Sannah and The Pilgrim, and Pia and The Skyman, by Sue Parritt

Sue Parritt’s Sannah and the Pilgrim is the first title in her climate fiction trilogy. It is gollowed by Pia and the Skyman and The Skylines Alliance.

The genre Cli-Fi (Climate fiction) is making increasing headway these days as writers look at what a future world, wrecked by climate change, might turn out like. Sue Parritt took a close look at Australasia – Australia and New Zealand. Australia, of course, has already had increasingly severe fires, floods and droughts. I found Sue Parritt’s vision to be scarily plausible as well as entertaining.

The story: Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) are ravaged by droughts. In Australia in particular. The coastal plains have been inundated by rising sea levels. The ‘Whites,  although impoverished by today’s standards, hang on to power through apartheid. They force the ‘Browns’, mostly refugee populations from the drowned Pacific Islands, to labour on the little arable land that remains.

Sannah 2314

We see this future from the point of view of a resistance movement, the ‘Women’s Line’, as they endure dangers to help the serfs held in the underground prisons to escape to what we hope will be a better life for them in Aotearoa. This is an Underground Railroad of the future.

Sannah, “The Storyteller”, belongs to the Women’s Line. When a light skinned stranger calling himself Kaire arrives at her dome she must consider whether he is a spy. The twin mysteries of Kaire’s origins and Sannah’s purpose in “storytelling” drive along the narrative in the first novel. Kaire’s background when revealed gives us another viewpoint of the conditions on the planet.

As with all resistance movements, nobody quite knows who is to be fully trusted. Missions are planned, and after excruciating buildups of tension some go wrong.

We have escapes by desert and by sea, rescues, betrayals, brutalities and passions. Yet Parritt’s low key writing makes this stark way of life seem almost normalised, which makes it all the more disturbing; and the wreckage of not just the planet but of humanity springs out at us.

In Pia and the Skyman the story picks up from the bases in Aotearoa.

Parritt writes on her website –

“I want readers to grasp what is happening not only in contemporary Australia, but throughout the world with regard to refugees and the ongoing environmental degradation that poses increasing problems for humanity… By writing fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ‘ordinary’ people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable world.”

Sannah and the Pilgrim was Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2015. Pia and the Skyman was commended for the Christina Stead Fiction Award 2016 in the National Literary Awards of The Fellowship of Australian Writers. You can learn more about Sue Parritt and these books at her blog.

Where to find the trilogy: All the books are published by Odyssey Book and available through BookDepository as well as Waterstones, Indigo and Amazon. The third book, The Skylines Alliance, is also now available.

Another Cli-Fit series I loved and that you may well endure is the Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden. You can see my review here.

You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.

Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden

1970 in suburban Melbourne: ‘That was how it happened, thought Harry, feeling the memories rise; they were never far away .. Trusting you to remember, trusting you to do something about it. As if you could fix things, mend the dead, put the world back the way it was.’

And so we go back into Harry’s memories, into the seared experiences that gave him nightmares for decades, back to the day in 1917 when Harry cannot find his foster brother Eddie. Harry searches. He crawls out of the Passchendaele mud in no-man’s land searching for him. He looks into dugouts and stumbles down communication trenches and he asks at Casualty Clearing Stations. Fifty years later his granddaughter comes upon an old notebook in the attic and asks him,”Who is Eddie?”

The Stars In The Night is a story of love. Nora waits for Harry but he harbours fears whether she can accept him after what he has been through. Eddie hopes for a life with Claudelle. It is a story too of love between men, brothers-in-arms, Harry and Eddie, Wallis, Hartigan, Alex. From Gallipoli to Flanders the war thunders over all of them like the endless numbing artillery barrages. But it does not end for them when the guns fall silent.

We only recently have begun to speak openly of PTSD and try to understand that it messes people up for a long time. Harry survives wounds and sickness and comes home, but in dreams he returns to no-mans’ land, still trying to rescue mates. The women have their losses too, made harder to bear by Harry’s inability to speak of things he simply does not want to bring to mind. Harry’s mother Ellen, for instance, cannot connect with him any more.

The mines and the shelling is like the end of the world. The worst we have seen, and we have seen some bad ones. Harry and me are fine but it makes you cry. There are so many dead you cant help but walk on them’. Eddies notebook.

