I can’t believe that it has been so long since my last blog post.
Over the last few years I’ve been caught up in all that a PhD demands, started a small business with my partner and welcomed a baby daughter into the world. I took a break in 2017 to focus on my family (newborn, 3 yo and 5 yo) and now I’m back at the writing desk focused on my PhD novel (well, part-time anyway).
As a result I’m finding some brilliant novels, articles, podcasts and general miscellany that I’d love to start sharing.
I’ve recently read a few novels which would likely be branded romance, although I read them for their historical elements mainly their settings in WWII. The first was Elise McCune’s Castle of Dreams (Allen & Unwin, 2016). I met Elise at last years Historical Novel Association of Australia Conference and she was so open with her advice and encouragement on writing in a WWII setting. Her novel is a tale of family secrets but if there was one thing I took away from the novel it was the enduring sense of place that she crafted. Elise’s novel was partly set in a castle – Paronella Park, 120 kms south of Cairns. Throughout the novel is a sense of magic, other-worldliness, that surrounds the castle and its eventual decay. The women I am researching worked in a mansion so I enjoyed how Elise crafted the castle almost as a character.
The second is Anita Heiss’ Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms (Simon & Schuster 2017). Again this novel is more than a romance, it is a work of historical fiction that centres on the Cowra POW breakout, the Erambie Station and merges an unlikely relationship between the families on an Aboriginal Mission and an escaped Japanese POW. Again I read this book selfishly – I’m currently reaching WWII Italian interns and Indigenous members of the AWAS (Australian Women’s Army Service) so it interested me on two levels. What I took from this book was the way that Heiss was able to include well researched historical fact into the novel without the reader feeling lectured. I came away feeling like I too had been welcomed into the family by Banjo, his wife and daughter, and like Hiroshi I was learning what it was like to live at Erambie in 1944.
A few years ago I gave a talk at the Australian Historical Association Conference titled ‘Fast Women or an Essential Service?’ which looked at the representation of women in the services during WWII. In January Danielle Broadhurst published an article on Vida – The Australian Women’s History Network blog, titled ‘Khaki-mad’: The gendered approach to venereal disease in World War Two – You don’t need to be into venereal diseases to enjoy reading it, it’s a really well researched insight into gendered approaches to health and the war effort.
I’ve listed below a few things I’ve come across in my procrastination research that made me smile/grit teeth or anything in between.
- Read up on royal etiquette circa 1970 – The Women’s Weekly published a guide on what to do if you happened across a Royal.
- The history of Sydney University and their female medical graduates.
- The history of RMIT and their female enrollments.
I know I’m slow to the game but life with a newborn has been so much nicer with podcasts. One of my favourites that I’ve been listening to is The Slow Home podcast. I’m attempting to transition into slow living and minimalism and this podcast has a great mix of academic theory with practical examples for living a slow life. Plus I enjoy the mix of Australian and International guests. It’s worth a listen for anyone trying to slow down and focus on what is important in life.