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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Books Read During May

Learning by Heart by Elizabeth McGregor

I enjoyed this moving and tender story about a mother hiding dark family secrets and a daughter trying to cope with an unfaithful husband. The descriptions of Italy were especially evocative. The novel was very cliched in parts, which was a bit annoying.

I exchanged this for Rhett Butlet's People so I'm quite pleased!

An Antarctic Affair by Emma McEwin

When Douglas Mawson endured the horrors of his Far Eastern Sledging Journey in Antarctica his love for his beautiful fiancee spurred him on. Paquita, the daughter of the founder of BHP, was a well-educated, cultured young woman who impressed the great explorer. They fell in love but waited until Mawson returned from Antarctica to marry - this took much longer than they thought because Mawson had to wait an extra year.

This is a moving love story by Mawson's great grand-daughter and an excellent account of Mawson's explorations. Sir Douglas Mawson achieved a great deal for Australia. His scientific achievements alone would be enough, but it is due to him that Australia is recognised as having the greatest territorial claim to Antarctica. (All territorial claims are suspended, however, due to The Antarctic Treaty.) He had a terrible time in Antarctica - enduring Ninnis's and Mertz's deaths - and having to cope with blizzards, crevasses, dreadful winds, his dog's deaths and many other ordeals. He worried that by the time he came back Paquita would find him very different and end the engagement.

Paquita was much younger than Mawson. This book shows how she grew up during the time Mawson was away and how she coped with the trauma of the long-distance love-affair.

Note

I didn't think that my interests in Anna Pavlova and Antarctic explorers would have anything in common. I was surprised to learn then that Anna Pavlova christened The Aurora and that the explorers named a huskie after her!

Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey

A changeling child, family feuds, illegitimate children - the riveting story of the decline of the extremely wealthy Fitzwilliam family includes all these and more. Dark secrets abound in the history of this family. Many of the members were rather unlikeable. tells how the family disappeared from prominence and why the beautiful Wentworth House, which is twice as long as Buckingham Palace, is now owned by an ageing recluse.

The Fitzwilliam family made their money from coal-mining and the sad tales of the miner's poverty and degradation takes up much of the book. The family, to give them credit, was unusually good to them - at least compared with other mine-owners. This part of the book was interesting, but quite horrific so be prepared!

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