CROOKED HOUSE

I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but I either blocked Crooked House from my mind – or I’d never read it.
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A Christie I haven’t read? Scandalous! It’s hard to believe I could’ve forgotten this chiller. Crooked House was the Agatha Christie Book of the Month for November. There are no spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t read it, I vow to Keep the Secret.
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Crooked House (1949) was one of Agatha’s personal favourites and I can see why. I always enjoy her standalone novels, like Endless Night – see review HERE. Free of Poirot and Marple, her work enters interesting shadows. I love both detectives, but it must have been refreshing for Agatha to write without them. She claimed Crooked House was pure pleasure to create. She mused over it for years and felt it one of her best. It is also pure pleasure to read.
Agatha Christie Life Magazine 1940

Agatha Christie Life Magazine 1940

The novel is set just after WW2 in 1947. Narrator Charles Hayward returns to England to marry his fiancée Sophia, whom he met in Egypt where she was working for the Foreign Office .
Sophia’s grandfather Aristides Leonides presides over The Three Gables (the Crooked House) where several generations of the family live. But he’s murdered when his insulin medication for diabetes is swapped with his eserine eye medicine. It’s a perfect set up for lots of simmering tensions and family secrets. Everyone, from Sophia herself to 12-year-old Josephine is a suspect, and everyone appears to have a motive. Classic Christie!
Crooked House signed copy image via Pinterest

Crooked House signed copy image via Pinterest

Here’s an extract from when Charles asks ‘The Old Man’ (his father) what murderers are like:
‘But some people, I suspect, remain morally immature. They continue to be aware that murder is wrong, but they do not feel it. I don’t think, in my experience, that any murderer has really felt remorse… And that, perhaps, is the mark of Cain. Murderers are set apart, they are ‘different’ – murder is wrong – but not for them – for them it is necessary – the victim has ‘asked for it,’ it was ‘the only way.’
CROOKED HOUSE SHOES
Charles’s father is the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, so Charles is allowed to unofficially investigate under the eye of Chief Inspector Taverner.
I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. Their flaws are shown but there is depth to every person Christie has created. An example is Laurence Brown, the tutor looked down upon by the family for being a conscientious objector. He was, as he admits to Charles, afraid to go to war, afraid to have to pull the trigger on what might appear to be a Nazi but is actually just a decent German village boy swept up in the conflict. Laurence believes war is wrong but is despised for his beliefs. Now he is under suspicion of murder along with the rest of the household. Laurence tries hard to do the decent thing and is always failing. He rushes into a burning building to save a woman but became unconscious with the fumes, earning the scorn of the fire-department when they have to rescue him as well.
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Christie doesn’t have a lot of time to let us get to know characters, but is skilled at giving us a full person in a few strokes. It is obvious that Christie, like Miss Marple is a keen observer and can pass a shrewd eye over people without judgement.
Also enjoyable is the goblin-like, horrible child Josephine. She enjoys playing detective, listening at doors and lives in ghoulish expectation for the ‘second murder to occur’. As we do – knowing it is coming. For as  Josephine points out: ‘Someone who knows something is bumped off before they can tell what they know.’ And – ‘Sometimes it’s something that they don’t know that they know.’
This book is one of my own special favourites. I saved it up for years, thinking about it, working it out, saying to myself: “One day, when I’ve plenty of time, and want to really enjoy myself – I’ll begin it. 

