The Fur, so that readers with different values may carry away a feeling of having been judged, unfairly.

The Fur is successful in blending reality and science fiction, and in depicting Michael’s transition from an awkward teenager to a young man looking to make a positive contribution within a complex and overbearing environment.

Online reading journal : Revish

I’ve been keeping a reading journal on my computer for eleven years, and love to see the record develop of my reading. But I’ve just discovered a better way to do it! Revish is a new web 2.0 service that lets you rate and review books, or just record what you read and share your reading with others. I thought it sounded unique and great, but then I discovered there are already other services like it! Anobii is one.