All posts by humanitysdarkerside

Bibliophile, small-time activist, ASD, blogger

Marsden, John: Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow I) (1993)

tomorrow_when_the_war_began_poster

The Tomorrow series consists of seven books that should be read in order. The first book of the series is Tomorrow, When the War Began.

In the series we meet a group of young people who have gone camping to celebrate their last summer together. They are:

  • Ellie Linton: Our narrator. Ellie was born and raised on a cattle and sheep farm not far from the edge of the country town of Wirrawee.
  • Corrie Mackenzie: Ellie’s best friend.
  • Homer Yannos: Ellie’s neighbour and close friend.
  • Fiona Maxwell: Fi is more brains than brawn.
  • Lee Takkam: Lee is also more brains than brawn.
  • Robyn Mathers: The pacifist of the group.
  • Kevin Holmes: Corrie’s boyfriend.
  • Chris Lang: An introverted, but well liked boy.

All eight of them are regular teenagers getting ready to enter the world of adults. They are all filled with constructive and less constructive qualities and I can see why so many would identify with them. At the beginning of Tomorrow, When the War Began the gang feel so young to an old person like myself, but that does not last. They certainly retain their youthful optimism but gain some of our adult cynicism. I think another thing that might appeal to readers is John Marsden’s willingness to address difficult topics. One of these is death. Unfortunately death is one of the consequences of resistance in war and so it will be for this gang. And, finally, There is plenty of romance and action, both kept well within the young adult literature boundaries. The writing certainly kept me going and Marsden raised some interesting questions along the way.

In Tomorrow, When the War Began a group of friends (in their last year before college) go camping together. They’re all exited and have a wonderful week together. On their way back they find their homes empty of people and their animals suffering from neglect. It turns out all of their families have been collected at the showground by a foreign power trying to take Australia over. The teens have to decide whether to fight or surrender.


  • ISBN: 9781742612683
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012-12-01
  • Subject: Children’s: General Fiction
  • Imprint: Pan Australia
  • Pages: 304 page/s

  • Winner, Australian Multicultural Children’s Book Award 1994
  • Winner, Fanfare Horn Book Best Book 1996
  • Winner, Children’s Yearly Best-Ever Reads (CYBER) Best Book for Older Readers 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Winner, KOALA (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) 1995
  • Winner, YABBA (Young Australian Best Book Award) 1995
  • Winner, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Books Award) 1995
  • Winner, BILBY Awards (Books I Love Best Yearly) 1998
  • Winner, New South Wales Talking Book Award
  • Nominated, South Carolina Book Award 1998

2010: Film-adaptation released based on Tomorrow, When the War Began. Australian adventure movie written and directed by Stuart Beattie.

 

Oliveira, Robin: My Name is Mary Sutter (2010)

My name is Mary Sutter - Robin Oliveira

Even though the story is placed at the time of the Civil War in the US, I imagine Robin Oliveira’s own background as a nurse helped in describing some of the work and attitudes we read about in her novel My Name is Mary Sutter. At this time being a physician and a woman was practically unheard of. Physicians were trained through apprenticeships, and for a man to take in a woman as a student would mean overcoming prejudices. Professionally schooled nurses were also a thing unheard of. Apprenticeships were the way to go if a woman wanted to become a mid-wife or assistant to a physician.

All of this haphazard training of either physicians and nurses left both professions with vast differences in the abilities of the people who had finished their training. Some nurses and doctors made matters worse for their patients while others were miraculous healers.

Mary Sutter’s mother was a mid-wife and Mary had gone along with her on her many trips into the child-bearing population. What Mary learned about herself during those trips was that she would love to become a surgeon and thereby save people who otherwise did not get visited by a physician in time. Due to the above apprentice-shipping she was refused this opportunity and also refused admittance into medical school.

Mary Sutter was nothing if not determined in eventually reaching her goal. The US Civil War presented her with one such path. Washington was desperate for help on the battlefield and many women felt called to duty. Mary Sutter happened to be one of them. Her experience seems representative of the others I have read of. As such Sutter’s experience seems to correspond with the experiences my nurse friends tell me of today. Arrogant doctors, incompetent doctors, miracle doctors and patients who span the gamut from assholes to angels. As a someone who has been a patient I have met nurses of all kinds but mainly wonderful ones. Most of my nurse friends feel a “call” to serve and this is their way of serving others. Amazing people!

War is a gory and horrifyingly brutal affair. Not one gram of glory is present anywhere on the battlefield. But what a school for aspiring doctors and nurses. One doctor Mary Sutter had to work with had to care for more than 100 men. She helped with operations and learned how to treat stitch wounds. Eventually she managed to be sent to the front and learned how to amputate and live with the gore of poor medical hygiene.

I liked her character. Mary was a goal-oriented woman who worked extremely hard to achieve her dreams and she was certainly a woman that I could have looked up to. Inserting extraneous yet historical characters did not work well for me. It was Mary I wanted more of. But my wishes are irrelevant to an author’s work and it isn’t even a complaint just an observation.


Reviews:


Winner of the 2011 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction


Civil War-Era Women Physicians

Invisible Women Now In Clear Focus

Mary Edwards Walker

Nursing During the US Civil War: A Movement Toward the Professionalization of Nursing

Springing to the Cause

Ells, Philip: The People’s Lawyer (2000) / Where the Hell is Tuvalu? (2006)

Where the Hell is Tuvalu - Philip Ells

The version I read was the original title The People’s Lawyer. I guess the title was changed to be more relevant to the place??

Autobiographies are such odd creatures. Truthfulness and memory seem to become victims to them. Not so in the case of Philip Ells.

Quite sensibly, Ells seems to have kept more or less up-to-date journals while staying on the Tuvalu Islands as a volunteer attorney. His veracity is such that one of the two official sites for the Tuvalu Islands has a link to his story.

As a new lawyer to the islands, Ells views his experiences differently from the manner he sees them by the time he leaves the place. Two years is just enough time for the culture to begin settling into your bones and possibly long enough for the locals to begin trusting you. This all-encompassing statement is made solely based on my own experiences of moving around a lot until I turned 29. Toward the end of his stay the women of Tuvalu had begun trusting Ells enough to let on about their own doubts about the fairness of the way women were treated. Until then, it was just something they seemed to accept as a way of life.

Seemingly idyllic, the Tuvalu islands are too small for life to be anything but a challenge. A population that was 9561 in 2002 grew to 11636 by 2005. I do not know what the numbers were when Ells was there from 1994-1996, but I imagine they were somewhat lower than the 2002 census shows. Some of the places he describes in his autobiography are now being built over with houses on stilts (borrowing holes used for waste). Ells himself touches upon the challenges of living in such an enclosed ecosystem and the conflicts between Western and Traditional ways of dealing with problems that occur.

While The People’s Lawyer / Where the Hell is Tuvalu? deals with serious issues, it is by no means a downer. In fact, I found it delightfully British. There is something wonderful about a people who manage to make fun of their own mistakes in such a dry manner that I am left giggling. Being bossed around by his “secretary”, discovering rats in his loo, suffering from the traditional bout of diarrhea and having practical jokes played on him by locals and other volunteers are just some of the hilarious experiences (for me as a reader anyways) that we get to share.

What Ells is left with when he leaves Tuvalu is an appreciation for the difference between who he was when he arrived and who he had become during his time on the islands along with a love of the people and the land.


Reviews:


Where the Hell is Tuvalu? on Amazon UK


Islands of Tuvalu

Tuvalu profile

Travel to Tuvalu

UN climate change funds not reaching Pacific island nations

 

 

Watkins, Paul: The Promise of Light (1992)

The Promise of Light - Paul Watkins

The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse) or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army (the army of the Irish Republic) and the British Government and its forces in Ireland. (Wikipedia)

The Promise of Light is for the most part about the above war that happened between 1919 and 1921 and Ben Sheridan’s part in it. However, we also get a look at some of the background for the war and the hostilities that had brought Ben Sheridan to Ireland.

When Ben Sheridan discovers that the man he thought was his biological father isn’t, he also discovers that his adopted father’s background was different from the one he had thought. He and other exiles from the Irish conflict had settled on Rhode Island and tried to gain support for the Irish side of the conflict from the US government. They also collected weapons and money and sent these covertly to Ireland.

Ben Sheridan goes with one of these transports on his way to discover who his biological father was.

Without Ben going to Ireland we would not have had this fictional tale of the Black and Tan war / Anglo-Irish war / Irish war for Independence. Just looking at these three different names for the fighting between 1919 and 1921 shows me how incredibly important the combination of our words is. Words have a great deal of power in forming our world views. Some of the links below use this power in their portrayal of the terrible killings of that time.

Inside my head that is what Paul Watkins shows us with The Promise of Light. We get to see the despair of the innocents and the participants who are brutally murdered and tortured by the other part of the conflict. Except for the people who enjoyed killing, raping and maiming what we are dealing with is a bunch of frightened people who are following some kind of leader. These leaders manage to bring others to their side. Sometimes they use words, sometimes money and sometimes brutality in getting people to support them.

I understand the need to be free of the tyranny of rule by people we feel have no right to rule us. After all I am Norwegian and Norway was used as collateral in wars and went between Danish and Swedish rule for centuries. Then the Germans took us over. But I would stink as a patriotic warrior.

However, I do see how Ben got drawn into the conflict. Chance has the potential of bringing about terrible things in our lives. On his way over to Ireland he did not envision killing others, but that is what he ended up doing. Ben was beaten for the cause and he got to watch people he had befriended killed. He also learned even more about grief than he had thought possible.

Paul Watkins portrayal of this period of Irish history drew me in and kept me reading.