Agatha Christie

The tension really escalates at the end. I had a sense of dread of what was coming:
‘Because this is just what a nightmare is. Walking about among people you know, looking in their faces – and suddenly the faces change – and it’s not someone you know any longer – it’s a stranger – a cruel stranger.’ – Sophia, Crooked House.
The denouement (which I didn’t see coming but my husband did pick) was one that her publishers wanted her to change the ending. Thankfully, she refused and had enough clout that they conceded to her will.
Crooked House reminds me of some of Barbara Vine’s/Ruth Rendell’s work and is a wonderful forerunner for the twisty, psychological genre.
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The title is taken from the nursery rhyme Crooked House, which is a trope that Agatha used in several of her novels. Yes, nearly everyone in the novel and that strange, rambling mansion is crooked in a psychological way. And it refers Aristides not permitting his family to grow independent and rise or fall on their own merits. By his over-control of their lives, the family members have grown crooked, under the crooked man, in his crooked, strangely proportioned mansion on the outskirts of London.
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Have you read it? If so, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. And if you know any fan of mysteries, or psychological thrillers, please share this post. I think Crooked House has become one of my new favourite Christie’s.
#keepthesecret.

A Fever Dream

I see a lot of movies at  Mount Vic Flicks; it was my favourite cinema long before I moved permanently to the mountains. When I was an art-student and David worked in television production, we rented a flat in Glebe (Sydney) near the Valhalla cinema (originally known as The Astor), and often popped across the road to enjoy art-house films. It always saddened me to  witness Sydney losing its grand old cinemas as they were taken over for development.
image via TripAdvisor

image via TripAdvisor

Over twenty years ago I first visited Mount Vic Flicks with friends and I’d never forgotten the atmospheric interior, the piano player and the experience of going to the pictures in such a nostalgic fashion. I used my memory of it for a scene in Currawong Manor when Ginger gives a talk at a special showing of a similar cinema in Mt Bellwood. It’s always a treat to take the train to the charming heritage-listed village Mount Victoria, to contemplate my current book, write in the local park and then see a movie at Mount Vic Flicks.
The cinema, built in 1934, is a unique theatre experience, a time slip leaving more modern cinemas for dead. When we first moved up, my daughter was amazed to see kangaroos near the theatre.  The soup-in-a-mug and bread roll deal is wildly popular in the chilly mountains. There is an eclectic offering of films, and at times, theatre organist Wendy Hambly plays for cinema-goers.
The proprietors, Adam Cousins and Kirsten Mulholland (who fell in love with the cinema at 18, vowing to buy it if it ever came on the market), took over the cinema from owners who had it for 27 years.
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One of the films I saw recently at Mount Vic was mother! which I’ve been thinking about since. For some reason, despite its weirdness, or perhaps, because of it – it’s a film that still absorbs me.
mother! – with its lower-case title,  is a psychological thriller/horror directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and one of my favourite actors, Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s a synthesis of Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and any David Lynch movie in its dreamlike, hallucinatory, disjointed sequences.
In the opening scene is a burnt-out devastated house and a crystal. The house morphs into a beautiful octagonal house where we see a radiant young woman (Lawrence) who appears to have formed magically in the bed. Her husband, a writer (Javier Bardem) struggles with writer’s block.
Uninvited Guest 2 arrives

