‘Dunkirk’ by A.D. Divine

Genre: Military History

A.D. Divine was the commander of one of the ‘Little Ships’ that was so crucial to the evacuation of Dunkirk. David Divine is also the journalist and writer to tell more about the patriotic legend of Dunkirk than any other writer- writing both non fiction and fictionalized versions of the event.

Of the 338 000 people who were rescued during the Dunkirk evacuation, the Little Ships was responsible for saving 90 000.

Divine was concerned that the history of Dunkirk would be based only on the Admiralty logs- those of the destroyers and minesweepers. The Little Ships seldom had time to fill out their logs as they rushed back and forth across the Channel, but Divine was determined that the part they played would not be forgotten.

So, together with J.D. Casswell, K.C., he gathered together the accounts of the voyages of the Little Ships, creating an oral history of the nine days of the evacuation.

The history of Dunkirk can retold as a tragedy or as a triumph. Churchill, when addressing the House of Commons somehow managed to described it as both. It’s interesting to gage what sort of journalist Divine is, for he was frightfully patriotic described as ‘one of the great generations of journalists from the outer reaches of the British Empire’ but also earned a reputation for giving credit where credit was due.

In his book, Divine says that there is in the story of the British retreat at Dunkirk a saga of heroism and self-denial that will one day receive its full meed of praise. Divine’s story was inspiration for the Christopher Nolan 2017 film, it provided true-life stories for the film.

There has been a lot of media attention about Dunkirk recently due to the Christopher Nolan film and also the recent film ‘The Darkest Hour’ starring Gary Oldman. This book is a good introduction into this part of history but do be mindful…it can drag on!

Love,
Vanessa

‘The Secret Life of Whales’ by Micheline Jenner

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Genre: Non-Fiction

This was my holiday read for my recent trip to New Zealand. Didn’t see any whales- still on the bucket list but did see plenty of other gorgeous birds and spectacular scenery.

Marine biologist Micheline Jenner has studied whales her entire career. It has become her life in more ways then one, not only in her career but also in her lifestyle. Micheline travels and studies whales with her husband Curt and has raised her family on the seas. Since the 1990 Micheline has discovered humpback breeding grounds off the Kimberley coast, uncovered pygmy blue whale feeds spots and is one of the few people in the world to witness and document the birth of a humpback whale.

‘The Secret Life of Whales’ gives some fascinating insights into these giants, gentle creatures. This book is starts to reveal the mysteries for some of the biggest animals to ever exist on the planet.

Whaling ceased in 1963, with the humpback whale population estimated to be a devastatingly low 500 worldwide. In 2009 aerial surveys estimated the Western Australian humpback whale population had grown between 33 000 and 36 000. However, whales face a new challenge in the 21st century, ocean pollution and global warming. Through the work that Micheline and Curt do at the Centre for Whale Research in understanding the migration patterns of whales that can further understand how human impact affects these creatures and see how a marriage between industry and maintaining a natural ecosystem for these animals to possible.

A great read for anyone interested in whales!

‘Grace Kelly Hollywood Dream Girl’ by Jay Jorgensen & Manoah Bowman

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Genre: Coffee Table Book

Grace Kelly has just 6 years in the Hollywood spotlight and in that time epitomized onscreen elegance during her brief but unforgettable career. This book is a collection of seldom seen childhood photos, previously unpublished Edith Head wardrobe sketches, original portraits, scene stills, on-set candids and wardrobe test shots.

The introduction of this book gives an interesting backstory to her life and early career. She was the middle child in a high achieving, wealth Irish family living in Philadelphia. Her breakout role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon. However her movie role in ‘Mogambo’ with Clark Gable is what Hitchcock noticed about Kelly when he needed a cheap and pretty leading lady for ‘Dial M for Murder’- this subsequently changed both their careers.

It tells of her early struggles in New York living in a women only hotel and doing stage plays in an attempt to build up her acting experience.

Her main problems in the early years for casting directors was her height and her voice couldn’t project.

A vast array of photos, newspaper and magazine articles, costume sketches, wardrobe tests, onset shots and personal photos.

This is a gorgeous photography book and a wonderful gift for fashion fans, movies fans or Kelly fans!

