The White Earth by Andrew McGahan (Australian contemporary fiction)

Andrew McGahan's The White Earth is an ambitious novel set in contemporary rural Australia with a significant political message.

The story begins with the death of young William's father in sudden and tragic circumstances, leaving he and his mother facing financial destitution. His uncle, John McIvor, offers them a place to live in his property Kurran Downs, but it soon becomes apparent that this offer is not without strings.

John McIvor hopes that William will prove himself capable of becoming John's heir and the next owner of Kurran Downs, and John is willing to go to any lengths to make William prove himself with this goal in mind. Before it can happen, John needs William to understand the significance of the relationship between Kurran Downs and the land on which it sits.

I call The White Earth an ambitious novel because in it McGahan raises many important political issues. Native title and the Mabo decision place an important role to the story, as does the discontentedness (is that a word?) of the rural Australian population with the Keating government. More broadly the issue of identity and how identity is connected to the land from which you come is an important theme in the story.McGahan also explores racism and the complexities of human feeling that motivate it.

The story itself switches between William and John McIvor's perspective and it is through this narrative technique that not only the characters, but the history of the land is revealed.

I admire McGahan for the ideas behind The White Earth and for tackling such controversial issues - I found this book immensely thought provoking because of it.

Having said that, I expected more from The White Earth after having read so many magnificent reviews of it. I think at times the political discussion dominated the story, to the story's detriment. I also thought that the story suffered for its sentimentality. The book felt very cliched at times, particularly the image of William arriving for the first time at Kurran Downs. It felt almost as though the book was written for a movie rather than for a story alone.

It was a book with good ideas and intentions, that just fell a little flat for me.

5.5 / 8
Enjoyable and worth reading if you have the opportunity.

Have you read this book? I would like to know if anyone else found it overly sentimental and/or cliched at times?

RIP Ruth Park 1917 - 2010 (and more about Australian literature)

I was very sad to read yesterday that Australian author Ruth Park passed away in mid December 2010.

From SMH

I have always loved her fiction, particularly The Harp in the South trilogy, and it is sad to see such an important Australian literary figure pass away.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with her work, I have included below a link to a Sydney Morning Herald article about her life and work.

For those of you who are interested in Australian literature there are many blogs out there who try to review as much Australian literature as they can.

I recently have started a new project called The Books of Australia - a blog solely dedicated to Australian literature. The great thing about The Books of Australia is that anyone who has read and reviewed an Australian book can contribute - you just need to email your review to and I will post it on the blog and add a link to your blog . The design is still changing around a bit and it is just starting off, but with your help authors like Ruth Park will have another place on the blogosphere where people can read about their work.

A poll on 'review rating systems' - I need you!

From The Value Engineers website
I have been having some long and serious thought (well, some thought at least) about rating the books that I review.

As you may (or may not as the case may be) have noticed, I developed my own personal system of rating books out of a possible 8 stars. Rather unconventional but it worked for me. A lot of people seem to go for the more traditional route and rate their books out of 5.

What I have begun to wonder about lately, however, is how much attention people actually pay to these ratings as it were.

Do people really care whether someone rated a book a 3 / 5 rather than a 4 / 5 or are they just interested in reading the review and having some discussion.

What motivated my consideration was how much of our blogging is for us and how much for our readers?

When I started Page Turners (or Becky's Book Reviews as it was known initially... yes, I know you are astounded by my creativity) I started it as a reading diary. I then discovered the book blogging world and it became what it is today.

I undoubtedly write for an audience as well as myself - but what is a good balance?

My original goal was to write about the books that I read as a method of exploring the themes and issues and really thinking about what I had read. A rating system doesn't help me achieve this.

What I want to know is, does it achieve it anything for my readers? Are you really interested in what I rate a book, or do you stop reading at the end of the review?

So - now is your chance to have your chance. Please contribute to my poll by clicking on one of the three options I have provided.

I would also like to know what your view on rating systems is. Do you have one? Do you find it useful? Do you find other people's rating systems useful or not?

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer

Eclipse, the third instalment in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, is just as good and just as bad as the two preceding novels; and I love them all.

It took me a long time to read the third novel in this series, and I am not sure why. There is so much that is bad about these books - the writing being the biggest problem (I try to deny my book snob side but sometimes it can't be suppressed). And yet there is also so much that's enjoyable. There are so many detailed book reviews out there about this series that I won't bother you by writing another full one. Following are just some thoughts and feelings about my Eclipse reading experience.

The content of the Twilight series can be summarised thus; Bella does nothing but whinge, Jacob does nothing but whinge, Edward does nothing by smile patronisingly at everything Bella says and does (heaven knows how she can stand it).

And yet... they are just so compulsive.

In this novel Bella is still being chased by the evil vampire Victoria, who has created an evil army of newborn vampire's to go after her. As usual, the Cullen family has to chip in to save her life. In the meantime, her friendship with her werewolf friend Jacob has gone from bad to worse because of her relationship with Edward - but Bella is determined to maintain her relationships with both of them.

This is the perfect blend of teen angst and supernatural action. Although there could be a little less talk and a little more action.

I couldn't put it down and I can't wait to read the final instalment.

Young Adult, Supernatural

What kind of read is this?
Quick, easy and compulsive. A page turner.

Do I recommend that you read this book?
Yes, if you can go into with an open mind and suspend the book snob within you. Then it is a really fun book.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes, it will be just as good upon re-reading.

Star Rating

7 / 8

Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.

Are you able to suspend your book snob self and enjoy these books despite their flaws?

What do you think of the 'no-sex' issue between Edward and Bella? I have heard it described as a Christian message about celibacy/chastity or whatever the right word is. Do you think that Meyer intended this aspect of the book to have broader message, or it simply that Edward is a vampire and there is no deeper message?