Book review: Migrations


by Charlotte McConaghy
Narrated by
Barrie Kreinik
Flatiron Books/Macmillan
Macmillan Audio
US release date 8/4/2020
272 pages
Literary fiction


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This year, I listened to a few Book Expo America Zoom sessions (I would not have been able to participate if it had been the usual BEA in New York – the sessions are still available on their Facebook page).
One of the books highlighted was Migrations, and it sounded really good. So I was delighted that it was a title available on (check for ways to get free audiobooks and support independent bookstores – excellent app!).

Besides reading, I love birding, so the story grabbed me right away, especially thanks to its gorgeous descriptions.

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Guest-Post by Amanda Curtin


by Amanda Curtin


198 mm ×129 mm

448 pages

ISBN (13):

Pub date:
11 Feb 2016

Scribe Publications

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It has taken a lifetime for me to see that the more afraid people are of the darkness, the further into it they will flee.

Nearing the end of her life, Meggie Tulloch takes up her pen to write a story for her granddaughter. It begins in the first years of the twentieth century, in a place where howling winds spin salt and sleet sucked up from icefloes.

A place where lives are ruled by men, and men by the witchy sea. A place where the only thing lower than a girl in the order of things is a clever girl with accursed red hair. A place schooled in keeping secrets.

Moving from the north-east of Scotland, to the Shetland Isles, to Fremantle, Australia, Elemental is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given.



Amanda Curtin’s Top Five Historical Novels

I always find it difficult to ‘rank’ books, so please accept these five as just a selection, in no particular order, of some of the brilliant historical novels I’ve pulled from my shelves.

Patrick Süskind’s classic Perfume plunged me into eighteenth-century France with a wrinkle of disgust on my nose and a gritty taste on my tongue. It seduced me into siding with the brilliant, grotesque and reprehensible main character Grenouille as he becomes a connoisseur and collector of beauty and a skilled and passionate murderer. (Perfume is also notable for being possibly the only thing I have in common with the late Kurt Cobain: it was apparently a favourite of his, too.)

It’s been a long time since I read Geraldine Brooks’s Year of Wonders but I have always remembered this story of the village in seventeenth-century England that quarantined itself, sacrificing most of its population, to prevent the spread of Black Death beyond its perimeter. The story of shepherdess-turned-housemaid Anna, who helps the village priest to contain the disease, is one of transcendence and hope, and so beautifully told.

Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, set in northern Iceland in the early nineteenth century, is chilling in atmosphere and chilling in its tale of Agnes Magnusdottir, a young woman awaiting execution for murder. Agnes’s final days are spent undertaking hard labour on a remote farm with a family who at first regard her with fear and resentment but gradually respond to her as something other than a monster. She is visited by a spiritual counsellor, and it is to the young priest that Agnes tells a haunting, brutal story of the man who was her lover.

The mere thought of a seventeen-year-old virgin being entombed for life in a cell to pray for the souls of her village nearly put me off reading Robyn Cadwallader’s The Anchoress, but it turned out to be a compelling, compassionate novel. I was fascinated by the novel’s austere, unfamiliar medieval world, and the seemingly inexplicable life decision Sarah willingly makes to enter the confined space of the anchorhold. Recommended even for claustrophobics!

Gail Jones’s Sixty Lights is a precious favourite of mine. It is set in Victorian times, and to that extent is a historical novel, but its main character Lucy Strange and her brother Thomas, orphaned as children, seem to have a singular modernity, an anachronistic precociousness, in the way they respond to a Dickensian world. But for me that seems only to add to the beauty of this novel. Wise, otherworldly Lucy becomes an amateur photographer, but I am entranced rather by the exquisite textual images of her ‘Special Things Seen’ and ‘Photographs Not Taken’—the ‘lights’ by which Jones makes Lucy’s inner world visible.

Amanda Curtin
Amanda Curtin
is a critically acclaimed writer
and book editor who lives in Perth,
Western Australia.
Visit her website, follow her on Twitter.
The hashtag for her book is #Elemental

Visit the publisher,
follow Scribe Publications on Twitter


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Book review: The Tree of Man

Australian Literature Month

The Tree of Man


Patrick WHITE

480 pages

Published in 1955

The Tree of Man

This book counts for the following Reading Challenge:

New Authors 2013


rating system

I enjoy reading at least one novel during Australian Literature month. Some co-bloggers have encouraged me to read Patrick White, the only Australian author to have ever won the Nobel Prize of Literature, and The Tree of Man was available at my local library.

This is a thick book, but I enjoyed every line of it. It is not so easy to review.
It encompasses the whole life of Stan Parker. Apart from a few family and local dramas, there is not much happening, and that is precisely the point and the beauty of this novel, which focuses on the inner roughness and beauty of the characters, and of their harsh though beautiful surroundings, if you are into raw nature, cows, and trees. I am, and this book spoke to me.
It is also a lot about communication, or lack of, even at the heart of a family and even between husband and wife, or to go one step further, about the challenge of expression of oneself to oneself or to one’s God or deity.
It is full of desolate and poignant poetry, just as the Australian landscape around the Parkers’, with all its changes during a life time.

I highly recommend The Tree of Man, if you have not read anything yet by this great Australian author.


Stan Parker, with only a horse and a dog for company journeys to a remote patch of land he has inherited in the Australian hills. Once the land is cleared and a rudimentary house built, he brings his wife Amy to the wilderness. Together they face lives of joy and sorrow as they struggle against the environment. [Goodreads]

The Tree of Man is the fourth published novel by the Australian novelist and 1973 Nobel Prize-winner, Patrick White. It is a domestic drama chronicling the lives of the Parker family and their changing fortunes over many decades. It is steeped in Australian folklore and cultural myth, and is recognised as the author’s attempt to infuse the idiosyncratic way of life in the remote Australian bush with some sense of the cultural traditions and ideologies that the epic history of Western civilisation has bequeathed to Australian society in general.
“When we came to live [in Castle Hill, Sydney]”, White wrote, in an attempt to explain the novel, “I felt the life was, on the surface, so dreary, ugly, monotonous, there must be a poetry hidden in it to give it a purpose, and so I set out to discover that secret core, and The Tree of Man emerged.”.

The title comes from A. E. Housman‘s poetry cycle A Shropshire Lad, lines of which are quoted in the text. [Wikipedia]:


          On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble;
           His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
          The gale, it plies the saplings double,
           And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

          'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
           When Uricon the city stood:
          'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
           But then it threshed another wood.

          Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
           At yonder heaving hill would stare:
          The blood that warms an English yeoman,
           The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

          There, like the wind through woods in riot,
           Through him the gale of life blew high;
          The tree of man was never quiet:
           Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.

          The gale, it plies the saplings double,
           It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
          To-day the Roman and his trouble
           Are ashes under Uricon.


This is the very beginning of the book.
I think it gives a good idea of the atmospheric beauty of the writing

Tree of Man opening


Patrick White

Patrick Victor Martindale White was an Australian author widely regarded as one of the major English-language novelists of the 20th century.
From 1935 until death, he published twelve novels, two short story collections, eight plays, and non-fiction. His fiction freely employs shifting narrative vantages and the stream of consciousness technique. In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature.”