Carol Middleton

Carol Middleton reviews 'Headlong: A novel' by Susan Varga

Carol Middleton
Friday, 11 September 2020

Susan Varga’s latest novel, Headlong, is set in Australia in the opening years of the twenty-first century, with the Tampa episode and detention camps as background. This setting reflects Varga’s own work with refugees and the Nazi camps of her family’s Hungarian past. Headlong relates the downward spiral that the previously indomitable Julia undergoes after the death of her husband. Her two children – the narrator, Kati, and her brother – try everything to restore their mother to physical and mental health, but Julia is adamant: life is hell. The fact that she escaped the Holocaust with her daughter and survived the horror of those years makes the story all the more poignant and distinct from similar stories of grief. Why has this loss defeated her, when she has met every other challenge in life? Has it unlocked the hidden pain of earlier years? This question, and Kati’s ensuing grief and sense of guilt, sustain the novel.

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On Boxing Day 1962, The Australian Women’s Weekly opened with a two-page spread on a new publication, Self Help for Your Nerves, by Sydney physician Dr Claire Weekes. Her four precepts for people suffering from ‘nerves’ appeared in huge, bold type: facing, accepting, floating, and letting time pass. Positive reviews followed, including one by Max Harris in ABR’s December 1962 issue. Wary of the ‘help yourself psychiatry’ genre, Harris was quickly persuaded by its ‘particular excellence’. The book went on to become a bestseller in the US and UK markets, and Weekes followed it up with four more.

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A year after her death, Mirka Mora is still regarded as a ‘phenomenon’ in the Melbourne art world, not least for her vibrant personality and provocative behaviour. Now Sabine Cotte, a French-Australian painting conservator, in this modest account of her research into the artist’s methods and materials, offers a new perspective on Mora’s creative process and the significance of her work.

Mora – a creative innovator until her death at the age of ninety – was a dedicated, self-taught artist who studied the Old Masters and refined her painting techniques. She is widely known for her dolls (soft sculptures), her tapestries, and her murals. People who took part in her textile workshops often report that she changed their lives. Her public art is still visible in cafés, bookshops, railway stations, and on St Kilda Pier, guaranteeing her a continuing presence in Melbourne’s cultural and social life.

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Carol Middleton reviews 'The Bridge' by Enza Gandolfo

Carol Middleton
Thursday, 24 May 2018

‘Accidents happen.’ In the aftermath of a fatal car accident, one of two accidents that frame the narrative of The Bridge, these words are tossed up in the turbulent minds of a grieving relative. But accidents, unlike natural disasters – earthquakes, floods, droughts – don’t just happen. Whether it’s the collapse of the ...

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In the first chapter of her memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy writes, ‘Daring to think that the rules do not apply is the mark of a visionary. It’s also a symptom of narcissism.’ Born in New York during the Reagan era, she is describing the world she grew up in, one in which you were told that you were in control of your ...

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Growing up with a violent and controlling father who served in the Vietnam War may be a familiar story, but Ruth Clare's memoir takes us deeper, into the mind of the child and her day-to-day reality, where she is constantly primed for her father's next act of cruelty. Resembling a novel in its sensory detail and riveting narrative, Enemy recreates life in R ...

Carol Middleton reviews 'The Canonbury Tales' by Don Aitkin

Carol Middleton
Thursday, 31 March 2016

Boccaccio started an avalanche of storytelling with The Decameron. His one hundred tales, told by ten narrators taking refuge from the Black Death in a villa outside Florence, have inspired a horde of copycats over the ensuing 660 years. Most famous of these is The Canterbury Tales. Although Don Aitkin's title echoes Chaucer's, his collection of st ...

In 2009 Sonya Voumard read about a legal claim brought by Martin Bryant's mother, Carleen, against journalists Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro, accusing them of using her personal manuscript, letters, and family photos without her permission in their book Born or Bred? Martin Bryant: The Making of a Mass Murderer. Struck by the complex ethics of the case ...

Carol Middleton reviews 'In Love and War' by Liz Byrski

Carol Middleton
Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Western Australian novelist and academic Liz Byrski has written a memoir that explores the reality behind a World War II myth: the ground-breaking work done by plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe to repair the disfigured faces, hands, and lives of fighter pilots and crews. Byrski grew up during the war in East Grinstead, Sussex, near the hospital where McIndoe worked, ...

Carol Middleton reviews 'Dear Life' by Karen Hitchcock

Carol Middleton
Friday, 29 May 2015

In her long-form essay Dear Life, columnist and fiction writer Karen Hitchcock considers how we in Australia treat the elderly and dying. To the task she brings her formidable skills as a writer and her experience at the coalface, working as a staff physician in a Melbourne public hospital. The result is a sensitive, rigorous, and moving account that ex ...

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