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Anthony

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No Friend but the Mountains cover art

Must read for all Australians

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-12-19

Impressive documentation by Behrouz Boochani of the abusive regime established by the Australian right-wing government to discourage asylum seekers from trying to get to Australia by boat. Boochani smuggled via telephone messages and social media fragments of text documenting the micro-abuses that structured every hour of every day in Australia’s asylum detention system. The cruelty and indignities are carefully described along with commentary about the political purpose behind this inhumane system.

Boochani and Omid Tofighian, the translator, collaborated closely in representing and interpreting this work. Parts of it are extraordinarily powerful, including prose-poems by Boochani.

The audiobook is read by a range of well known human rights activists and journalists and includes an extensive discussion by the translator of how he and Boochani approached the work.

An important book that shames Australia’s policies toward asylum seekers. Most Australians do not approve of this cruel securitised approach to an humanitarian issue.

Australia can do so much better but the community will need to be far more active in demanding change to the abusive system still in place.

1 person found this helpful

Just like conversations with friends

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-19

The real beauty in this writing is how conversational and everyday it seems: the struggles around identity, sexuality, professional advancement, ambition... All take place within a small(ish) circle of friends, vying with each other for attention, love, and friendship. Listening to it sounds so much like listening to a somewhat distraught friend seeking to understand and shape what's happening around them.

A fun (rather than 'deep') read...

Unsettling fictional South African story

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-08-19

Troubling, insightful, insight to corruption and violence in post-apartheid South Africa. The interweaving of personal and political cuts close to the bone and reveals the multi-faceted challenges of transforming South Africa. The range of perspectives on what is acceptable personal or political action is laid bare against the challenges of promoting equity within a neoliberal and corrupt system. Depressingly and distressingly well conceived and written.

2 people found this helpful

Fun listen... a bit like QI

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-07-19

Entertaining and informative, a set of words or concepts leads the listener through an etymological treasure hunt with each clue and word association opening out more insights. Humour, stories and unexpected insights abound.

A fun light listen...

Informative but needs urgent update

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 24-03-19

One of few audiobooks that reflects on recent developments in Burma. It usefully provides longer term context and historical background and was certainly of value in its coverage of the pre-2015 period when it was published.

However, it is now seriously out of date and is something of a hagiography and thus cannot easily be recommended to those wanting to learn about Burma in the current period. The National League for Democracy, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi is now in government and works on a daily basis with the military regime which has retained a great deal of power. For example 25% of elected political bodies have to be military personnel - whether in Parliament or in township (local) government. Corruption remains widespread. Ongoing conflict with ethnic nationality organisations and their armed factions continue. Human rights abuses occur on all sides. Change has been much slower than anticipated; the market has opened out massively but without appropriate accountability and control systems, leaves the Burmese community and their bountiful country, open to exploitation by political and military elites, by foreign governments and corporations, and by abusive and corrupt individuals.

The human rights abuses against the Rohingya are barely mentioned and the most vicious manifestations of this occurred in 2018 after publication of this book in 2015. Aung San Suu Kyi's response has been underwhelming, and a book like this should be updated to help us understand why she is not the human rights campaigner the world thought she was, or why she feels her hands are tied and she has little space to criticise the military and racist militia, or whether indeed she buys into the "othering" narrative that is so widespread and omnipresent in Burma. Readers would want to understand these issues and why the status quo is so unsatisfactory.

Burma is changing, but decades of repression and human rights abuses have left their mark and remain omnipresent. The story of this beautiful and fascinating country and its diverse peoples needs to be updated. The book, as it stands, should be accompanied by a warning: "seriously misleading as out of date".

Publishers ought to promote an alternative to be prepared for audio. The country remains important and strategic, is of widespread interest, and deserves sympathetic but critical analysis in multiple reading/listening formats.

Wonderfully written sci-fi (partly) dystopia...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-01-19

Margaret Atwood writes brilliantly about an awful world that is just a step or two away from today's scientific possibilities.

A neoliberal dystopian future in which brilliant scientific discoveries, all available for some time now, escape the lab and go feral. All so very possible in today’s Trumpian world where constraints on science, technology and profit are increasingly unhinged.

Published around 15 years ago, Atwood’s gene splicing wordplay worryingly entertains.

Be prepared...

