Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book review - ‘Flight Behaviour’ and the ‘Lives of Girls and Women’

Whilst there are many obvious differences between these two novels, there are a few pertinent similarities or connections which make a joint book review interesting. Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Flight Behaviour’ takes a snap shot of a young woman’s life in rural USA during a freak climate change event: the catastrophically-altered migration path of the beautiful Monarch Butterfly (a fictional but possible event, according to the author’s research). Alice Munro’s ‘The Lives of Girls and Women’, contrastingly, narrates the progression into womanhood of a young woman from rural Canada, in a more gradual, biographical style. The pace and the style of storytelling in the two books are quite different, but similarities arise when we look into how both authors explore the opportunities and expectations placed on these young women in their small country towns.

From the first pages of ‘Flight Behaviour’, Kingsolver depicts her main character, Dellarobia, as being very unhappy with her current life- with its rural poverty, mundane daily chores and uninspiring husband. It is only slowly, throughout the book, however, that we are given to know the circumstances that led Dellarobia to this place in her life. In highschool Dellarobia was hailed as a smart girl, with a bright future and college prospects. These plans were stopped short, though, when she became pregnant in the last year of highschool. With little other options or family support, she married the child’s father and assumed the farm-wife life that was set out for her. Munro’s main character, Del Jordan, similarly, was considered a bright girl, who was expected to go to college and ‘escape’ the country life. Her plans fell short when she became infatuated with a less than supportive boyfriend in her final highschool year and failed to gain a much needed scholarship to college.

The two main similarities between the lives of these two women (apart from their names) are, firstly, the limitations that poverty can place on life choices (eg the need for a scholarship to go to college for Del), and, secondly, the limitations that society’s expectations can place on the lives and roles of women. Despite being intelligent girls with college prospects, both Del Jordan and Dellarobia found their desired futures altered by their relationships with young men. For Dellarobia, pregnancy meant a quick marriage and an automatic assumption that college was no longer an option. For Del Jordan, the expectations of her boyfriend that she was the ‘right’ wife material (eg one who would naturally give up her study time to have lunch with his family etc) meant that she failed her scholarship exams.

While the influence of Del Jordan’s boyfriend’s expectations was certainly more subtle than the influence of family expectation for Dellarobia, both stories explore the way that education (and the future this can bring) is often assumed to be incompatible with the life of a ‘wife’. These two books, then, raise very interesting questions about the ways that society’s norms mould not only the lives of girls and women, but also their own resistance to these pressures. These are themes that, unfortunately, are not confined to small country towns in North America where these two books are set.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bluestocking Bookclub – 4th August 2013

The second Bluestocking Bookclub get-together will be on Sunday August 4th at 12pm at The Village Bar in Subiaco. We have a book, a film and a documentary this bookclub session. The book is Sally Dingo’s ‘Dingo: The Story of Our Mob’; the film is ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’; and the documentary is ‘John Safran vs God: episode 2’. Read and watch any of these, and come along on the 4th for some discussion, coffee/lunch and a bit of fun.

12pm Sunday 4th August
The Village Bar at 531 Hay St, Subiaco
RSVP here by Monday 29th July

Dingo: The Story Of Our Mob
Author: Sally Dingo. Book review by

Emerging from her middle-class existence in a sleepy Tasmanian town a young white woman marries a charismatic actor and the turbulent Dingo tribe. Lovingly embraced by her new Aboriginal family, they begin to yarn to her and she begins to write their memories down... This uplifting story, which spans three generations of an Aboriginal family's long struggle to find dignity and worth in a culture not their own, has been embraced by Australians everywhere. …

John Safran vs God – Episode 2
Review and clip provided by the National Film and Sound Archive

John Safran identifies a tendency among left-wing people in inner Melbourne to put signs on their houses acknowledging the Wurundjeri people as the traditional owners of the land. He gets a group of local Aboriginal people (Lou Bennet, Corleen Cooper, Dennis Fisher, Jermaine Hampton, Michael Penrith) to help him test the sincerity of this sentiment.

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Film review by David Stratton

The year is 1931, and, after over 100 years of colonisation ... Governments faced with what they see as a problem with half-caste children, establish a policy of removing such kids from their aboriginal mothers for their own good … [including] three little girls, 14-year-old Molly, her 8-year-old sister, Daisy, and her 10-year-old cousin, Gracie, from their mothers in the community of Jigalong. … The resourceful Molly seizes an opportunity to escape, taking her sister and cousin with her, and the children begin the long journey north, following the rabbit-proof fence, and pursued by an aboriginal tracker and a white policeman. … It's an amazing, true story – and, when we see the real Molly and Daisy, now elderly women, at the end of the film, it's a truly magical moment …  it's an important, and beautifully made, saga which provides plenty of food for thought.