Hello faithful readers! I’m sorry, it seems I have become quite slack at posting stuff. This is mostly because of an insane couple of weeks at work (opening a new book shop turns out to be pretty hard work) and also because my husband keeps stealing my laptop. But it is also because I am lazy and that is no excuse! So today I bring you two reviews as part of the Stella Challenge to read and review more books by Australian women. If you’re not familiar with The Stella Prize you should read more here. NOTE: I realise that these two books don’t exactly need more publicity but this is what I read and it is my fault and not theirs.
In my quest to read more non-fiction I’ve been reading The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper and Stasiland by Anna Funder. Stasiland was wonderful: the characters are empathetically and convincingly portrayed even when they are ex-Stasi members and it would have been easier to demonise them. It avoids the martyr/persecutor dichotomy and is stronger for it, showing how real people got caught up in ridiculous and terrifying situations when they had no political agenda other than to live their lives. It also painted a picture of German society today – the pain of remembering and the dangers of forgetting.
The Tall Man was similarly multi-faceted. Chloe Hooper follows the story of the death of Cameron Doomadgee while in police custody on Palm Island. It brought to life a part of Australia that is completely removed from my personal experience and, like Stasiland, avoids a simplistic view of the people involved. Hooper told the story from all angles and showed a society of extremes in which the right thing to do is not always apparent. While The Tall Man is to be commended for drawing attention to a hideous double standard in Australian society it is not that well written, often relying on clichés and spelled out metaphors.
Ultimately I feel smarter and more informed for having read both of these books and if you’re looking for insightful, compelling, original Australian non-fiction you should read them too.