Reviews:


Amazon UK


The Anglo-Irish War (BBC History)

The Black and Tans – who were they? by Tom Toomey

The Irish War of Independence by Noreen Higgins

Timeline of the Irish War of Independence Wikipedia

Nevill, Adam: Apartment 16 (Formerly known as “Down Here With the Rest of Us”) (2010)

Apartment 16 - Adam Nevill

Creepy! I think that’s the best description I can give of Apartment 16. I couldn’t read the whole thing because it was too creepy for an old lady. But if you enjoy horror, then this is the book for you.

The writing is excellent. Adam Nevill uses all of his writing tools with a gifted hand. It’s not often I get this creeped out by a novel, but this time the author won. You know the tight feeling you get in your chest when something is too freaky. Quite frankly, I was scared shitless.

Most likely it was Seth’s descent into madness and the experiences that brought him to that point that did me in. His experiences seem similar to the experiences that Apryl’s aunt Laura had when she slowly lost her grip on reality. Or perhaps it could be said that both Laura and Seth got to know a new kind of reality. Apryl’s experience with Apartment 16 at the very end of the book shows us that what went on with Apartment 16 was very real indeed.

Apryl has inherited an apartment in London. In her apartment block there is an apartment that is a bit off. But opening the door to that apartment would be unwise in the extreme. You see, this apartment is haunted, and it’s out to get you. If it catches you – well you know how it goes. You’d better not be caught and that leaves Apryl in a tighter and tighter spot as the novel progresses.

Enjoy.


Reviews:


Apartment 16 on Amazon UK


Haunted houses in London

Kay, Guy Gavriel: Under Heaven (2010)

Under Heaven

Under Heaven affected me profoundly. I believe it was the depth of Shen Tai’s mourning for his father and his offering to his father’s spirit that moved me most. Imagine setting yourself the task of burying all the bones from a battle twenty years past in order that those spirits might find peace. A more appropriate place for restless spirits than a battleground I cannot imagine.

Kay went on to say that he’s interested in how the course of a person’s life can change in a moment, and how “small moments and events can ripple outwards.” Whether it’s an individual or the life of a people, he pointed out, “significant consequences can begin very inconsequentially. That’s one thing that fascinates me. The other thing that fascinates me is how accident can undermine something that’s unfolding, something that might have played out differently otherwise.”

To Kay, “the human condition is redolent with this aspect of randomness, and I try to work that into all of my books.” (CBC Books)

The choices Shen Tai, his older brother and their younger sister, Shen Li-Mei, make end up having both intended and to a great extent unintended consequences. All three discover that assistance and opposition comes in many forms and sometimes from unexpected quarters.

In this story there aren’t any really bad people. There are mainly just people with the regular gamut of human emotions and with varying degrees of ability to do something about their desires. While the Tang Dynasty was a better place for women than the ones before it, women held less room in society than men. As with most places in the world today, women had to be a lot more creative in their maneuvering than men did. Their accepted roles were also very different from the one men were able to hold. To become a warrior like Wei Song, one who even guarded a man, was not something that was open to most women (much like today).

Reading about the role of women was both a painful process but also a delight. Delightful because of the intelligent and brave women I got to meet and painful due to the few changes that have happened in the world when it comes to the roles of women and how true their power is.

Under Heaven is a fairly dark story. Considering the times and the rebellion it portrays that is no wonder. I am trying to decide if I would call it dark fantasy, but I don’t know if that would be appropriate. I love its complexity and many threads that all come together one way or another in the end. What an awful race we humans are. It really is rather sad to see us revealed in all our terrible glory. Under Heaven was an intensely touching book that left me thankful for having found it. According to the author, his goal in writing is to keep the reader turning pages. It worked.


Reviews:


Women of the Tang Dynasty

Song Dynasty (the Kitai Empire in Under Heaven)

An Shi Rebellion (simplified Chinese: 安史之乱)

Hua Mulan (Chinese: 花木蘭): female warrior

Uyghur Khaganate


  • Winner of the 2011 Sunburst Award for Adult Litterature
  • Nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Best Novel
  • Nominated for the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

Marion, Isaac: Warm Bodies (2011)

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies is Isaac Marion‘s first novel. He has an interesting take on zombieism. According to the world of Warm Bodies, zombieism is not necessarily a permanent state. Just because something is, doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to remain so. But change will bring resistance from the more conservative (both living and zombies).

The main problem with this novel is that it’s message is too obvious at times – in fact spelled out. I felt as though I was being preached at. This is a first novel, though, and as such – pretty good.

I liked the way “R”‘s, the main protagonist, journey was presented. The road from moan and groan to being able to make himself understood on many levels was interesting. It gets kind of gory at times but probably not more than most teen-literature today.

There’s plenty of humor. I especially appreciated the way the schools for the living and the schools for the dead were.


Reviews:


Film-adaptation acquired 2010 by Summit Entertainment to be released 2013