Book Launch of Charlatan by Catherine Jinks


I don’t think I’ve ever waxed lyrical about a book I haven’t read yet, but there’s a first time for everything right?

If you’ve heard of Catherine Jinks, it’s probably for her Evil Genius YA books. I first came across her work when I was studying to be a high school teacher. Pagan’s Crusade was a breath of fresh air into the YA field at the time. The main character’s voice was smart and so very sassy and unique. 

Fast forward a number of years (I’m going to make you work for that date) and a hefty writing career that has spanned children’s, YA, adult fiction and non fiction, Jinks’s new book Charlatan has just been released, and it looks like a ton of fun. We attended the book launch at Avid Reader book store (the indie store that took on a bunch of ‘men’s rights activists’ and won) this week, where Jinks spoke about her new baby with Rob Barclay from Radio National.

Charlatan is about a 19th century guy by the name of Thomas Guthrie Carr and charges raised against him by Eliza Gray, who accused him of mesmerising and raping her.  (Gray likened Carr to the Mad Dentist of Wynyard . I’ve put in a handy link for you. I’ll wait.)

After having burned his bridges in the UK, Carr came to Australia to try his luck here. Carr dealt in mesmerism and phrenology (the ‘science’ of determining a person’s personality by feeling the bumps on their head) and was essentially a showman. Jinks described him as ‘a fraud, a narcissist and a shameless self-promoter’. There were very few personal documents to be uncovered in her research, but Jinks said she was able to put together such a full picture of Carr due to his predilection to write up every little thing he did and put it in the paper.  Jinks said that she could count on Carr to never do the right thing, and she spent most of her time researching thinking ‘you’ve got to be kidding!’ as she uncovered each new indiscretion.

Charlatan is a true crime book, exploring the trial of Carr for the mesmerism and rape of Eliza Gray.  But if we know that mesmerism is a sham, what actually happened? 

By all counts merticularly researched (as Jinks’s work always is, and the 40 odd pages of reference materials certainly indicates it to be), I’m really looking forward to reading this one. You won’t regret adding this to your TBR.


What I’ve Been Reading


I’m going to try to remedy my lack of posting with some more regular posts summarising what I have been reading. I mightn’t have been writing much, but I’ve been reading a lot – I’ve just ticked off my 100th title for the year so I can at least tell you what I’m powering through. I’ve resisted doing this in the past as I’ve for the most part tried to keep my review posts focussed on one book. But I’m hoping this format will work better for me while I’m still flat out at work and finding less time to post.

The readathon weekend was ‘Stella’ – I managed to get through two titles from the Stella shortlist, the prize winner, and Begin, End, Begin, the #LoveOzYA Anthology.

This is artful book by Heather Rose is about the art of Marina Abramovic, and in particular her performance of “The Artist is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is a book about love, courage and sacrifice. Most of the book is told through the eyes of Arky Levin, a film composer who is going through a bit of a slump in both his career and his personal life. Levin’s wife is very ill and living in a facility. She has banned him from seeing her, and he is not fighting the ban, much to the disappointment and anger of their friends and, more importantly, their daughter.  

I enjoyed the book up to a point, but I became more annoyed the more I sat with the ending. Levin spent most of the book being a dick, and by the end he managed to be not quite such a complete dick. The other thing I was disappointed by was the author’s lack of acknowledgement of the dreadfully racist things that Marina Abramovic has said about the Australian Aboriginal people. It makes me dreadfully disappointed that this book won the Stella award this year. (Thanks to Bookish Bron for the conversation about this one and for reminding me about that last point.)

Georgia Blain’s last novel is beautifully written story of family, love, and how we drive ourselves crazy when we think we can get others to change their true natures when they don’t want to. There’s a lot of sadness in the narrative – with the loss of family due to behaviour, and sickness, and one character’s terminal illness. (make sure you have your tissues ready for the end). The book is made even sadder by Blain’s own death due to a brain tumour in December last year.

I tend to read books pretty quickly, and usually in one sitting. I couldn’t read Maxine Beneba Clarke’s book in one sitting – just the opening left me winded and infinitely sad. The Hate Race is a memoir of racism and it’s effects on Clarke as she grows from childhood into a young woman. This is a difficult read and an excellent description of the effects of racism in the young, and the effects this can have on people throughout their lives. We must do better. This book should be compulsory reading for all Australians.

This anthology is a collection of YA fiction by Aussie writers, and it’s an absolute delight. It made me so happy to read a bunch of stories in the one place that had a cast of diverse characters and great plots. I loved all of the stories in this collection, but a special mention goes to Michael Pryor, whose story about refugees nearly had me in tears. Pryor has essentially written a history lesson about all the shit things Australia has done to refugees over the last 20 years and set it in outer space. I hope lots of our young people read this and learn from our (ongoing) mistakes. 

In the last week I’ve also knocked off James Corden’s memoir May I Have Your Attention Please, which was a great plate cleanser.  I’ve also read White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. 

White Tiger was excellent – the writing style was unique and incredibly descriptive. Adiga succeeds in plunging the reader into the sights, sounds and smells of India. I listened to this one as an audiobook, and I was a little perturbed that the narration was by John Lee, using an accent. I enjoy Lee’s narration, he always does a great job. But there are so many talented Indian narrators, why was there a need for an English guy to do it? Please do better Audible. (This has taught me to check the narrator before purchasing a title, which is not something I’ve done before.)

What are you reading at the moment?