Uninvited Guest 2 arrives

The couple’s idyllic Instagram country home is disrupted by the arrival of two uninvited guests who arrive separately. We never find out the names of the couple (played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). The Writer (Him) invites the male to stay against his lover’s (Mother’s) permission.
In the toilet, Mother sees a big red organ like a pulsating jellyfish.  Man, the first guest, is peculiar and ill and has coughing fits. Him is eager for Man to stay because he discovers Man is a big fan of his work. Mother captures a glimpse of a terrible wound under his ribs. Him chastises Mother for looking at the wound.
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Shortly afterwards, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) turns up, giving arch life advice to Mother on how to keep her older poet husband sexually satisfied.  At times Woman appears to be sinister but Michelle Pfeiffer said in an interview that she saw Woman as being like an angel to wake up Mother. I loved her performance in mother! she gave such an edge to the part and was genuinely chilling. Her reptilian gaze and sensual beauty is perfect for the surreal Woman.
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Him never permits anyone to enter his writing space, or touch the precious crystal that we see in the opening credits. Woman disobeys this rule, and breaks the crystal. Woman and Man are banished from the house.  But their two sons arrive and a violent fight ensues between the pair and one of them is brutally killed by the other.
The movie continues to escalate into an increasing dream like pattern with more uninvited guests arriving for different reasons and refusing to behave normally.
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Throughout the chaos, Mother continues to drink from a strange yellow potion that is open to interpretation of what it is, or does to her. Some viewers think it could represent Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. about a hysterical woman whose husband drives her slowly insane.
At different times, Mother touches the wall of the house. The house is a watching, living entity that she communicates with. Bloodstains appear on the floor.
Just like a dream, there is a strange logic to all the weirdness and watching the movie, you have to accept that nothing will make coherent sense. The film is filled with metaphors and symbols for those who want to analyse it, although the director has warned against overanalysing. He calls mother! a Fever Dream.
I had already read about the gruesome scene towards the end as events escalate in the house, and so I had my eyes shut for that bit. These scenes go on for twenty-five minutes gradually becoming more horrific and nightmarish. Suffice to say, there is riot police, Molotov cocktails and people being randomly shot at point blank range in the head but that’s all tame compared to the gruesome ritual that is enacted. I shut my eyes just after the shooting, although my imagination was on fire with the sound-effects.
 I had originally thought mother! was a metaphor for the creative process, but its also a call to arms environmentally.
THE GIVING TREE
Aronofsky has cited the children’s book The Giving Tree as one of the inspirations for mother!
Another inspiration he cites is Hindu religion and the concept of universes being destroyed and starting again.
Aronofsky quotes Hubert Selbert Jr: ‘You have to look into darkness to see the Light.’
He wanted to channel all his anger and rage about what he was seeing on the planet, and he wrote the first draft of the script in five days. It poured out of him. He has described it as a snapshot of a world threatened by overpopulation, climate change, poisonous politics and war. It’s a tale of a woman who is ‘asked to give and give and give until she can give nothing more.’
Reviews have been mixed: The National Review called it Torture Porn and the vilest movie ever released by a Hollywood Studio, warning the following groups of people to avoid it: pregnant women, those with nervous constitutions or heart conditions and anyone who happens to be burdened with good taste.
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Matthew Norma, in London’s Evening Standard said, ‘You may Love it, or hate it, or both but you cannot ignore it and will not forget it.
It was booed at the Venice Film Festival. While some praise it as a masterpiece.
Michelle Pfeiffer said when she first received the script she thought it was the weirdest thing she had ever read. It is certainly one of the more unusual films I’ve seen but it has stayed with me long after I viewed it.
Aronofsky is an environmentalist who originally studied as a field biologist in Kenya and Alaska.  As shattering as mother! is,  the real-life horrors happening to Mother our Earth make it look tame in comparison.

Wisdom from The Company of Wolves

Little girls, this seems to say / Never stop upon your way / Never trust a stranger friend / No-one knows how it will end / As you’re pretty, so be wise / Wolves may lurk in every guise / Now as then, ’tis simple truth / Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth.
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Granny: Your only sister, all alone in the wood, and nobody there to save her. Poor little lamb.

Rosaleen: Why couldn’t she save herself?

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Rosaleen: And then they lived happily ever after?

Granny: Indeed they did not!

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Rosaleen: Is that all you left of her? Your kind can’t stomach hair, can you? Even if the worst wolves are hairy on the inside.

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The Babadook

If it’s in a word, or in a look. You can’t get rid of  The Babadook’.

