Tag Archives: Amanda Curtin

2, 2 and 2: Rashida Murphy talks about The Historian’s Daughter

Here’s a guest post on Amanda Curtin’s blog, ahead of the launch of The Historian’s Daughter on 31st August.

looking up/looking down

Version 2It’s my great pleasure to be introducing Rashida Murphy’s accomplished debut novel twice this week—first, here on looking up/looking down; second, on the occasion of her book launch on the 31st (details here)

I absolutely love The Historian’s Daughter—the intelligence and vulnerability of young Hannah; the tender relationships between the sisters, between them and their mother, and between Hannah and her ‘mad aunt’; the novel’s pace alongside its sophisticated use of restraint; and the lyrical prose that sings from the page as the narrative takes us from India to Australia to Iran and back to ‘home’.

Here is the book’s blurb…

In an old house with ‘too many windows and women’, high in the Indian hills, young Hannah lives with her older sister Gloria; her two older brothers; her mother—the Magician; a colourful assortment of aunts, blow-ins and misfits; and her father—the Historian. It is a world of secrets, jealousies and lies…

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Gabriel, Heathcliff and I

I was seventeen when I first encountered Gabriel Oak in the pages of Hardy’s novel. And I was about the same age when I met Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights. Mr Darcy didn’t quite do it for me then, and still doesn’t. I guess I require my fictional heroes to be something more than wealthy, arrogant gits. Meeting Farmer Oak, as he watches Bathsheba Everdene in her carriage (‘woman’s prescriptive infirmity had stalked into the sunlight’) made me fall in love with a literary character for the first time. This, despite his pronouncement of Bathsheba as vain, was, for me, the beginning of several lifelong affairs with fictional men. No wonder I didn’t have any boyfriends growing up.

For those who haven’t read Hardy’s fabulous novel, there is an abridged version in the new movie with Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba and Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel. The movie cannot and does not convey the complexity of the main characters and their motivations but it does provide a visually appealing Gabriel on whom I was happy to feast my eyes while ignoring the occasional sloppiness of the script.

Gabriel Oak was my first love, followed closely by the rather deranged Heathcliff. I hope I’m not alone in fancying brooding Englishmen from another century, but who would not care about Heathcliff’s torment and subsequent decline into love-madness? Yes, I know he’s disturbing and has a tendency to roam the moors at dusk and scare the innocent, but he does have compelling reasons, does he not?

I have a character (coincidentally) named Gabriel in my recently completed novel, The Historian’s Daughter. While my novel is not set in 19th century pastoral England, and I was not consciously thinking of Hardy’s Gabriel, it occurs to me now that there are similarities between the two. They are both solid dependable types, like working with their hands and have a habit of telling the truth as they see it. ‘There is a way some men have, rural and urban alike, for which the mind is more responsible than flesh or sinew; it is a way of curtailing their dimensions by their manner of showing them.’ Exactly. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

I think Hardy’s Gabriel would recognise the modern Gabriel and understand his motivations while offering him advice on how to be around headstrong, independent women. I think I can see them both looking ‘meditatively upon the horizon of circumstances, without any special regards to {their} own standpoint in the midst.’

Fast forward a hundred years or so and two other fictional men have impacted on my romantic literary landscape. Randolph Ash, poet extraordinaire, possessed me so completely I wandered around for days, numb with loss, convinced no other character could come close. That was until I met Magnus Tulloch in Elemental and fell, heartbreakingly, in love again. I see a pattern; complex, doomed men are appealing – in stories – of course. No wonder my husband spends so much time in his shed building evil villains from science fiction.

 

Versatile Blogger?

My friend Louise Allan mentioned me on her blog as one of the versatile bloggers she knows; and she is an accomplished blogger/writer, so here I am – doing something different. I am supposed to reveal seven things about me that I may not have revealed in my writing already, and nominate other bloggers I consider versatile. Here are my seven secrets 🙂

