When The Movie Is Better and Flynn is Fat

Reading Challenges are funny things. They can make you look at books differently.

For example, last week I watched an old Errol Flynn movie. Nothing unusual about that: Errol is “my guy”. The Roots Of Heaven was released in 1958, a year before Flynn departed this world for the next, and though at 49 years of age he was heavier than when he was wearing Lincoln Green and wielding a sword he was still a good sort in a favourite uncle kind of way. In the movie he played the town drunk though I’m not convinced any acting was involved.

Not a great movie ( about the hunting of elephants for ivory) but I was interested enough to investigate further and discovered that the concept came from a 1956 book written by Romain Gary, which was described as the ” first environmentalist novel“. This led me to locating a copy which I intend to include in the Gaia Reading Challenge. It may take months as it is coming from a library on the other side of the country, and that’s okay – I’ll be reading a book that I never knew existed because I watched a movie I had never previously heard of and a genre I would not normally read all because of a reading challenge.

Talking of books to movies I recently read Rosalie Ham’s debut novel from 2000, The Dressmaker. Described as a Gothic Novel – whatever that means- the story is set in a 1950s fictional Australian country town, Dungatar, and “explores love, hate and haute couture“. In 2015 it became the basis of an Australian movie of the same name starring Kate Winslet and a host of local actors including the prettiest Hemsworth: Liam.

Not straying far from the book the movie is much more fun in an over the top kind of way. All the characters are eccentric including a cross dressing cop (Hugo Weaving) and I found myself laughing out loud with this one. Winslet is even more beautiful than when she survived the sinking of the Titanic twenty plus years ago, and the costumes are just stunning. As a girl who was very comfortable slopping around in pjs for the last three rain sodden days and has no fashion sense whatsoever that is a big call.

Were the critics impressed? Who cares! A fun story line, OTT characters, with a decent dash of secrets, dirt, crime and mayhem. IMDB describes it thus :”Tilly, a beautiful dressmaker, returns to her hometown in Australia to care for her ill mother, Molly. Armed with her sewing machine, she sets out to take revenge on the people who had wronged her.”

Viewing this movie came at the perfect time for me. The L.O.M.L has a hankering for his old home town, a pretty little place on the east coast of Tassie, which is slightly bigger than the mythical Dungatar but with more than its fair share of eccentrics. Quirks are mandatory to be accepted as part of the community. Every time he mentions relocating I remind him of what happened in The Dressmaker……….


Note :

I will do an official review of The Roots Of Heaven, both the book and the movie, once I’ve read the story. Just saying upfront that Juliet Greco was not awarded the role because of her acting abilities or her enunciation of vocabulary.

Black Summer : Book Review

Australia’s 2019 – 2020 Black Summer bush fires burnt an estimated 18 million hectares. Thirty three people died, 5,900 buildings were destroyed, including 3,000 homes. At least one billion animals lost their lives and some endangered species have been driven to the brink of extinction.”

This is the premise of Black Summer, a collection of short stories written by ABC journalists about the things they witnessed on the ground in almost all the fire sites and communities across the nation. It covers “the stories of loss, courage and community” and was compiled as an acknowledgement of the devastation and destruction of that period as well as the strength and resilience of the people. A portion of proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

Black Summer is an entry into the Gaia Reading Challenge promoted by Sharon at Galaxies and Gum Trees in that it covers both Nature and the Environment. The book does not pretend to offer any solutions, merely sharing what those in the affected areas experienced ; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

” There are horrific stories of cars with aluminium features melted into a puddle. Many tell of the horrifying roar of the fires. Louise Brown lost her home, but not her Cobargo bookshop which survived the fire that ripped through the town’s main street. She announced the reopening of the shop with a sign in the window :” Post-apocalyptic fiction now moved to current affairs”. Pretty much sums up the situation and the Aussie spirit, I’d say.

In all of the stories Nature played a massive part in the devastation. Fighting the fires in Stanthorpe, QLD, on the border of NSW, was hampered by the 7 year long drought which saw the town’s dam virtually empty and the Council having to truck drinking water in for the locals. Changing winds also saw flare ups across many sites across the country and it was gentle yet continual rainfall which finally helped put the fires out some three months after the devastation started.

Have we learnt any lessons from these out-of-control bush fires?

I could respond though my reply would be considered way too political for general consumption. Next time you are driving past stop by and I’ll share my thoughts over a bottle of chardy and a cheese platter.

The Books That Made Us and Ham

Late last year Australian actor, Claudia Karvan, hosted a three part television documentary that explored the stories that have shaped our nation’s identity in Books That Made Us.

Courtesy of the ABC

Claudia met with some of our most beloved and brilliant writers, including Booker Prize winners and best-selling authors and writers who have penned seminal stories, such as Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Christos Tsiolkas, Thomas Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Kim Scott, and Melissa Lucashenko.

Did anyone watch this series?

I had read a handful of the books listed over the years though my Zoom Book Club have determined that we will read from the Books That Made Us List over the coming months starting with Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River.” I’m loving it!

A fellow Little Community Librarian in Western Australia – Leah’s Little Library – has massaged a Reading Challenge to better reflect Australian culture. I’ve attached if you are looking for direction in your reading this year.

With a house full of people and dogs my holiday reading has been pathetic with the TBR once again out of control. I had a date to visit the Lifeline Bookfest in the city later in the month. Maybe it’s just as well it has been cancelled because of you-know-what ( which we refuse to give a name in an endeavour to reduce its power).


And the really good news?

The Christmas Ham made it through to January 10th. So two things : 1) I never want to see ham again and 2) let the ham and vege soup making process begin.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu – Book Review

Frank Sinatra popularised a song in the late 60’s that contained the lyrics “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention”. My Way – can you hear it playing in your head now? – has recently been knocked off the top of the charts as the most popular song to have played at a funeral. As at last October the perennial favourite dropped to number two in the annual rankings, being replaced by Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Anyway, I totally get the sentiment. Even with Covid my life has been blessed. My only personal regret is not having made it to the Northern Territory to visit my daughter due to border closures, especially following the arrival of the country’s finest project, young Harry Kilom.

Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory, roughly 180 south east of Darwin, the capital city. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 making it the second largest national park in Australia. It is the size of Wales and nearly half the size of Switzerland to give you some perspective.

Our First Nations people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. Its cultural and natural values were recognised internationally when the park was World Heritage Listed.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu won an award in the 2021 Children’s Book Council Of Australia for “books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style.

Written by Pamela Freeman this book explores the changing seasons of Kakadu – the Dry and the Wet, then back to Dry – and how this impacts on the animals and plants that live in the region. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are simple though easily recognisable even by younger readers.

Each page includes a simple storyline about the environment in its various stages and in a different font at the bottom of each page is a paragraph of factual information, though still in language for younger readers to understand.

Interestingly, although we label the seasons of Kakadu the Dry and the Wet our Indigenous people believe that there are indeed six seasons. This is important because following the seasons is vital for their food supply.

One of the greatest dangers to the natural environment of Kakadu is the Cane Toad, imported in the early 1900’s to combat beetles hurting our sugar cane industry and which are poisonous to our native birdlife and marsupials. A note at the end of the book gives thanks to “the native water rats who have figured out how to safely eat cane toads”.

This is one beautiful children’s book and if you are unable to visit the NT it isn’t a bad substitute. Young Harry Kilom just loves the baru – crocodiles.

( For Gum Trees And Galaxies Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge ).