“little fires everywhere” by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng has written two books. This is her second novel and the first I’ve read. I’ll be looking for her first, Everything I never told you, as I really enjoyed little fires everywhere.

I’ve been thinking about the book since I finished it last night. I think it is the story of three mothers and their children but it is so much more as it stimulates thought about our western society, the way we treat others of different classes and colour and what makes a good mother.

The story is set in Shaker Heights, a meticulously planned suburb of Cleveland Ohio where the author grew up. Elena Richardson and her lawyer husband have four children and they are the perfect embodiment of a successful Shaker Heights family.

Mia Warren, a photographic artist, and her daughter Pearl live a nomadic life and Mia has promised Pearl that they will make a permanent home at their next stop which turns out to be in Shaker Heights. Mia has, however, total disregard for the rules of the lifestyle here.

Friends of the Richardsons decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby girl that has been left outside a fire station in the snow by her desperate mother, a work colleague of Mia.

I loved reading this book. There was love, angst, caring, disdain and lots of intrigue. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. And there are little fires everywhere.

It’s being made into a miniseries to be released in 2020 with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. I’m looking forward to it.

Loved reading about some of my female ancestors

I’ve just read Struggle and Suffrage in Swindon – Women’s Lives And The Fight For Equality by Frances Bevan.

My first contact with Frances came about a few years ago when I searched for Radnor Street Cemetery on Facebook and her name popped up. I found that she researches the lives of the people buried in this old cemetery and writes their stories. She also leads tours of the cemetery on one Sunday per month through the warmer months. The cemetery is in Swindon, a railway town in Wiltshire about a ninety minute drive west of London. Consequently I can’t go on the tours but I can read her stories and since many of my Alley family, my paternal line, are buried there I really enjoy reading them.

In fact, it was through communicating with Frances that I found and have met some cousins who are very special to me. When Frances asked me if I knew Wendy Burrows who was also searching for information about Frederick Alley, it lead me on the journey to find my cousins. We went to Swindon where Frances, Wendy and her husband, Frank, David and I enjoyed a wonderful day together. We have since met and stayed with my lovely cousin, Kay Prosser, and her husband Ben in Victoria on Vancouver Island and they have been to stay with us in Brisbane. When you discover at 52 that you were adopted, finding and meeting and becoming close to your birth family is very special. It gives you back your sense of identity and you know where you fit in the world.

Reading about the women in my family in Struggle and Suffrage in Swindon is also special and I really appreciate the work that Frances does. My Grand Great Uncle, George Richman Alley had one son and seven daughters. The daughters are pictured Below. Amelia Annie Alley and her sister, Ethel Gertrude Alley had a millinery business at 90 Victoria Road. Ethel Gertrude Alley married William Hewer and they ran the Oddfellows’ Arms. The youngest sister Eva married George Babington and they opened a drapery store next door to the milliners. Mabel Alley was awarded the British Empire Medal for Meritorious Service in 1960 as she was sub Post Mistress at Westcott Place for more than fifty years.

Emma Louisa Hull, née Alley, another of the sisters, was a member of the Women’s Freedom League and was active in the fight for the vote for women. She was arrested twice and imprisoned for short times.

Eileen Kostitch, née Babington, was the daughter of Eva Alley & George Babington fought with the Yugoslavian forces against the Germans in World War II. She died there of ill health and is buried in Western Bosnia.

I think there have been some amazing women in my family!

Details of life in Swindon and of the women who fought for women’s rights can be found in this well researched book. I found it fascinating.

A new Aussie author that I’ll be following

I’ve just read the third novel by Jane Harper, The Lost Man. Like The Dry this one is set in the Australian outback, this time in South West Queensland rather than Victoria. Life on a cattle station in the outback is a struggle for all. One of the three brothers is found dead of dehydration in the scorching Christmas heat beside an old stock man’s grave and no one understands why he would have left his vehicle with all his food and water to walk ten kilometres to this headstone.

The story delves into the tensions around families at Christmas and how these tensions are magnified by the death. We go back into the past to enable us to understand the present. It was an excellent read, as was The Dry. I didn’t want to put it down.

An easy-to-read novel by Baldacci

Last week I read The Last Mile by David Baldacci. Melvin Mars is going to be executed for the murder of his parents twenty-one years ago. He’d had a promising career as a footballer ahead of him when he was arrested but just as he was about to be executed another man confessed to the murders.

Amos Decker had just joined a new team in the FBI to investigate old murders and he convinced his boss that the team should work on this case to find the truth of what happened. The story unfolds from there.

It’s interesting and very easy to read. I read it in a couple of days and enjoyed it.

A fictional tale about the workings of the legal system in the USA

I think it is probably twenty-five years or so since I first read a novel by John Grisham and I remember particularly enjoying The Pelican Brief and The Client amongst others. He was one of my favourite authors.

A couple of weeks ago I found his 2017 novel, The Rooster Bar in our bookshelves so I decided to read it. It’s a story about three final year law students in America, each of whom have racked up a $200,000 loan for their university fees. They’ve been conned into attending a second rate law college and are unlikely to ever be able to repay the loan as they have no hope of getting a job in a law firm.

They decide to practice law illegally without the qualifications and that is where the trouble starts.

I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t one of my favourites. I wouldn’t want to read it again and I wouldn’t recommend it to you.

So real! So readable! Loved it!

I have just read Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton. Trent is a Queensland journalist who has written for The Brisbane Times and The Courier Mail and now is a feature writer for The Weekend Australian. He has won many awards for his journalism and now this, his first novel, based on his life growing up in Darra in suburban Brisbane in Australia, is also winning awards.

This is a graphic novel about coming of age in a outwardly dysfunctional family where there’s plenty of love but also crime, drugs, domestic violence, social suffering, alcoholism, prison and prison escapes but always there was the dream of becoming a journalist & getting the girl.

Trent’s words carried me along so quickly. His descriptions are different but so clever. I found it riveting. I can’t imagine how people can live through what that family lived through and come out the other side. But they did. It’s an amazing story told brilliantly.

In this article https://www.harpercollins.com.au/blog/2018/06/26/trent-dalton-why-i-wrote-boy-swallows-universe/ he explains why he wrote the book. He says that he took all his own secrets and turned them into this novel.

We are privileged to be able to read it. I recommend that you do if you haven’t already.

Have you read “The Book Thief”

I have just finished reading this book by Markus Zusak for the second time and I thoroughly enjoyed it again.

Using Death as the narrator is a novel idea and quite brilliant, I think, when you consider the horrific number of people who died in those years of the Second World War- many familes must have been visited by Death at least once if not, many times.

In spite of all the loss and grief, there is much love and tenderness and individual bravery, all augmented with beautiful words, stories, sketches and music in this beautiful tale.

It is a story of love and of family and friendship.

It made me wonder if I would have the strength of my convictions and the courage that Hans, Rosa and Leisel showed in the face of such cruelty and abhorrent behaviour. I hope so but you would never know until you were placed in those situations.

If you haven’t read this book, please do. It’s a must read!