Jennifer Kent’s stylish psychological thriller/horror move has to be one of my favourite Australian films in recent years.
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The movie details an arresting, polished performance by Essie Davis as we witness her struggle with severe sleep deprivation, a child with behavioural problems and the anniversary of the death of her husband who was killed driving Essie’s character, Amelia to the hospital as she’s about to give birth.
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Amelia, who on the surface appears a gentle, sweet-natured mother – she takes out her elderly neighbour’s garbage bins, works with the elderly in a nursing home and defends her son’s violent behaviour at his school – is repressing some powerful energies.
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She is sexually repressed and unable to find any relief. She has an increasingly strangely behaved son who demands attention day and night. She is creatively repressed (we see her reading late at night The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) and in the movie she reveals that she did some writing (including a children’s book – which gives food for thought of the original author of The Babadook book). She is repressing the memory of her husband’s decapitation in the car accident at the most pivotal time of her life – in labour. To be in a sacred birth-giving moment and undergo the horror of your husband being killed in front of you has had a severe psychic savage blow to her being. Most troubling of all – Amelia does not love her son; she blames him for her husband’s death. All these energies have been pushed deep inside Amelia to emerge as The Babadook – a monster released through the reading of a red book with increasingly violent childlike drawings.
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Every time I read of a mother who commits maternal filicide I feel a combination of revulsion and deep pity that somehow a bridge has been crossed. A taboo has been severed and I wonder how events escalated to such a degree that nobody was able to prevent the tragedy. I speculate about the inner monsters that formed around the mother which eventually pushed her over the edge. The Babadook represents our own darkest urges and repressions. As Samuel, Amelia’s child chillingly points out, ‘you can’t get rid of The Babadook’. Once he grows under your skin, he must be either released, acknowledged and tamed. I won’t reveal what happens to Amelia’s Babadook to avoid spoilers, but there is a cautionary tale for all of us in this cracker of a psychological Australian film.
I love a movie that acknowledges the dark power of words and storytelling and isn’t afraid to examine darker issues. Samuel, played beautifully in a debut performance by Noah Wiseman, utters the heart-breaking cry at one point, ‘You don’t love me, but I love you!’ The cry uttered by many children who are victims of abusive parents.
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Mothers of small children will  see themselves in Essie’s chronically sleep-deprived performance and will empathise with Amelia trying to cope with it all. There are recognisably familiar amusing scenes at pampered children’s birthday parties and children behaving wildly in cafes.
The set design is beautifully lit and the whole movie looks fabulous and polished. I fell in love with the house in the movie with its grey walls, checkerboard floors and original kitchen fittings.
My own criticism is that last third could have done with a few cuts in the writing and editing, as for my tastes it strayed too far into Exorcist territory and tipped the movie into Horror more than Psychological Thriller. A tighter edit would have elevated the movie to the standard of classics such as  Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now, Peter Weir’s adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock or Polanski’s Repulsion.
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But it’s a fabulously simple idea which works well with the small but expert cast. Even the supporting characters seem to have backstories . Lovely to see Hobart boy Ben Winspear, making it two Tasmanian actors in the film.
Tasmanian-raised Essie Davis has long been my favourite Australian actress. You can read my previous post (and see the photo where I finally met her again HERE)
So thrilled to see this collaboration with writer/director  Jennifer Kent (a NIDA friend of Essie’s) make it to the big screen. We desperately need more Australian movies of this calibre. Jennifer’s short film MONSTER was the  genesis for The Babadook.
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The illustrations of The Babadook add to the eerie horror and were sketched by American illustrator Alexander Juhasz.
A magical, haunting, dark fairytale for modern times, a cautionary tale for all of us who supress our darker urges and our creative longings.  And a sly reminder that the darkest monsters lie not under beds or within wardrobes, but in ourselves.
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Beware of your own Babadook.
After the movie I walked along King Street with my movie date friends in Newtown and watched strangers dance together in the street to a Gypsy van. We needed the slight burst of gaiety after the dark journey we had just shared.
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If this movie sounds your cup of tea, please make time to see it and support Australian filmmaking. If you enjoyed this review, please share with your social networking friends and spread the cyber-love.
In Love and Light
Josephine xx
Babadook’s Official Site HERE
Good article on the making of The Babadook and a a link to MONSTER HERE

LIFE’S SO LIGHT

Regular readers may recall I was fortunate enough to win a photo shoot in Sydney with one of my long-time favourite photographers, Cara Coulson, who ran a competition for a private shoot with her in either Sydney or Paris. I was excited to win the Sydney shoot because I’ve followed Carla’s blog from the beginning, and also a major character in my forthcoming mystery novel Currawong Manor is a photographer.