Clare Rhoden takes us into this vast arena of events, from the debate in Australia about the rightness of the war, into terrible battles, and on through into the waves of pyschological effects upon those who survived and their families. These 220 pages hold material for a 1000 page book. But the author has brought large and complicated things down to the personal level by revealing them in the way that we all ordinarily talk to each other: through a household argument, the queries of a nosy neighbour, the grumbles of soldiers about the food and the cold, the guarded talk about Gallipoli by a sergeant to a fresh officer as they weigh each other up, and through diaries and letters home. This makes The Stars In The Night deeply personal and emotional. I got so caught up in it that I paused reading several times so as to absorb it. I cannot praise this novel highly enough both for its story and it’s technical execution.

Although it is about the experiences of Australian soldiers, this heartache and loss described in this novel could really be about the horror of any war, not just the one that millions prayed would be ‘The War To End All Wars.’ The character Harry Fletcher, like many veterans, could not bring himself to attend Anzac Day ceremonies but stayed quietly at home. Yet for anyone interested in the scars left by the Great War and thus the origin of the ‘Anzac legend’, the facts of it, and sometimes the mythology of it, this is a must-read.

Lest We Forget.

Note about ‘Anzac’ to readers unfamiliar with the term: The first units of Australians shipped out in 1915 were merged with the first New Zealanders into the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Their losses in Gallipoli and later in France shocked both young countries. Australia, population four million in 1914, sent 417,000 volunteers to the conflict. 62,000 died. Both Australia and New Zealand suffered casualty rates of over 55% – killed, wounded, gassed, captured, marked as ‘missing’. The term ‘ANZAC’ endures.

Personal note 2020: As I began this book, Australia was dealing with the Black Summer and the whole world was attuned to news about some sort of virus. There was tension in the air, and for the first time I think I had an inkling of what it might have felt like in late 1914 in the households across nations as they readied for conflict, not knowing what lay ahead. On the day that I thoughtfully laid down The Stars in the Night, Anzac Day services were cancelled for the first time due to the menace of Covid-19.

Where to find The Stars in the Night:

From publisher Odyssey Books , from Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops)from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in softcover and Kindle, Barnes and Noble in soft cover Nook, Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you.

Clare Rhoden has also written a dsytopian series called The Chronicles of the Pale. See more about the series at her website here. My review of the first book, The Pale, is here.

Another novel I have reviewed here on this blog about WWI is ‘Nursing Fox‘ by Jim Ditchfield which focuses on the nurses. You can read about it here.

Acknowledgement: The graphics shown here are by courtesy of Clare Rhoden and Odyssey Books.

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Anzac Fury and The Girl Under The Olive Tree: Two stories of The Battle of Crete

Two books to consider around Anzac Day are this history of the battle in 1941 and a novel of what happened from then until 1945 to the Cretan population, resistance fighters of Crete, and soldiers from Greece, Italy, Germany, Britain, Australia and New Zealand (ANZACS).

An innocuous title, thought I, as I selected The Girl Under the Olive Tree, by Leah Flemming for a holiday read. Well, it starts quietly enough with young Penelope George in Scotland mainly concerned to avoid being married off by her status conscious mother. But in her search to find her own identity in life, she takes up nursing training, then accepts a chance to join her sister in Athens.

Crete   3030.jpg

An idyllic time follows for Penelope but as Italian and then German forces invade Greece, she is caught up in a malestrom of war. As she turns 21 she makes hard choices, the courage and cost of which not one male in the story seems to appreciate.

Through this fictional story of her endurance and trials, and those of her friend, Yolanda, and of her love for the infuriating Bruce Jardin, we are taken through the horrors endured by this island.

The Girl Under the Olive Tree, by Leah Flemming, published by Simon and Schuster 2013, was inspired in part by Johanna Stavridi, a nurse honoured by the Hellenic Red Cross for her courage and work.

Anzac Fury: The Bloody Battle of Crete 1941, by Peter Thompson, published by William Heinemann 2010, concerns, as you’d expect from the title, the fighting itself during the invasion, particularly by the ANZACS*. So that we can make sense of it all, Thompson takes in the wider scenario beginning with the fighting in North Africa and Greece.

He describes ordinary fighting men and the astonishing things they did through use of surviving diaries and letters, and he goes into the personalities and motivations of the commanders and politicians, whose decisions cost so many so much.

*Note for non-Australasian readers:
The term ANZAC was coined in 1915 to denote the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps that fought in the disaster known as Gallipoli, a campaign conceived by Mr Winston Churchill. Turkish, French and British troops died there too in huge numbers, yet the event has a special place in the histories of Australia and New Zealand. Both were small countries that had only been self governing for 13 or 14 years. They suffered losses  that shook their national psyches. The day the troops landed, 25 April, is a day of Remembrance.

When, 26 years later, the troops of these nations were shipped to the hopeless cause of defending Greece, again due to the decisions of Mr Churchill, they were acutely conscious that ill-fated Gallipoli was not far away.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Daphne du Maurier and the General

Daphne du Maurier

The tale of how Major Frederick Browning met and courted Daphne du Maurier would seem to belong to one of the novelist’s less likely plots.

The Major had read Du Maurier’s first novel, The Loving Spirit.  Inspired by her description of the coastline of Cornwall, and also dreaming of possibly being able to meet the novelist herself, he visited the county to go sailing.

He did indeed met her; and she liked what she saw.  But as the months passed they both baulked for one reason or another at marrying. In the end it was she who proposed to him. The church they wed in was the very church where an important fictional marriage had taken place as part of the story told in The Loving Spirit.   That fictional marriage in the book had been based on a real one. So a real marriage had inspired the fictional one in the novel, which in turn brought Major Browning to Cornwall, where he met and married the writer .. in that same church. It is like one of the loops of intertwined fates which occur in several of her stories.

The Bridge Too Far

As with all career soldiers, Browning’s army postings took him away from home often.  As WWII advanced, he rose in rank to be a General. He believed in air power and he formed the First Airborne Division. This division served in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. By 1944, he commanded the First Allied Airborne Army at Arnhem. The battle turned into a ghastly British defeat.

Browning’s  decisions during the Battle of Arnhem are still debated among enthusiasts of military history. Some claim much of the defeat was his fault. Yet, it was he who had given the famous warning to General Montgomery, to no avail, that Operation Market Garden was reaching for “a bridge too far”.

The General and his fuzzy travelling companions

The General ended his all hastily scribbled letters home to his wife, son and daughters with “kisses from the Boys”.  The “Boys” were his childhood bears who travelled everywhere with him, packed in a briefcase.

This material is from my reading of Daphne du Maurier, A Daughter’s Memoir by Flavia Leng. I stumbled on this memoir in my local library. Aren’t libraries wonderful!

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian,chocolate-fetcher and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.

The Girl Who Reads On the Metro, by Christine Feret-Fleury

‘For some time, she’d had the feeling that life was passing her by, eluding her, thousands of grains of sand running through an almost invisible crack, taking with them thousands of images, smells, colours, scratches and caresses’. Ch.10

This is a book to read about books and about readers falling within the worlds of books.

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is so lightened on every page by prose poetry that I marvelled it did not flutter away from me down the aisles as I read it … on the train.

Each book is a portrait and it has at least two faces.’ Ch 8.

This book I wanted to pass on to another reader as soon as I had recovered a little from the sorrow of finishing it – which meant, of course, I could never again relish it for the first time. But as this copy was a library book, I decided to speak of it instead, this being my own way of acting as Passeur.

So many words. So many stories, characters, landscapes, tears, decisions, hopes and fears. But for whom?Ch.7.

A book to make me forever intrigued by the possibilities of page two hundred and forty seven. Even if the book I happen to choose to read does not even go up to page 247.

A book for people who read books. Here, it’s for you.

Where to find The Girl Who Reads On the Metro (Translated by Ros Schwartz)

From Bookshop Org (supporting local bookshops) from Book Depository(with free shipping worldwide) from Waterstones. And of course from many more.

But really, for hold in your hands this book about the love of books, why not visit your friendly local bookstore to seek it out. And while you look for it – take your time – bathe in the presence of all the other books. (For more about the joys of Book Bathing, take a look at this little post.)

The books above pictured with The Girl Who Reads On The Metro are a portion of my own Yellow Submarine. What Yellow Submarine are you talking about, you ask. The one mentioned in the book!