Growing up with the Troubles

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-11-18

Beautifully written this story offers insights into the relationships within families and the community during Northern Ireland's political struggles. The insights, the humour and the melancholy are all observed close-up, in the day-to-day lives of people trying to live their lives while being drawn into the politics, the suspicion, and the violence of everyday life.

The author barely presents a single name throughout the story - always talking about the milkman, the first sister, third sister, brother-in-law, nearly boyfriend, and a range of others. This conveys the sense that these events and relationships could have occurred, or indeed did occur, in every family, and how disruptive and destructive this was.

It's also a coming of age novel in which the narrator established what her own life and loves are about while trying to fend off the powerful influences and imposed stereotypes of others. The twists and turns reveal some unexpected casualties and events, sensitively shared and narrated.

One of the most distressing scenes I've ever read describes the vicious throat-slitting of all the dogs in a small town by UK government-supported paramilitaries (or perhaps they are UK forces themselves). It brings home, like few passages, the dreadful nature of internal conflict and of the attempts to silence others to gain political advantage. The dogs' crime? To alert the community about the presence of strangers and their foul activities. One can feel the pain, the sorrow, the mournfulness of community members searching through blood-soaked canine cadavers, retrieving their own 'best friend' to cuddle and carry home for burial.

Lots of other by-the-by insights into the undermining of communities resulting from surveillance, false accusations, suspicion, and surreptitious acts of terror. It's easy to see how longstanding the corrosive impact of political violence can be within communities, and invariably is...

13 people found this helpful

Have pun listening to Stephen Fry

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-11-18

A pun audio exhibiting Stephen Fry's punniness in talking about this manner of speech; examining where puns come from, and why they're so much a part of English humour and culture. Very informative, well researched, cleverly narrated, and invariably amusing... well worth the 25 minutes or so required to listen, and as always, to admire Fry's intellectual gymnastics and accomplishments.
The others in the series are also excellent - quotes, metaphors, and cliches...

Solid...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-10-18

I'm waiting for the book that helps me understand why we (yes, including me) obsess over Trump. This is the third or fourth I've read. It is well researched, clearly presented, and apparently, depressingly accurate. Trump and his coterie are more than a little off-beam; yet they retain the support of nearly 40% of the US population. This book offers insights into the dysfunctionality within the White House and how the Presidency is being undermined, and probably not by accident. Well worth a read but it's neither a page-turner nor a reveal all expose.

Instead it's 'just' a solid indictment of a toxic narcissist and of those around him.

Sad.

Books and book-lovers ... behind the shop-front

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-10-18

As a lover of second hand book stores, and bookshops more generally, I found it interesting to hear about the challenges that have accompanied book-selling over the years. The rise of Amazon is welcomed by us, the buyers: we love the access, the low prices, the front-door deliveries, the scouring of bookshops across the land for sought items; the algorithms generating likely likes... For the bookshop owner, however, it brings the frustrations of being competitive at all times, the resources required to offer both an online and physical presence, the frustrations of dealing with distant purchasers who demand a quality service and readily take advantage of the power they wield through feedback and ratings.

It is indeed fascinating to hear what drives the bookseller on: the odd comments of odd customers; being offered a themed collection for purchase and onsale (usually after a death of a family member); the thrill of finding a valuable first edition or a signed copy by a much wanted writer; the satisfaction of selling a valuable book at a reasonable price to a purchaser who appreciates the inherent value. Also interesting are the pet hates of the booksellers - customers taking advantage; crooks erasing prices and replacing them with ridiculously low alternatives; ex-library books that are marked and covered with plastic and sellotape; cheapskates who demand discounts on already marked down items; free-riders who settle in for a day of reading and then walk out without making a purchase. These insights give one pause to consider. [Lucky there's no mention of audiobooks - where would that leave us?!]

The somewhat interesting but somewhat irritating element is the daily tally of how many customers came into the shop (remarkably few), what the totals were at the till (remarkably low), and what proportion of books requested online were found and orders fulfilled (remarkably high). It might be possible to gloss over this feature - interesting as it is - if reading the hard copy, but on audio one has to suffer these details far too frequently. I'd rather have seen the monthly tally than hear the daily details. That said, the bookseller has to deal with them line by line; perhaps we need to respect and appreciate such daily challenges in providing a much loved site and purpose in an ever more competitive environment.

Informative and well worth a listen.