The Place on Dalhousie

dalhousie

Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Penguin Books

‘You look the type to break your father’s heart.’
‘Yeah, but he broke mine first.’

When Rosie Gennaro first meets Jimmy Hailler, she has walked away from life in Sydney, leaving behind the place on Dalhousie that her father, Seb, painstakingly rebuilt for his family but never saw completed. Two years later, Rosie returns to the house and living there is Martha, whom Seb Gennaro married less than a year after the death of Rosie’s mother. Martha is struggling to fulfil Seb’s dream, while Rosie is coming to terms with new responsibilities. And so begins a stand-off between two women who refuse to move out of the home they both lay claim to.

As the battle lines are drawn, Jimmy Hailler re-enters Rosie’s life. Having always watched other families from the perimeters, he’s now grappling, heartbreakingly, with forming one of his own . . .

An unforgettable story about losing love and finding love; about the interconnectedness of lives and the true nature of belonging, from one of our most acclaimed writers.

I was excited to see a new Melina Marchetta book and looked forward to reading it. I did enjoy it and I thought it was beautifully written, but it didn’t weave its way into my heart as it appears to for so many other readers.

A Place on Dalhousie is a beautiful examination of grief, love, loneliness, family and the power that comes with belonging.  Marchetta gives us complicated and flawed characters and what I particularly like about her writing is that sometimes I don’t particularly like the characters – there were times that Rosie and Jimmy irritated me big time, but that’s what I like about Marchetta’s writing that she makes me feel like this for the characters.

Rosie Gennaro meets Jimmy Hailler during the Queensland floods – both are a long way from home and both are a little lost. The two have a brief fling and part ways. Rosie and Jimmy lose contact with each other until almost two years later when Jimmy learns that Rosie has a baby boy, named Toto and he is the father.

Rosie has returned home to Sydney and is living with her step-mother, Martha. The two women are living in the house that Rosie’s father was rebuilding before he died. The tension between the two women is high and neither of them is preparing to give an inch. Rosie believes the house should be hers and Martha feels entitled to the house since she continued to pay the mortgage and work on the renovations. Rosie has taken over the top floor of the house and Martha the bottom floor and a line has been drawn.

Personally, I love Martha and I love Martha’s friends. Martha was someone I  could be friends with– she’s snarky and doesn’t tolerate fools. The emails between Martha and her best friend Sophie at the beginning of the book made me fall in love with Martha and I guess this is probably why I actively disliked Rosie for such a good portion of the book because of her antagonistic behaviour towards Martha.

Sophie, you better not have given anyone my email address after I’ve spent three decades making sure they can’t contact me. Just what I need. Another shitload of vacuous emails sent by people who have nothing better to do with their lives. And for the record, what part of ‘You lost us the grand finals’ spoken by Elizabeth King would I have misunderstood in Year Twelve?

Martha

P.S. We haven’t seen each other for two weeks, Sophie. Don’t be so dramatic.

Of course, Rosie is struggling with being a young mother and not being a particularly agreeable person she tends to get a lot of people offside and so she doesn’t have a lot of support in bringing up her baby boy, Toto. Being a prickly person, myself, I could empathise with Rosie (sometimes), but most of the time she irritated me.

Jimmy arrives on the scene and is determined to be a good dad because he didn’t have a great role model in this department, but he struggles because he hasn’t had a lot of experience with babies and seriously doubts himself in the father department. Also,  Rosie and Jimmy can’t seem to reconnect and find themselves at odds with each other for most of the novel.

Marchetta reintroduces a lot of characters from previous books and even though I had read these books I had a lot of difficulties remembering the characters and so it was hard to reconnect to these characters, maybe it was more natural if you didn’t have any knowledge of these characters. Though, I imagine if you are a huge fan of Marchetta’s work, then it would have been wonderful to meet up with these characters again. In saying this, you don’t need to have read her previous works to enjoy this novel, but I think at times, it may have helped to have that relationship with these characters.

The Place on Dalhousie is a powerful, character-driven novel that deals with some hefty issues, but Marchetta handles these issues with just the right balance of lightness, seriousness and humour. There are some genuinely funny moments in this heartwarming book. Marchetta beautifully writes about grief, new parenthood, friendship, family and finding your place in this world of ours.

The ending of this novel resonated with me and was my favourite part of the book. Marchetta definitely weaved her magic with the ending.

Table, Cup, Coffee, Background, Cafe

Lovely War – not so lovely!

lovely2
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking

I’d seen a lot of reviews for this book before I read it and I thought it would be a perfect read for me – an impressive mix of mythology, historical fiction and romance. I have to admit, though, that the majority of the book left me cold, it wasn’t until the last third that I became interested. Once again, I find myself at odds with most reviewers who loved the book. I liked this book, but I didn’t find it captivated me like I think a book of this magnitude should do.  I found it slightly dull, particularly the interaction of the characters with each other. I thought Berry’s writing lacked humour and it was all so so.

I do applaud Berry for her meticulously researched book that spans two wars and two worlds. The majority of the action revolves around four young people finding love, experiencing loss and discovering themselves during World War I, but the principal story is set during World War II – a romantic triangle between three Greek Gods: Aphrodite, the goddess of love; her husband, Hephaestus, the god of fire and Ares, the god of war.

I will admit that Berry manages to weave these two storylines together magnificently. She is quite a competent writer, but it lacks humour, charm and that something that makes you want to keep on reading and for the story to never end. Personally, I found the book quite tedious at times and there were many times that I consider not actually finishing the book. To be quite honest, I couldn’t wait for the book to end!

I did read from many reviewers that they were amused and delighted by the Immortals’ snarky comments and constant competition with one another. Though I was left bored and I didn’t find the storyline amusing.

Berry begins her story in a Manhattan hotel on the eve of World War II, Aphrodite and Ares have been caught together by Hephaestus – Aphrodite’s husband and Ares’ brother. Hephaestus gives Aphrodite a chance to explain herself and so she begins to weave an elaborate tale of mortal love during wartime.

Moving between the present and the past, the goddess’ narrative centres on Aubrey, an African-American musician, Colette, a Belgian singer; Hazel, a naïve British pianist; and her beau, James, a hopeful architect who are all brought together by fate during the First World War.

The resulting story told by Berry is visually beautiful and historically accurate. By having an African-American character, Berry can highlight the racism that occurred during this time and this gives the book a point of difference.

So what kept me reading besides my stubbornness to finish. Berry does write beautifully. Her sharp eye for detail is quite compelling. I found myself lost in her writing of places such as London and Paris. She captures the beauty and makes you wish it was you walking the cobblestone streets of Paris. She also depicted the French front remarkably well – the nightmare that those young soldiers went through and she makes you wonder how so many of them were able to come home to a relatively normal life after all that they had experienced and witnessed.

The first casualty of war is the truth.

The characters are beautifully written and quite authentic, but I didn’t find that they kept my attention. I found the conversations between the characters quite mind-numbing and I wanted more. I wanted to feel their vibrancy, their youth, their humour and their originality. I also wanted to be enchanted by the Gods, particularly Aphrodite. I did like the take that Berry took on Hades, God of the Dead and the Underworld; I thought that she showed an interesting side to this god and his story was one that did have me quite interested.

Many have said that this is an unforgettable romance, I disagree. The writing of the places is beautiful – Berry has a way of transporting you to another place and this is a gift, but I didn’t find the characters memorable and I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters. I read that this novel will make you laugh, cry and swoon, but I didn’t feel any of these emotions when reading Lovely War.

But in saying all of that, this is one book that I will keep because it is so sumptuously beautiful.

Heart, Love, Romance, Valentine, Harmony