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Love and Home Grown Magic, by Patricia Bossano

When you hear the word ‘Magic’, what fills your mind? Stardust. Moonlight. Fairy god witches?

When you read the word, ‘Love’, what then sweeps your memories? Home, Family, Children, one’s first romance? Come, read this book, and let these things fill you.

The first time I read Love and Homegrown Magic it looked straight forward .. for a while. Here is the tale of a girl, Maggie, who grows to womanhood, falls in love, marries, and in time becomes the matriarch of an extended family. And the children grow and find love and marry, hard things sometimes happen, and love sometimes fades, and people die. But always dreams are nurtured..

Maggie dreams of her own garden and nursery enterprise. But ten years pass in raising three daughters, and then her husband, Angelo, insists on their return to their home country. A bleak feature looms. But Maggie rallies. She is sure her dream has heavenly endorsement. Beginning with tubs on the kitchen window sill, she creates the Jardines LunaRosa where the first roses- and Maries’ daisies- blossom from special plantings by moonlight by her small children. Reading this, I immediately saw and accepted that it was an enchanted garden.

Darkness cloaked the hillside home, but light, as if from a dozen chandeliers, spilled out of the kitchen window as the auras of the green witch and her daughters flickered in bright flashes to the rhythm of their chatter. … The stars looked down on their charges and twinkled approvingly.‘Ch. 23.

I read the book again; and again finished it with reluctance, because now it was over. “How does she do that?” I asked myself about author Patricia Bossano’s story telling skill. “How did she make it seem that way?” But you can’t look too hard into these sorts of qualities for fear the spell of it all, like dreams, will slip away.

Love and Home Grown Magic is indeed a story of family, for perhaps magic is created by ourselves at what we feel is home, if only, like Maggie, we look upon it that way.

Where to find Love and Home Grown Magic: published 2020 by Water Bearer Press: BookDepository (free shipping), Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops), Amazon and more.

Patricia Bossano has also written Faery Sight, Nahia and Cradle Gift. I reviewed her Seven Ghostly Spins on this blog here.

Where to unshroud Seven Ghostly Spins: From BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) and Amazon in Kindle and soft cover, Barnes and Noble in Kobo and soft cover,  also Waterstones and Chapters Indigo. Hardcover editions are also available. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you, and for your friends who appreciate a frission of the supernatural.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

When No One Is Watching: Poems by Linathi Makanda

The poetry of Linathi Makanda is both universal and about searing personal experiences. I think each reader will find something here that particularly resonates for themselves. Often poems can each be read as stand alone experiences whether or not they are linked with others. This compilation cries out to be read as one poem and journey.

‘Love Rising’

The four parts begin with ‘Love Rising’ and here the poet’s thoughts may at first seem to concern the common enough subject of poems, looking for love and yearning to be wanted for oneself. The poet is young and confident. She trusts in her love and her lover.

‘.. I am liberated.
Let us join hands on arrival, let us celebrate.’

But even in early pages there are suggestion that this is not going to be about starry-eyed love somehow resolving itself. The poet is already thinking beyond her situation to that of other women.

‘My mother never talks about love
Only about the men she’s lost.’

I was also intrigued that next to a joyous poem about her lover she places memories of her grandfather, good memories, which will be a contrast to her later bitter thoughts on men.

‘Love Lost’

Now the story evolves into one well known to too many, one of hurt, betrayal and self doubt while struggling to put on a brave front. The poet offers lines about thoughts people hide tightly within and do not share even with those they trust ( … ‘My mother doesn’t know’..). The poems are not complex, the language is the easy rhythm of spoken English, yet time and again Makanda can express the universal feelings of self doubt and insecurity in a few plain words.  This question, for instance, asked by all wounded souls, will inform the rest of the book.

Why can’t you see me?

‘Internal Uprising’

In the bitter lines of ‘Internal Uprising’, we see doubt and hurt rise to anger, anger directed to oneself as much as anyone. As the narrator curls up into depression, her thoughts turn again to where she could surely seek support, her mother. But she cannot ask:

‘How do I tell my mother I attract men who do not stay?
How do I tell her I attract men like my father?’

In the midst of lines about blaming all on men, she can still see that they are not the whole crux of her turmoil.

‘Sometimes these men do not hurt us.
We hurt ourselves.’

And then she is taken down and taken very low.