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This week the much anticipated meeting took place and I can finally reveal the location – Woollahra House, a magical, shabby, bohemian terrace which you can read more about HERE and HERE and where the interior shots for this post came from. It was a perfect location for me. And described as ‘Alice in Wonderland meets the Addams family.’  

Not only could I easily visualise Tim Burton and Johnny Depp sitting together working out a scene for their next movie, or Helena Bonham Carter lying back on the sofa; but I’d fallen in love with this striking old lady terrace a couple of years ago when she was featured in a newspaper. I had never imagined I would one day be photographed within her glorious shabby walls by Carla. Life really does work in some twisty beautiful ways sometimes!

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It was a real delight to meet Carla, and an honour to be photographed by her. Thanks to the power of the internet I felt I already knew her as her blog posts are so warm and engaging. She is a rock star with a camera. A funky, tender magician. There is a certain sensuality, an intimacy to working with her but it’s not a soft energy. Despite Carla’s tenderness and caring she has a strength and power which comes from a long apprenticeship of her work, and a spiritual perception and insight of people.  04871

Despite my initial wariness, Carla with her box of magical techniques helped me to move into the moment and to lose my ego and ‘shrinking Josephine’ outside the door. It was a very inspiring creative collaboration for me and a perfect chance to research for my book. I realised how much you have to relinquish control and surrender sometimes which isn’t easy for writers to do as we are used to being in total control of our creative projects. You have to be able to trust and to allow the muses to merge between two people when being photographed.  I love the still above from my favourite movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  

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Woollahra house wove its patina spell through all of my veins. Debra Cronin is the genius behind this magical house which she rents out for photo shoots and dinner parties. I wish somebody would commission this talented lady to do a book on her interior talents. 

Everything about the shoot was dreamlike. The pastel greys and apricot colours of the walls. The taxidermy, antique books, the young girl from Western Australia who was also having her portrait taken. A beautiful, willowy model, dressed in Vivienne Westwood with a bird on her head like an elegant Helena Bonham Carter. She matched the house perfectly. 

The make-up artist looked a combination of Jane Birkin and Lou Doillon and was every bit as rock star as Carla and Jane and her daughter. She put less make up on me that I’d normally wear to the school pick up but I loved her work and her false eyelashes. She won my heart as soon as I walked in when she said that I looked great without make up. (Normally people ask me if I’m feeling okay). It was a joy to work along side her and also Carla’s beautiful friend, Athalee, who spent more time ironing my red dress than any normal mortal woman should have to undergo and looked after me so well.

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We did a shot which was inspired from this photograph of Agatha Christie where we set up a vintage typewriter and books. 

I am hoping to use some of the photos for publicity for Currawong Manor.

When my husband (dressed in his everyday wear of waistcoat vest, shirt and Akubra hat) came to collect me with Daisy, Carla was kind enough to shoot a few family shots. Not knowing Daisy she asked her to ‘act like a rock star’. My daughter who had been cautioned beforehand to do EVERYTHING Carla says immediately went into overdrive snarling at the camera, making wild moves and getting totally hyped as she lived the part. I was only relieved she stopped short at trashing the room. 

It was an enchanting day. One particular moment stands out for me when Carla directed me to look away from her and when I looked into the big mirror I could see a wall of stuffed birds and a blue butterfly (the blue butterfly is always a special symbol to me since my father died) and also Carla shooting me in the reflection). It was one of those times that you wonder if you really are dreaming.

Josephine Pennicott and Carla Coulson

Josephine Pennicott and Carla Coulson

If you would like to join me in that wonderful dream experience and book a portrait shoot with Carla then all the details are on her website for shoots in both Sydney and Paris. I can highly recommend it for the experience alone. If even this introverted writer enjoyed it as much as I did you most certainly will too. 

And if you don’t already, follow Carla’s blog for beautiful inspiration in both words and images. You will find her HERE. 

