A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton (1923)

A Son at the Front was one of four novels written by Edith Wharton in the 1920’s after she had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for her book Age of Innocence. These novels focussed on the growing sense that World War I had brought about irreparable damage that left an indelible mark on society.A … Continue reading A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton (1923)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1957-8)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1890 - 1960) is an epic Russian novel that takes place during the socialist revolution of 1905 and the years up to World War II. Philosophical and beautifully written, it is sometimes difficult to follow as it has a cast of thousands and everyone is known by about three or … Continue reading Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1957-8)

Saplings by Noel Streatfeild (1945)

  Saplings is the story of the Wiltshire family: Alex and Lena and their four children, Laurel, Tony, Kim and Tuesday, who are by all accounts a successful middle class family, well off and happy. That is, until the war began.With the bombing of London imminent, the Wiltshire children were evacuated to the country to … Continue reading Saplings by Noel Streatfeild (1945)

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (2000)

Loung Ung was five years old when the Khmer Rouge army took over the city of Phnom Penh in April 1975. Her father had been a high ranking official in the previous government so when the Marxist regime came to power he had to flee from the city to the countryside with his wife and … Continue reading First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (2000)

Living books for the 20th Century: Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (1986)

  'On the evening of 30 August when the Red Guards came to loot my house... I was sitting alone in my study reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich...'   What an incredible story this is! Nien Cheng's memoir, Life and Death in Shangai is saturated with spiritual and soul stretching lessons … Continue reading Living books for the 20th Century: Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (1986)

Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1966)

Russian author and Nobel Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, completed his book Cancer Ward in 1966. English translations were published in 1968, and although book was banned in the Soviet Union, unauthorized Russian copies were distributed in samizdat.The story takes place in a male cancer ward of a Soviet hospital in the mid-1950's and revolves around … Continue reading Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1966)

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

      How much do you know about Australia in the 1930's? I didn't know a great deal, but I recently had an enjoyable history lesson that brought this time period to life for me.As a result of the Great Depression, around thirty-two percent of Australians were out of work in the mid 1930's.In … Continue reading A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Living Books for the 20th Century: Geography – I Find Australia by William Hatfield (1892–1969)

William Hatfield was the non-de-plume of Englishman Ernest Chapman, who emigrated to Australia in 1912 by working as a ship's steward. Arriving in Port Adelaide in the middle of summer, he jumped ship and struck out on foot for 'the interior.' With just the clothes on his back, and a cloth cap on his head, … Continue reading Living Books for the 20th Century: Geography – I Find Australia by William Hatfield (1892–1969)

The Year of the Russian Novels

This has been my year of the Russian novel. Mind you, I've only read three but the first two, The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment both by Fydor Dostoevsky were epics - not just because of the length of the books themselves but also due to the rambling narrative and the confusion of keeping … Continue reading The Year of the Russian Novels