Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss

Not Meeting Mr Right – Anita Heiss
My Rating: Not Worth It
Suggested Audience: Women
Page Count: 340
Published:2007
Side Note: This is Post 1 of the I Love Library Books Blog Challenge

Background

Alice Aigner is successful, independent, and a confirmed serial dater, but at her 10-year school reunion she has a sudden change of heart. Bored by her married, mortgaged, and motherly former classmates, Alice decides to prove that a woman can have it all: a man, marriage, career, kids, and a mind of her own. She sets herself a goal: meet the perfect man and marry him before her 30th birthday, just under two years away. Unfortunately for Alice, it’s not quite as easy as she imagines.

My Thoughts

Not Meeting Mr Right is the first novel on That’s What She Read to receive a “Not Worth It” rating. I only have this rating after a lot of consideration and angst; I feel guilt because I know that Anita Heiss put a lot of work into it, and that this book will be perfect for SOMEONE but just not me.

As you read the blurb, Not Meeting Mr Right comes across as an Australian version of Bridget Jone’s Diary; a goofy, down-to-Earth single woman looking for her ‘Mr Right’.

Essential Selection Criteria for Mr Right
1. Must be single and straight
2. Must think I am the most gorgeous woman on the planet
3. Must be romantic and able to show affection in public
4. Must only be addicted to me (no alcoholics, no smokers)
5. Must be non-racist and non-homophobic
6. Must be punctual (although I am allowed to be on Koori time)
7. Must be good to his mother and like children
8. Must love his job (I don’t want him whinging every night about his day)
9. Must be debt free (mortgage will be acceptable)
10. Must be loyal, faithful, honest, sincere, chivalrous, witty, competent, responsible and a good listener.


Now please understand – I LOVE this kind of novel. I read this kind of novel every day. I began this book with a smile on my face. But I didn’t finish it. I didn’t come close.

My biggest frustration (and my only frustration) was the way that the protagonist, Alice, constantly refers to her race and ethnicity. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with a protagonist who has Aboriginal heritage. In fact, it was a reason I picked up this novel in the first place – I looked forward to reading a novel from a different perspective than the women’s literature I normally read. What I DO have a problem with however, is a protagonist who is constantly, constantly, constantly defining themselves by their race and their difference. In the first 18 pages, there are 9 references to Alice’s heritage and aboriginality in general:

“Debra was wrong about me being the first pregnant, but she was right about Koori women and kids generally. Fact was, most of the Koori women I knew had squeezed their kids out in their early twenties, some even before that, and none of them had blokes around now. Some of them had never had a bloke around at all.”

I found it incredibly frustrating to be repeatedly reminded of the protagonists skin colour and heritage. It’s not as though this is normal of women’s literature in general – you don’t see any of Jane Green’s heroines repeatedly reminding her audience that they are white. It’s not even just that – it is not an expectation of mine to have constant characterisation throughout the novel. It really is not a racism thing – as I said, I purchased this book BECAUSE of the Aboriginal protagonist. But I certainly didn’t purchase it for a race-debatesque read or a detailed understanding of a characters background and appearance; it honestly got so frequent that I felt like shouting “OK! ALICE IS ABORIGINAL. CAN WE START THE STORY NOW?”.

This might open a can of worms, but I also thought that there were aspects that could be interpreted as racist towards white people. Anita Heiss is also the author of I’m Not Racist, But.., and I guess I was expecting a bit more of a reflective fictional read which would compel the audience to see aboriginality not as a difference, but show similarities and encourage reconciliation and cohesion. By saying things like“I couldn’t even pull the race card this time; it wasn’t about being Black and white. It wasn’t about being rich or poor, as it had been at shcool. Rather, at twenty-eight it was about the haves and the have-nots.”, I couldn’t help but wonder what Anita Heiss’s intentions were when writing Not Meeting Mr Right.

The storyline itself had a lot of promise. Other than the amazingly frequent references to race, Not Meeting Mr Right seems to fit the mould of my preferred weekend read. If you are not as easily annoyed by constant characterisation, you might like to give it a try, but if you take my advice, you’ll leave this one on the shelf.
Where Can I Get It?

If you are still interested in giving Not Meeting Mr Right a try, you can purchase it from Book Depository here and receive free shipping on all orders!

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The Secret River by Kate Grenville

The Secret River – Kate Grenville (web | facebook)
My Rating: Must Read! Get it Now!!
Suggested Audience: Everyone!
Page Count: 349
Publication: 2005

Background

London, 1806 – William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the river Thames. Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake, a bad mistake for which he and his family are made to pay dearly.

“He stood up in the prisoner’s dock, a high pedestal where he was on display as if naked to the whole court. His hands were tied hard behind his back, forcing him to bow his head. He kept trying to straighten up, to look his fate in the eye, but the pain in his neck forced him to hunch. Up so high, he could feel the rising vapours of those below him in the court: all those bodies encased in their clothes, all those chests breathing in and out, all those words, passing around through the air.”

His sentence is to be transports to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. Soon, Thornhill, a man no better or worse than most, has to make the most difficult decision of his life.

My Thoughts

This book is a masterpiece. A. Masterpiece. Beginning on the shores of poverty-pitted London, The Secret River follows the life of William Thornhill right through to his emancipation to Australia. It is a fascinating read, fantastically written with a narrative that weaves through fiction and history, allowing the reader an insight into true life in newly settled New South Wales.

