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ABR Arts

Book of the Week


Thunderhead by Miranda Darling

A feminist triumph and homage to Virginia Woolf, Miranda Darling’s Thunderhead is a potent exploration of suburban entrapment for women. The novella opens with a complex satire of Ian McEwan’s response to Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) in his novel Saturday (2005). All three books are set over the course of a single day, where the intricacies of both the quotidian and extraordinary occur. In this novella’s opening paragraphs, Darling’s protagonist, Winona Dalloway, wakes to see the sky ablaze through her window. While ‘it is dawn in the suburbs of the east’ – rather than a burning plane, evoking 9/11 terrorism, as in McEwan’s novel – she believes it ‘telegraphs a warning, red sky in the morning’. This refers to the opening of Mrs Dalloway, where Clarissa Dalloway feels, ‘standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen’.




From the Archive

October 2001, no. 235

2007: A true story, waiting to happen by Robyn Williams

Much loved public characters who venture into fiction in their mature years are, of course, on a hiding to nothing. Their apprenticeship, their experiences, their intuitions have all been spent or deployed elsewhere. In the case of Robyn Williams, these were as a distinguished science reporter and analyst for the ABC. The knowledge and opinions that he gathered there have been brought to the making of his pre-apocalyptic first novel, 2007. This is, the cover warns, ‘a true story, waiting to happen’. Williams’s mentor in fiction is George Orwell, who is quoted with approval by a cashiered and bibulous former Cambridge don, Cyril, now exiled to a weather station at Cape Grim in north-western Tasmania (site of the world’s purest air, as it happens). Orwell advocated ‘retaining one’s childhood love’ of the things of the natural world, toads not least. The alternative was ‘hatred and leader worship’.

From the Archive

December 1988, no. 107

Staining the Wattle: A people’s history of Australia since 1788 edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee

Staining the Wattle is the fourth volume of a series edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee collectively entitled A People’s History of Australia since 1788. People’s history, as understood by Burgmann and Lee, is not popular history, that is to say history written to be of interest to the general reader. This book actually makes very dull reading. Nor is it exactly, at least to judge by this volume, social history, that is to say history dealing with the lives of ordinary people. This book is about politics. People’s history, as understood by Burgmann and Lee, seems, rather, to be ideologically useful history; history as a weapon of social change, as a means for the unmasking of the forces of oppression which have shapes, and for the glorification of the forces of progress which have struggled to reshape, Australian history.

From the Archive

May 2006, no. 281

Divided Korea: Toward a culture of reconciliation by Roland Bleiker

‘The US scares North Korea.’ If you are George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, you may be satisfied with this statement by former US diplomat Donald Gregg. It might signify the success of American policy towards North Korea, a country you consider to be a dangerous ‘rogue state’ that is developing nuclear weapons and exporting missile technology, and that is led by a repressive totalitarian régime. The only way to deal with such governments, you believe, is through threats, deterrence and, if necessary, military action to degrade offensive military capabilities or even to remove them from power. But what if this brings us to the brink of disaster? In this timely and important book, Roland Bleiker exposes this schoolyard philosophy for what it is: a dangerous and simplistic recipe that has brought North-East Asia to the brink of war too many times in recent years. Ever since the North Koreans announced in 2002 that they were withdrawing from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and were on the brink of developing a working nuclear capability other countries in the region have been justifiably alarmed.