The Non-Fiction Challenge – We of the Never Never – Jeannie Gunn

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Autobiography / memoir

Narrative Style: First person, chronological

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1908Unknown

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Jeannie Gunn is newly married and has moved out to Elsey Station with her husband. This is an account of the first year. Although published as a novel, the work is recognised as being autobiographical. Jeannie changed the names of the principal characters to keep their identity secret.

I must admit, I thought I might enjoy this more than I did. It does give a strong impression of what life must have been like in the Never Never. The difficulties are described vividly and I know that I would not have been able to cope. Jeannie herself is a strong character who faces all challenges head on including the attitudes of the men already at the station.

The problem is there is no real tension. Events never build to a climax nor is there any sense of real danger. Jeannie is unrelentingly cheerful no matter what is thrown at her and that is a little wearing as well.

I found it hard to keep in my head who was who and I would have preferred it if the others had real names rather than the Dandy, the Quiet Stockman and so on. I found I couldn’t distinguish between them or get a handle on what they were like.

Finally, there is a liberal use of the N-word and that was a little hard to take even when I know that it wasn’t racially charged in the same way it is now. Events such as the ‘nigger-hunt’ are described as if it were merely a picnic and not a potentially lethal clash between white and black.

As a historical document, this is interesting and shows what life was like at that time. As a casual read, it wasn’t a lot of fun.

Non Fiction Reading Challenge – My Own Story – Emmeline Pankhurst

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Autobiography / memoir

Narrative Style: First person

Rating: 4/5

Published: 1914

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: A personal account of the meetings and actions of the W.S.P.U. and also an explanation for these actions. 

Reading Challenge: The Non Fiction Challenge.

When I was a student, I did some modules on the suffragettes and when the film came out last year, it re-sparked my interest in this part of history. So when this came up on Amazon, I didn’t hesitate.

It was a very good read. It showed the power and passion of Pankhurst herself as well as the rest of the W.S.P.U. quite clearly. Pankhurst seems to have been an incredibly charismatic leader as well as being clearly intelligent and determined. She must have been a force to be reckoned with.

In one sense, this is an uplifting read. I’m not sure that I could have kept going in the face of forcible feeding and the cat and mouse act but these women were not going give up, no matter what. It was inspiring to think of them fighting back especially considering they had no real political power. They had to find other means to make their voices heard.

For the most part though, it is a difficult read. Pankhurst writes of thirst and sleep strikes where she was so weak she could barely stand but still she attempted to walk the length of her cell and not rest. The politicians do not come out of this well. Lloyd-George and Asquith particularly prove themselves to be duplicitous and uncaring. They treated the women as if they were hysterical and ignored their demands whereas male rebels (such as those in Ireland who opposed home rule) were taken seriously.

Mrs Pankhurst’s style is conversational and so is easy to read. However, speeches and political discussions are often recorded in full and are sometimes a little dry. There is a lot of talk about motives for action but the actions themselves are not always described. This slows the pace a little. However, as an insight in the workings of such an important political organisation, it is definitely worth the read.

The Art of Fiction – David Lodge

2016eclecticreader_bookdout2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Literary Criticism

Narrative Style: A series of essays originally published as newspaper columns.Unknown-2

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1994

Format: Paperback

Reading Challenges: Non Fiction Reading Challenge, Eclectic Reader Challenge – Genre a book about books.

I have had this book on my shelf for about twenty years so it seemed a good place to start reading some long neglected non fiction. I do enjoy reading literary criticism and it is a long time since I have read any so I was looking forward to reading it.

Lodge has an easy to read style – probably because these were originally written for a non-expert audience. It is easy to grasp the concepts that he discusses even when they were quite complex ideas. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of literary criticism and is illustrated by extracts from texts which illustrate its use. This was good because it meant that you had carefully chosen extracts to ponder over if you found the ideas difficult to understand.

As always with literary criticism, there were times when I thought Lodge stretched things a bit but they were few and far between. It is the nature of reading that some things that seem obvious to one reader will seem far fetched to another so I would have been surprised had this not been the case.

My other criticism is really a matter of taste. Lodge favours writers such as Woolf , Beckett and Joyce which really don’t particularly appeal to my taste. He seems quite in thrall to this sort of writing – in fact, he does talk of the influence on his own fiction of such writers. Lodge mentions his own fiction fairly often and even uses it as an illustrative example for one of the chapters. While it would seem unlikely that he would manage to not mention his own fiction, it does seem rather conceited to put it up there as an example in amongst such writers as Austen, Joyce, Elliot, James and Poe. (I have never read any of his fiction so maybe I am being a bit harsh.)

The main thing I have  come away from this book with is a list of authors that I would now like to read that I might not have considered otherwise so thank you, David Lodge for expanding my already over burdened to read list.

Non Fiction Challenge

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

It has long been a thought of mine to read more non-fiction. When I was studying for my MPhil, I was required to do a lot of non-fiction reading and although I enjoyed that, I haven’t kept up the habit. I read five non-fiction books last year out of 65 altogether. So this year, in order to ensure I do a little better, I am signing up to The Introverted Reader’s Non-fiction reading challenge.

The challenge is as follows:

The Challenge: Read any non-fiction book(s), adult or young adult. That’s it. You can choose anything. Memoirs? Yes. History? Yes. Travel? Yes. You get the idea? Absolutely anything that is classified as non-fiction counts for this challenge.

I always like levels in my challenges, so here are mine:

Dilettante–Read 1-5 non-fiction books

Explorer–Read 6-10

Seeker–Read 11-15

Master–Read 16-20

This challenge will last from January 1 to December 31, 2016. You can sign up anytime throughout the year.

I am going to sign up at Explorer level – I think 10 non-fiction books is reasonable to aim for. I already have two definite that I am reading for another challenge – The Power of Beauty by Nancy Friday and The Art of Fiction by David Lodge. I also received Patti Smith’s autobiography for Christmas so that is high on the to read list. I’ll add books as I read or decide to read them. This is the list so far,

  1. The Hell of It All – Charlie Brooker
  2. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
  3. The Power of Beauty – Nancy Friday
  4. We of the Never Never – Jeannie Gunn
  5. Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Classes – Owen Jones
  6. If this is a Man / The Truce – Primo Levi
  7. The Art of Fiction – David Lodge
  8. Suffragette: My Own Story – Emmeline Pankhurst
  9. Just Kids – Patti Smith