1) I have no sense of direction. Sharon, my GPS lady hates me. She’s always telling me to ‘perform a U-turn where possible’ or ‘turn around and drive 26 kilometres on Roe Highway’ when I think I’m on Wanneroo Road. Once, when we were in Adelaide, SHE told me to drive 400 kilometres to Iron Knob. Evil GPS Lady.
2) I read the complete works of George Bernard Shaw in both volumes the year I turned eighteen. I also read The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and wept over the fate of Meggie whose eyes were like jewels and who certainly didn’t deserve Richard Chamberlain in the mini series.
3) I can’t swim. I know. I live in a state with the best beaches on earth and I walk along those beaches when the temperature reaches about 40 in summer, but I don’t swim. I’ve tried. I waddle and wade, flop and flutter and sink. Ah well.
4) I knit when I want to think. Knitting keeps my fingers busy and my mind still. By the time this novel I’m writing is finished, I will have knitted a blanket for a very large baby or a smallish adult.
5) I sold my first short story when I was sixteen. It was titled, A Matter of Destiny and published by a magazine called Eve’s Weekly in India. They paid me 300 Rupees, which was a big deal for someone on 5 Rupees a week as pocket money.
6) I grew up on the music of Abba and Boney M. In my head I can belt out ‘Fernando’ with as much verve as Agnetha and Freida but my children tell me they’d rather listen to the Gregorian monks chanting ‘In the air tonight.’
7) I have cold hands and feet. My husband says the only reason I married him was to keep my feet warm in winter. He could have a point.

The bloggers already mentioned by Louise Allan on her blog are also the ones I love to visit. Here are a few more:

Amanda Curtin’s blog, ‘Looking up/looking down’ offers book reviews, author and artist interviews, tips for writers and advice on punctuation with generosity, charm and humour. Amanda Curtin is genetically incapable of writing a bad sentence 🙂
Christina Houen blogs at ‘Writing Lives.’ She is a reviewer, writer and artist and I find her comments on books and life, thoughtful and meditative.
Kim Coull is another writer/poet/artist whose lovely blog provides glimpses into her projects, her concerns with issues most people would find hard to articulate as compassionately as she does.
Karen from ‘Karen has things to say’ blogs mostly about books she’s read and loved. Her book reviews are amazing and original and infused with a particular generosity and insightful observation that makes each review a literary essay.
Lauren at ‘Lady Squirrelogist’ has just started blogging about her novel-in-progress and I look forward to seeing more of her feisty story-telling as the year progresses.
Frances Macaulay-Forde at ‘Exploring Possibilities’ is another writer/poet/blogger whose blog offers links to writers and poets as well as her own poems and snippets of a life lived in several countries.
And of course, Annabel Smith and Natasha Lester’s blogs on writing and books are, for me anyway, an essential toolkit for writers because of the practical tips and lessons-they’ve-learned advice they provide.

Elemental – Amanda Curtin

Book Review – Elemental by Amanda Curtin

There are so many aspects of this book that snagged my heart that I would need to do several reviews to do justice to all those aspects. So I will content myself in this review at least, by saying that this is a deeply believable book, deeply forgiving and deeply lyrical. As with all of Amanda Curtin’s work, the language is achingly beautiful, the characters are raw and real and the story has the sweep of an elegy.

When Meggie Duthie, former herring girl from the north east of Scotland comes to Western Australia in 1910, she leaves behind an unspeakable past shadowed with the ghosts of her beloved sister, mother and that boy, Bruki’s Sandy. But she comes with her blue-eyed cooper-boy, Magnus Tulloch, who makes her a promise, who gives her his heart, breath, blood when she had none of her own (p 203). Meggie’s legacy to her granddaughter Laura is her story, handwritten in three thick exercise books, which Laura acquires at a time of crisis in her own life. As Laura waits for her injured son Cooper to awaken from a coma, she reads her grandmother’s journals and wonders if it is possible there’s a gene for heroism (p 418).

Meggie has survived childhood in bleak Roanhaven, where her Granda Jeemsie, a glowering, scumbling, salty man, with ears like whelks and brine in his eyes, (p 41) mutters balefully about the misfortune of a having a red headed child in the family. Then as Fish Meggie, hands infected by gutting and salting herring but still loved by Magnus Tulloch, she loses her sister Kitta and wants to curse Jeemsie Neish for his beliefs, and every last person in Roanhaven for what they condemn and what they let to pass (p 147).

Laura, the granddaughter who inherits Meggie’s story as a grown woman instead of the twenty one year old for whom it was intended as a birthday gift, wonders if she might have been squeamish about her grandmother’s story when she was younger, whether she would have had the grace to recognise the hope contained within the grimness. As she waits by the bedside of her unconscious fireman son she questions her family’s dark strain of altruism, some ancestral compulsion to rush off a cliff, down a well, into a fire for others. And to hell with the risks (p 403).

Kitta and Meggie, Clementina and Jessie, Stivvy and Magnus, Kathryn and Laura and the remote Granda and Da are people I have lived closely with this past month. I read this book slowly, reluctant yet impatient to finish it, aware that it would change me as a reader and as a writer. A haunting, beautiful, exquisite book and Magnus Tulloch must have the last word – I will not forget you, Fish Meggie.

Elemental by Amanda Curtin

Published by UWA Publishing, 2013.