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In other exciting writing news, Poet’s Cottage will now be published in Holland as well. And so I am thrilled my Tasmanian sea-fishing murder mystery will be enjoyed by people in mysterious far away Holland. That is a lovely early Christmas gift for me. Thank you, Holland for buying my Tasmanian mystery. I would love to visit such an exotic fairy tale destination one day. 

Christmas is just around the corner. If you wish to buy a signed copy of Poet’s Cottage then if you order through Better Read than Dead my local bookstore HERE, I can sign it for them if you request when you order.They do online ordering as well. The B-Format of Poet’s Cottage (the smaller size) comes out in Australia on December 29th so if you have been waiting for that format you can pick it up then. I can assure you the smaller version is just as beautiful as her big sister. Pan Macmillan Australia have done such a stunning job on Poet’s Cottage in all her versions and formats. 

A perfect Christmas gift for a mystery lover

A perfect Christmas gift for a mystery lover

I am still working on Currawong Manor to reach the deadline. I have my Christmas tree up but with no decorations apart from one home made Christmas angel by my Daisy as everything has been so frantic. But this Christmas I have simplified it as much as I can. Although I still do my cards by snail mail, make a trek to the David Jones window and Santa Cave, Carols etc the more commercial side I have cut back on. I hope your Christmas is filled with blessings and the magic of this holy and joyous season.

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Thank you to all who have lurked, commented, and given me your energy this year. Below is a video by Tara June Winch on a worthy cause to donate to. I’m off to give some money now. Please watch if you have a couple of minutes spare. The magic of books and words gave me such a template for life when I was little and any cause that promotes that miracle to children is worth our efforts.

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Keep Creative, and look for the everyday miracles. May this season be a rebirth for you in your life and art

Josephine xx

WHEN BONES CRY

Poet’s Cottage has been attracting some lovely reviews this week. Thank you very much to Auckland Library for their review HERE. It was most interesting to see how the reader picked up the Enid Blyton influence in the book.

I should say, however, that Pearl Tatlow in Poet’s Cottage is NOT Enid Blyton in any way shape or form. I was always fascinated by how Enid Blyton’s two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, had totally opposing views of their mother. I knew one day I would write about this theme and it simmered away for years.

It interested me greatly because I knew of other families besides Enid’s – including my own – where children with identical upbringings have totally different accounts of events. It really made me contemplate truth, memory and history. How do we know what the bones are really singing?

Whether Enid Blyton was a good mother or not never affected how I feel about Blyton. I know she made my childhood magical and I still love curling up with a Famous Five or one of her boarding school stories. But I was fascinated by the family set-up where you have to try to uncover whether the bones are lying or being truthful – or both at the same time.

My writing friend, Jen Storer posted a lovely blog on Enid Blyton and Johnny Cash HERE.

And my other writing friend Kate Forsyth was in the Spectrum this weekend with a beautiful photo of her reading to her daughter HERE. I was thrilled to see Kate also loves to collect the vintage editions of Enid Blyton rather than the sanitised versions. I agree that writers should be read as products of their time and not have their words reshaped to fit the mindset of later generations.

The images of Enid Blyton in this post I found HERE. They are from an interview that Enid gave shortly before her death and I find them moving and poignant. They capture the fragility of the woman behind the words.

I’m so grateful for all the lovely reviews of Poet’s Cottage and that so many people have taken the time to discuss their thoughts on the characters and the set-up. It has been fascinating to see how the book has really delighted people from a range of backgrounds and ages.

Fellow Sydney writer Elisabeth Storrs posted a lovely and thoughtful piece on Poet’s Cottage HERE. I love the final paragraph because Pearl’s gramophone also haunted me for quite a long time.

Poet’s Cottage is an accomplished, engrossing novel with fine language and powerful descriptions of the small town inhabitants of Pencubbit in both past and modern times. Most of all, in creating the damaged and damaging Pearl, the author has created a character so compelling and complex that the image of her lingers just as surely as the strains of music from her gramophone drifted through Poet’s Cottage both before and after her death.

