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Claudia Hyles

Claudia Hyles

Claudia Hyles is a Canberra-based writer and reviewer with a great interest in South Asia. Her most recent book So You Can See In The Dark : And other Indian essays (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2016)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Piano Lessons' by Anna Goldsworthy

November 2009, no. 316 01 November 2009
Piano lessons have been a source of joy or frustration for generations of Australians. By the early twentieth century, there was a piano for every three or four Australians. Skill at the pianoforte was an accomplishment that bourgeois parents desired for their children, especially daughters. Anna Goldsworthy’s beautifully written memoir tells the story of the Melbourne pianist’s coming of age ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Strange Museums: A Journey through Poland' by Fiona McGregor

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307 01 December 2008
Strange Museums is a strange book, a kind of fugue whose first theme is introduced by the poem ‘Tortures’ by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. It is a lament of evasion, uncertainty, the reservoir of pain that is the body and the inability to escape. It is enlarged da capo with the author’s discovery of a plaque commemorating the day in 1942 when Jews were rounded up and shot in the town of Pi ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Waiting Room: A memoir' by Gabrielle Carey

May 2009, no. 311 01 May 2009
For Gabrielle Carey, the sight of her mother’s bare feet, soles facing, was almost unbearable. Naked and defenceless, she had never seen them from that angle before. Other parts of a loved one’s anatomy could produce such a feeling – the nape of a beloved neck or an innocent elbow – but on this occasion it was the old feet projecting from the elderly and suddenly compromised body, strapped ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'The Listener' by Shira Nayman

March 2010, no. 319 01 March 2010
Shira Nayman’s first novel is full of echoes and resonances. There may even be an echo of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader. Set at more or less the same time, The Listener has the same immediate backdrop: World War II, its atrocities and aftermath. Two years after the end of the war, Dr Henry Harrison – the narrator and listener of the piece – encounters a man who will become his most memora ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Koh-I-Noor: The history of the world’s most infamous diamond' by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

November 2017, no. 396 30 October 2017
The deadline for this review was 15 August, India’s Independence Day, freedom at midnight in 1947 for India and Pakistan (whose independence is celebrated on 14 August). The British euphemistically called it a ‘transfer of power’. The subsequent division was termed Partition, an anodyne definition of the act of severing. Centuries of surrender and snatching of the Koh-i-Noor saw many transfe ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Ruins' by Rajith Savanadasa

October 2016, no. 385 23 September 2016
Ruins is the impressive début novel of Rajith Savanadasa, born in Sri Lanka and now living in Melbourne. He is founder and primary contributor to Open City Stories, a website documenting the lives of a group of asylum seekers in Melbourne, lives that may have been in similar ruins to those described in the book. Five voices tell the story set in the anxious period at the end of the twenty-six-ye ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Flood of Fire' by Amitav Ghosh

December 2015, no. 377 27 November 2015
Amitav Ghosh has spent more than ten years writing the Ibis trilogy, his fictional account of the turbulent years leading to the First Opium War of 1839–42. Flood of Fire follows Sea of Poppies (2008) and River of Smoke (2011). It is unnecessary to have read the earlier books, though reuniting with some of the characters is enjoyable. The novel begins with the grand spectacle of the East India ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'The Island of Singing Fish: A colonial childhood in Ceylon' by Tina Faulk

January-February 2015, no. 368 01 January 2015
Two government acts shaped Tina Faulk’s life: Ceylon’s 1956 Official Language Policy Act, known as the Sinhala Only Act, and Australia’s Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, better known as the White Australia policy. The first virtually disenfranchised not only Faulk’s Burgher community, but also Sinhalese and Tamil middle-class élites, whose primary language, outside the family circle, ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'A God in Every Stone' by Kamila Shamsie

December 2014, no. 367 25 November 2014
In 515 bce, Scylax, explorer and storyteller, sets sail from Caspatyrus in King Darius’s empire. Eclipsing time, this antique glimpse shifts to an archaeological dig in Turkey in 1914, one that is abandoned when war breaks out.In the service of ‘king and country’, lives change immeasurably. Vivian Rose Spencer exchanges archaeology for nursing wounded soldiers in London hospitals. Qayyum Gul ... (read more)

Claudia Hyles reviews 'Saree' by Su Dharmapala

June–July 2014, no. 362 27 May 2014
‘Six lives, six loves and a precious garment that binds them all’ are words on the cover of expatriate Sri Lankan Su Dharmapala’s second novel. The book’s six sections follow the sequence of tying a saree – knot, first drape, pleats, second drape, the fall, and the finishing. Six lives are cleverly connected by a precious silken saree in Sri Lanka, India, and Melbourne. Initially, one im ... (read more)
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