Author Kate Grenville wrote The Secret River after five long years of researching into her family history. As Kate Grenville says:

“The whole thing started innocently enough, as a search into some family history. My mother had told me stories about the first of our family to come to Australia – my great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Wiseman was a lighterman on the Thames, pinched a load of timber and was transported for the term of his natural life. Within 6 years of arriving here, he’d become a free man and “taken up land” on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. He went on to make buckets of money, built a fine stone house, and was buried – so the story goes – in top hat and tails, with a box of sovereigns at his feet. (Unfortunately for his great-great-great grand-daughter, the next generation proceeded to lose the lot.)”

Even though I am sure my Australian background and interest in our nations history sparked my interest in The Secret River, this is a novel that would be enjoyed by any culture. The themes of poverty, family and racism are not Australia-centric and the narrative works well to draw any reader in.

Since its publication, The Secret River has won numerous awards, including the ‘2006 Commonwealth Prize’. It is a novel which is seeped in Australia – both our past and our future. The novel compels its reader to consider social injustice, and ponder and question how we move forward as a nation.

In saying that The Secret River is deeply invested in history is not to say that it is not an entertaining, enjoyable read. Kate Grenville paints a scene so vividly that you feel like you too are starving and impoverished in 19th century England, desperate for a solution:

“He was always hungry. That was a fact of life: the gnawing feeling in his belly, the flat taste in his mouth, the rag that there was never enough. When the food came it was a matter of cramming it into his mouth so his hands could reach for more. If he was quick enough, he could grab the bread his little brother was lifting to his mouth, break a piece off and get it down his gullet. Once it was swallowed, no one could get it back.”

Trust me when I say that you will love this book. This will be one that you read over and over again; it is the kind of novel that you can always find more to think about and consider. You will not regret taking the time for this one.

Where Can I Get It?

To buy The Secret River for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.

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Loaded by Chris Tsiolkas

Loaded – Chris Tsiolkas
Publication: 1995 (paperback), Random House Australia
Page Count: 151
My Rating: Intellectual Read
*** LANGUAGE AND CONTENT WARNING ***
“Speed is exhilaration. Speed is colours reflecting light with greater intensity. Speed, if it’s good, can take me higher than I can ever go, higher than my natural bodily chemicals can take me. […] On speed I feel macho, but not aggressive. I’m friendly to everyone. Speed evaporates fear. On speed I dance with my body and my soul. In this white powder they’ve distilled the essence of the Greek word kefi. Kefi is the urge to dance, to be with good friends, to open your arms to life. Straight, I can approximate kefi, but I am always conscious of fighting off boredom. Speed doesn’t let you get bored.”
Background
The first novel by popular Australian author Chris Tsiolkas (author of proclaimed novel, The Slap), Loaded follows a night in the life of 19 year old Greek Australian, Ari. Throughout the course his evening out in Melbourne, Ari takes an overwhelming amount of drugs and has sex with a number of men, defining himself as homosexual but not gay. The novel moves with many flashbacks of thoughts and moments that define Ari, interweaving in a way that gives the reader a narrative version of a drug trip.
 
In 1998, Loaded was made into a film (titled Head On) which was met with varied response, mainly as a result of its graphic portrayal of homosexual sex.
 
My Thoughts
This is a novel that you will either love or hate. Unusually, I found most of Chris Tsiolkas’ characters highly unlikeable and the subjects of drugs, homosexuality, racism and cultural identity to be considered in a highly confronting manner. But while I certainly found it to be confronting, I must say I walked away nodding and thinking “Well played, Tsiolkas!”; he is certainly a skilled author who asks his reader to think about the realities within our society.
 
Reading this for a university class, I admired Tsiolkas’ skill in simultaneously disgusting the reader while compelling them to keep reading. On one level, this is an incredibly graphic, disturbing novel, but considering it within the context of our modern society it encourages an Australian audience to consider the complex make-up of our culture.
 
As typical to Tsiolkas’ novels, the consideration of cultures (predominantly the Greek culture) within the Australian landscape is thoroughly explored. Through the eyes of Ari, we question the cultural ties first-generation Australians have to the psyches of both the homeland and Australia. Ari doesn’t “fit in” with either the Australian “skip” culture or the Greek “wog” culture. He revels in his difference and loudly proclaims it. I thoroughly loved the novel for this thought; from my experience this is an issue many first-generation Australians face (although not neccessarily with the amount of animosity and hate that Ari experiences!).
 
Tsiolkas is brave in his detailed description of homosexual sex; this is not a topic widely considered in mainstream literature, after all. In the course of one evening, Ari has multiple anonymous sexual encounters, all described in haunting detail. This, combined with a chilling reflection of sodomy leaves the reader shocked, and works to show the underbelly within our culture. I think this is why it is so compelling; it is not shock-for-shock’s-sake, it is a purposeful and powerful consideration. But it must be said, in the wrong hands or with a different perspective, this novel could be considered a dirty, gross piece of work.
 
Drug use is also widely considered, and I must admit I wondered a number of times if Ari would still be standing by the end of the night given the amount of alcohol he drinks, coupled with the copious ingestion of drugs. Considering Ari’s evening is portrayed as a typical evening out, Tsiolkas made me consider today’s drug culture, and question how our society will ever progress.
Due to the illicitness of the themes Tsiolkas considers, I would only recommend Loaded to someone approaching it with an open mind. It is a stirring intellectual read and will certainly stay with you long after you finish it.
 
Where Can You Get It?
To buy Loaded for a great price and shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.

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