I shall post links to some other reviews as soon as I get a chance.

Life has been hectic here in the Little Brick with my daughter home on holidays. She is writing more than I am able to at the moment. I do love seeing her happy and creative and able to stay in her pyjamas all day if she wishes.

We went to see the movie Brave, which was a wonderful film showing the power plays between mother and daughters. I shamed myself by weeping over the final scenes and my daughter had nightmares that night over the bear but still, a glorious couple of hours in the cinema. The writer based the character Merida on her own feisty-daughter and it’s easy to see why so many mother/daughters are enjoying this holiday movie. An added bonus for me was the whimsical and beautiful trailer before Brave, La Luna.

I really enjoyed this charming short film.

Sydney Cast onstage for The Mousetrap

David and I saw The Mousetrap, which is now touring as part of its 60th Diamond Anniversary year. I had been looking forward to seeing for ages. It’s my third viewing of this iconic play (I originally saw it in The West End). Although nothing can compare to the romance of seeing Agatha Christie’s play in London, the Sydney cast did a really terrific job. I was pleased they kept it in a very traditional style and didn’t camp it up too much. Although a couple of times the accents were a bit forced, I still felt as if I was really at Monkswell Manor.

cast rehearsal image via Mousetrap Sydney website.

From the eerie opening of the play where the child’s rhyme, ‘Three Blind Mice’ is sung to the shock denouement at the end where a lot of the audience gasped at the twist – to the actor requesting we keep the secret (and of course we all will) – I thought the spirit of Agatha Christie’s play (which she did not expect to run for a few months) was honoured.

the original 1952 production

It’s proof of how people love a good cosy mystery and Agatha is top of her game in this sly and haunting play. You can read about the horrible true story HERE that inspired Agatha Christie to write her dark and elegant play. Terence O’Neill and his brother, Dennis in 1945 were fostered out to a pair on a farm in Shropshire, England. The brothers were beaten and abused by the foster parents and sadly, Dennis died. Agatha followed the case which made headlines in the UK and helped to change laws to protect children and used the case for a short radio play, Three Blind Mice (which later became The Mousetrap). Terence O’Neill has since written his own book of the events, Someone To Love Us.

the devious mind behind The Mousetrap. Hats off to Agatha.

Enjoy your week and stay creative. xx

Rainy days and Upside Down Moments

A rainy day movie where I snuggled up with my daughter. It made me  long for moors, forgotten gardens and my own New Guinean childhood. I love rainy days at home with my family.

This was the most recent photo taken of our family when we were on our last wrting retreat in the mountains. We all look so happy but just as the colours lie in it it also didn’t truly capture the moment. Just before the photo was taken we were having one of those family bickering sessions: my husband turned my daughter upside down and the world became so amusing. Memories, dreams, time all can lie and quietly deceive with diluted colours. Far better to stay totally still and quiet as a mouse in the present than look too far behind and forward.

Josephine Pennicott, David Levell and Daisy

 

And here is a preview of my German cover for Poet’s Cottage which is being published in September by the wonderful Ullstein publshing house. There is no way I would not have liked this cover as it’s the  wallpaper in my own writing shed which Ullstein cleverly tracked down for me. It is very exciting to see my Tasmanian murder mystery being published in another country. There are also audio books available as well. I’m so thrilled and happy with the German edition.

 

Thank you for visiting me Wishing you a thousand upside down moments. xx

Queens, Talking Books and Women in Black

Hello,

We’ve now entered winter in Australia which is my favourite season.

And we’re cycling into a long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I have taken the image below from the wonderful Rachel Van Asch’s blog HERE,

which I was browsing around today falling in love with all sorts of treasures that she makes. I’m a bit in love also with her skull and flower cushions and her Clara Bow cushion below.

I’ve been frantically busy editing for Currawong Manor and forgot to mention that these beautiful audio books compliments of Bolinda publishing arrived in the post a few weeks ago.

