Dec 12, 2015

On Holidays & Hiatus

So I have made some very big decisions this week some to do with mental well being and some to do with reevaluating goals and aspirations.

I was asked two weeks ago by one of my full time teaching colleagues some questions about becoming a novelist - they were trying to give a year 11 student some guidance.

So I was letting him know the average earnings of Australian authors and the fact that its probably best if the student has a career or some training to fall back on.

But we got talking about what I was doing and how I work part time so I can write. This got me thinking that, while I have had some success with poetry publications over the last few years, I have taken to making myself busy with projects that are on the periphery of my writing, that don't stretch me and that allow my to "hide" from the task of improving my writing.

So for 2016 I won't be reviewing.  That is to say that I won't be taking review copy to read.  I will of course still support and share other's work via social media and you may see the occasional novel that I have read to take a break from the only project that I intend to do in 2016.

I will be engaging in a Year of Poetry.  I am still formulating the structure but the idea is for me to Read, Write & Rework, Study and Engage reflectively with poetry with a view to improving my craft and output dramatically.

In essence, take it seriously.

If you are interested in following along there's a link to the poetry blog above or you can go here.

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Dec 4, 2015

Book Review–Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

some-kind-of-fairy-taleI have been saving Some Kind of Fairy Tale to read for about two years, always putting it off to read review copy. 

I knew within the first few pages that it was going to be one of those rare books that performs the magic of immersion and so delayed reading until I needed a really good read to pick me up.

In that intervening period Graham Joyce passed away.  So my joy at reading this work was tinged with the sad knowledge that there’s no more of his work to be enjoyed, that we have lost an astounding talent.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale is one of those rare books that manages to balance a sense of realism with the fantastic, that manages to rework a fairy tale retelling in a field that is saturated with fairy tale retellings.

It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phonecall from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery.

He arrives at his parents' house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she's back, tired, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim.

But her stories don't quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter's parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara's one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it's as if she's off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family.

Much of the success is achieved I think from what looks like effortless, straightforward writing and a subtle approach to presenting the fantastical elements. Some Kind of Fairy Tale could easily have been written as an urban fantasy where the acceptance of fantastical, or the reality of another world/dimension is taken for granted in the reader.  To me though that turns the story into some form of superpower/action story.

I actually felt Some Kind of Fairy Tale dragging my experience of the text the other way.  I’m well versed in common fantasy tropes so I find it easy to suspend disbelief when it comes to fairies, fae, etc. But Some Kind of Fairy Tale puts you in that borderland where, at least for a time you are unsure of where the story is going to go.  Has Tara, missing presumed dead for 20 years, really been “away with the fairies”  or is she suffering some trauma and supressing the memories?

I also suspect that its the focus on the relationships and reactions of Tara’s return that makes this more magical realism than urban fantasy. The tale or plot is less important than the examination of character.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale is fantastical literature and enchanting read in all senses of the word.


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