Goodreads Review – The Wife and the Widow by Christian White #thewifeandthewidow #amreadingsuspense #amreadingcrime #writingcommunity #amreading, #bookstogram, #goodreads

The Wife and the Widow is intriguing from the start. With a haunting setting and fascinating but relatable characters, the story follows two very different women whose lives are intrinsically linked.

The story is set in the seaside town of Belport, a tourist destination in the summer and a ghost town in the winter. I love stories set in my hometown of Melbourne, Victoria, and I was reminded of places like Philip Island and Queenscliff.  The setting was so evocative, I was surprised when I looked it up on google and found that Belport was a fictitious place.

Down to earth Abby reminds me of the tough, friendly locals I have met on summer holidays to coastal towns. Dutiful doctor’s wife Kate is poignant as a woman who despite her wealth and status, seems to be held in contempt by most people she meets. “Passive to the point of invisible” she fights to find her truth and her voice.

The Wife and the Widow takes us to the limits of what we are prepared to do for those we love. It explores how seemingly everyday people can hold very deep reserves of both strength and darkness.

The story becomes ever more engrossing as all the disparate pieces come together in the most shocking and unexpected climax.

The Wife and the Widow is a cautionary tale about the damage that secrets can do and how we are never truly free of the past.

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Goodreads Review: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

A sensuous, tragic story about a fascinating woman trying to survive in Post-Revolutionary France.

Josephine Bonaparte is living on borrowed time in the beautiful garden she has created at Malmaison. Her failed attempts to produce an heir for Emperor Napoleon are about to have  her booted out of her self-styled paradise as he openly pursues his affairs with a string of fertile and eligible young women.

The lives of two other women are bound up with Josephine’s precarious existence. There is gardener’s wife, Anne Serreaux, who is only too aware that the security of her family depends on the survival of Josephine’s teetering marriage. Then there is botanist’s wife, Marthe Desfriches, contemptuous of tyrant Napoleon and with a score to settle of her own.

I was captivated by the stories of these three women, and the way their relationships shifted between rivalry and solidarity. Despite being so different from each other, they are united as women who are at the mercy of their husbands’ choices and the place that society has designated them.

Stephanie Parkyn has written about an exciting time in history, with sensuous descriptions of decadent Post-Revolutionary France and an ambitious garden populated by flora and fauna from around the world. The descriptions of Australian plants and animals as seen through the eyes of Europeans encountering them for the first time are particularly delightful.

Like Manderlay, Camelot and Shangri-La, Malmaison is born of a beautiful dream. Josephine’s efforts at creating a private utopia are reminiscent of her tragic predecessor, Marie Antoinette, who created a rustic retreat for herself and her inner circle, away from the formality of the Palace of Versailles.

It’s as though both women are trying to escape from the devastation of their own people, which by association, they are somewhat complicit in. But turning a blind eye, both women retreat into their gardens and try to create a world apart from the horrific realities all around them.

And we all know how that ends.

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Goodreads Book Review – Ben Cousins: My Life Story

Goodreads Book Review – Ben Cousins: My Life Story

It’s been ten years since Ben Cousins: My Life Story came out, and a lot has changed since then.

After watching the latest documentary about former West Coast Eagles star, Ben Cousins, a friend recommended I read his autobiography. Written ten years ago in 2010, the autobiography describes Ben Cousins’s early life and his spectacular Australian Football League career.

Arguably the most talented player of his era, the book details every season of Ben’s career and will appeal to footy buffs. But even if you are not a sports fan, there is a lot here to keep the pages turning. The narrative style is light and often humorous and you can hear Ben’s voice coming through on the page.

My son was in primary school when Ben Cousins dominated the footy world and he and his mates idolised him. The most prominent memory I have of Ben Cousins from that time is of him shirtless and handcuffed, being forced into a police car. I could never understand how a hardened drug addict could also be an elite athlete, but Cousins explains this in the book. It was all about timing. Ben had his training and drug taking schedules down to a fine art. He knew when his training was due and he knew how long it would take him to recover from a bender. He explains that his footy training and drug taking worked in tandem as a warped kind of reward and punishment system.

Ben was able to navigate the drug testing because he had the opportunity to plan ahead. And as long as he delivered the goods on game day, neither the authorities nor Ben himself seemed to concern themselves with the long term effects.

Ben got himself in and out of various scrapes but it wasn’t until Christmas of 2005 that things really came undone. Ben “jumped too early,” and mistimed the start of his Boxing Day twister. As a result, he was in a “right state” on Christmas Day and ruined it for the whole family.

By now, the seriousness of Ben’s addictions were becoming obvious and everyone was worried. Even his underworld cronies. There is a very funny part in the book where they pick Ben up to take him on a “fishing trip”. Ben worries that he has done something to offend them and is thinking the worst, but his mobster mates take him aside and give him a good talking to, warning him of the dangers of ice.

There were a couple of half-hearted attempts at rehab in luxurious, overseas facilities. Whisked away at LAX by two mystery blondes in a Mercedes, Ben’s overseas rehab stint ends up in an ambulance ride to hospital.

Ben spent the final years of his career at the Richmond Football Club, where by his own admission, he was not the best player. However, he had a long period of being drug free and he retired from the club satisfied with his performance.

The book ends on an optimistic note. Ben acknowledges the harm he has done himself and others with his drug use and hopes to bring solace to those suffering from addiction. But unfortunately, things have not gone so well since then.

Fast forward ten years to March 2020 and the latest documentary “Ben Cousins: Coming Clean.” Ben is estranged from his family, has been to prison and is living “between joints.” The following month, in April 2020, Ben is in the news again, back in prison for drug possession and aggravated stalking.

It’s as though the words of a dying outlaw, tattooed across Ben’s abdomen, are becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Surely this is not the future that such a gifted young man envisioned for himself.

I really hope that is not the case and that Ben can finally turns things around. I hope that his life will become more than just a cautionary tale.

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Greenhaelan by L.A. Webster – Goodreads Review

Caught up in a parallel universe, Sara Martin struggles to make sense of the strange new world she finds herself in. This strange, beautiful place called Algarth, is reminiscent of Medieval times but is unlike anything Sara has heard of in the history books.

Constantly on the run from both real and supernatural forces, Sara finds her tribe in an unusual band of outlaws. Fleeing from evil overlord Villembelt Tarn, the misunderstood gang are on a mission to save Algath from the terrible Blight that threatens to destroy it.

With incisive comparisons to the modern world, Greenhaelan is a cautionary tale about what could happen to our planet if we don’t take care of it. An engrossing read that seamlessly mixes reality and fantasy.

Read my review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3173727508?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

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