It’s a very surreal experience to hear Poet’s Cottage being read. The actress is the very fab Jennifer Vuletic and I’m so thrilled to have the lovely audio. Bolinda really do such a quality product and it’s even more special to me as my middle sister has retinitis pigmentosa and is battling blindness. My sister loved Poet’s Cottage which was a relief as she’s very plain-speaking (her favourite character was Thomasina, which was no surprise ). My youngest sister’s favourite character was Birdie. The week the book came out, my sister had her eyes scraped for cataracts and so was able to read the paper version. I was thrilled I was able to create a shadow play that she believed and a story she could fall into, as nobody knows you like your sister, but she allowed me to lead her down the streets of the sea-fishing village of Pencubitt and into Poet’s Cottage. She called it ‘my Tasmanian House of the Spirits’ which was so lovely as she’s a HUGE Isabel Allende fan and now my Poet’s Cottage is actually resting in her house against The House of the Spirits. Hopefully Isabel’s book will merge magical cells into Poet’s Cottage to help its sales!

My sister even rushed out and bought the perfume Shalimar after reading it and wanted to decorate her house in a 1930s style. I was very moved she loved the book to that extent.

I also went to see The Woman in Black this week on a very grim and rainy night. I was meant to be going with Artschool Annie but she pulled out at the last minute due to the weather and I was in the unfortunate position of being about to see a VERY scary movie on my own. Luckily, I ran into another friend who was with her husband on their date night and they let me tag along!

The movie was good, visually very beautiful but lacked the true creepiness of either the book by Susan Hill or the two stage versions I’ve seen in the West End and in Sydney. I can still remember years later the audience screaming in the West End at ‘that’ scene in the nursery.

Still it was an enjoyable movie for a rainy night in Sydney.

Wishing you a magical, wonderful, creative weekend and Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth. Thank you for visiting me. xx

Dark Shadows

Hello,

On Tuesday, 31st July 6-7pm at Newtown Library I shall be talking with the lovely Gayle Donaldson. The event is called Talking Heads and is a combined Better Read Than Dead bookshop and Newtown Library event.

If you would like to come along please reserve a seat HERE.

Some topics I imagine we’ll be covering: mysteries, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, fantasy writing, crime writing, publishing, Tasmania, sea-fishing villages, families, bohemians, secrets, Johnny Depp. If you’re interested in any of these – or you feel like a free chat and a warm place to sit – don’t make yourself a stranger.

There are limited seats so please reserve as early as you can. Would love to meet you!

Here’s my reply to a question the Hoopla asked me regarding a heated discussion at the Sydney Writers Festival on literary awards going to books that readers can’t or don’t read due to inaccessible content. This came about as a comment from a panel Stella Rimington hosted where literary critics became worked up when she said literary awards should be given to books which are readable.

I’m paraphrasing the debate as I didn’t go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival because I was too busy writing. But I did add my piece to the Hoopla which you can find HERE.

Last night Art School Annie dragged me away from my edit to see Dark Shadows. Wow!! This move was so much better than I expected. Let’s not mention the last 15 minutes which really sort of sucked huge-time. But the rest of it was Tim Burton in fine form. The scene with Johnny and the hippies is sooo good and worth the price of the movie. I love that combination of horror and comedy and it really brought to mind the Manson family with the innocence of the late 60s, early 70s era when you could break bread with a vampire in the woods and not realise that of course he’s going to kill you. And I’m so in love with Michelle Pfeiffer (who gets better with age) in her 70s gear and jewellery. Michelle said in an interview that her sister-in-law made the jewellery for the movie.

I’ve never really come out of the 70s. It’s one of my favourite eras and so this movie was heaven for me. Tim Burton, 70s fashion, hippies, vampires, sea-fishing villages, Helena Bonham Carter, Alice Cooper and of course, Johnny Depp.

A perfect movie. Here’s a track from Dark Shadows to glide up all feeling groovy into the weekend. Thank you for visiting me. xx