Love,
Vanessa x

‘The Possessions’ by Sara Flannery Murphy

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Genre: Science Fiction

A new book by a first time author is a risky venture for a booklover. There’s the niggling questions- Will it be good? Am I wasting my time? God, will it be like 50 Shades!? (Though that may just have been my experience with that infamous erotica) That being said, the flip side to a new author is that you, the reader, may have just discovered the next Margaret Atwood or Wilbur Smith.
Only having skimmed the brief of this book, naturally these questions hit me when I picked up The Possessions. Reading the first chapter I was intrigued by where Flannery Murphy was going, so I read another chapter and another and another and before long I’m 100 pages in, it’s 1.30 in the morning and I have work the next day! You could definitely say I liked it.

I’m blabbering and avoiding telling you what this book is about, or at least what the genre is and that’s because I don’t really know… Put simply it’s of crime, science fiction, romance, dystopian future, mystery. And it’s not an easy book to explain either. This book is about Edie, who works for a company, the Elysian Society, that uses “bodies” to channel dead spirits for their clients. Edie is a body. By swallowing a tiny, white pill called a lotus she can channel the dead loved ones of her client, all the while numbing her own consciousness in her body. In a society where dangerous “backyard channelling” occurs the Elysian Society provides a safe environment for their bodies and their clients. It abides by certain rules- the client must have known the dead person while they were alive and the body needs to wear something owned by them.

Edie lives a basic life, a life that allows her to forget the troubles of her past and a job that lets her forget herself. She’s a rule follower. A model body. Then one day she has a new client, Patrick- a hotshot, good-looking lawyer who’s equally glamerous wife, Slyvia died a few years ago. As Edie learns more about their life she starts to feel things for Patrick, something she hasn’t felt in a long time. The plot thickens with the suspicious circumstances in which Slyvia died and the undercurrent of a missing girl, Hopeful Doe.

For a new writer this is a fantastic book! The storyline and world Flannery Murphy creates is unusual and intriguing. My only complaint is that the book could have ended 100 pages sooner and no one would be the wiser- but otherwise a good read for someone who wants something different.

Love,
Vanessa

‘The Convict’s Daughter’ by Kiera Lindsey

Genre: Biography

I reviewed this book on the ABC radio program ‘Overnights’ in May 2016, contact me if you’d like to hear the full review (:

This is a story set in colonial Sydney from the 1840s and 50s and tells the story of Mary Ann Gill who was a first generation native born Australian and the daughter of ex Irish convicts turned entrepreneurs who own what becomes the most successful hotel in Sydney of the time. Mary Ann, at 15 sneaks out at night attempts to elope with James Kinchela, who’s this headstrong son of the former NSW Attorney-General, gets caught and this becomes a very famous abduction case in Australian history.

I had the opportunity of interviewing Kiera Lindsey about her writing process and the research that went into this book. Research began in 2007. Lindsey was inspired to write Mary Ann’s story based on a newspaper clipping Lindsey found in the library. Mary Ann is also the great, great, great aunt of the author.

This is first and foremost a story about a romance, you hope that James keeps his promise to marry Mary Ann but through the story you get this incredible insight into this time period which was a time where the stakes were high for people and Sydney was on the cusp of social and political change

Since Lindsey wanted to story to be a fast-paced as the period itself she wanted to leave enough for imagination. So that in situations in her research were the clues and trails stop and you have to make assumptions and keep the story going. Though these creative liberties were not done without using her research to accurately depict what would have been

It was a unique period in history were people were incredibly ambitious were people (particularly ex-convicts) were determined to become respectable so that they could have a greater say in their future. That they won’t simply be dismissed as colonists but claim their rights as any other British citizen

Though because of this ambitious time and the stakes were high people could be incredibly ruthless and were willing to destroy other in process. Therefore though it’s exciting, you feel the horrid reality that people faced

A great element in this book is seeing the role of women in this period. Mary Ann and her mother Margaret play a key role in the story as agitators in the story. By the end of the Mary Ann not only gets to decide her own fate but gets to travel and Margaret becomes a successful businesswomen. What we find is that women played a role in deciding the fates of their families, which in turn builds on the society that is changing at the time.

What was interesting was that women like Mary Ann, who had ambition for themselves, women refusing to conform and worked in their own interest was very much desired by men in this period- women who knew the lay of the land were in higher demand than European new settlers.

Love,
Vanessa