It smells like it wasn’t my fault but it feels like it was.

At this point, I just stopped reading.  I felt I had seen something too private and raw for some reader or other like me to stumble over even in a published book. I picked it up again because the poet has chosen to express the dark hour known to far too many women, and so it is for knowing.


Hope Rising

 Because within this book each reader will find lines that resonate with their own memories, experiences and dark hours, I think it is important to know that the last part concerns Hope.  The narrator thrashes her way back above chasms of suicidal thoughts by caring about herself and expressing hope through art and poetry for fellow women. She is writing now:

‘ .. A letter to all the mothers who have daughters that hurt when on-one is watching.’

When No One Is Watching is an emotional journey for the reader and one well worth taking.

Linathi Thabang Makanda is a South African-based writer of poetry and prose. She strives to portray genuine emotion through her writing and photographic art. She believes in creating a home, through her crafts, for people trying to find their voices. Her website also offers work beyond her poems such as the videos Letters To The Ones We Miss. (Please be mindful of the trigger warnings.)

Where to find When No One is Watching, by Linathi Makanda.
Publisher Odyssey Books, from BookDepository (free shipping worldwide), also Bookshop Org, Waterstones, Amazon (in Kindle too) and Barnes and Noble .  (The images here are courtesy of the author and the publisher, Odyssey Books).

I encourage you to also consider the poetry of Loic Enkinga. How to Wake a Butterly can be found at Bookshop Org, at BookDepository (free shipping), Waterstones, Amazon in Kindle and also in paperback, and Barnes and Noble, among others. My review of this collection can be read here. This too is published by Ensorcellia, an imprint of Odyssey Books where you can find more fine poetry.

Mark is the guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Poetry: How to Wake a Butterfly, by Loic Ekinga

The author wrote How To Wake a Butterfly during a lockdown, when he was forced to look at his life and retrace the many things that have nurtured his character. His starting point is the famous reflection by Zhuangzi that begins, ” Once upon a time I dreamt I was a butterfly ..”

.. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know if I was then a man dreaming I was butterfly or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

Within a few pages I sensed something of an irony in that choice of quote, for it becomes clear that the poet has too rarely been conscious of happiness until recently. Even birth was traumatic.

‘ .. the baby (you) is out out of here .. its a boy/ its a problem/ its a screaming caterpillar … Will the baby grow wings/ he has known so much hurt already (How it Began).

When he is about ten, mother leaves, leaving behind the boy and his brother with a hurt, silent father (‘We grew into hollow men, my brother and I’ ). Many years later he asks her why she went away (‘while I’m trying to hold her hand through the phone’).

‘I’ve found no comfort, son.
I left for you, because sometimes,
To save the hand, you cut off a finger’.

So young, he turns to comfort in prayers and religion but to no avail.

‘I was told, God listens to little boys’ prayers,
Yet I felt my heart sink and dry
On my pillow at night
Lke my parents’ marriage, In Jesus’ name, Amen.’
(On my Parents Divorce)

The poems move through Loic’s boyhood memories and he mentions terrible things – war, bombs, machetes. But he does not dwell on these. He reflects instead on the people who helped to form him: his parents, brothers, and in particular his grandmother. ‘Theres’s a father that never came close, A child that never left for school, a little boy crying in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. There’s an uncle telling him to man up, There’s a mother that never left a note ‘. Always he returns to the most important struggle of his life, as it seemed to me, to unlearn the silence that he had learned from his father.

‘My father taught me to be a wielder of silence’.

The sections on the poet’s early years and young manhood, Caterpillar and Cocoon, I found to be a challenging read, to be honest, with line after line sending me off on reflections of my own. However, in the last section, ‘Butterfly’, the poet emerges from the cocoon of heartache and doubts and is able to accept himself, He can allow himself not only to love but to be loved. And isn’t that what we all search for in the end?

So how do you wake a butterfly?

‘If you can, I say, – Without bruising its wings -With a hug’.

Loic Ekinga Kalonji is a Congolese poet, storyteller, and a screenwriting enthusiast. His work in poetry and fiction focuses on the human experience and memories.Loic has been featured in many online publications such as Type/Cast Magazine, Ja. Magazine, Poetry Potion, and The Kalahari Review. His experimental chapbook Twelve Things You Failed at As A Man Today was an honourable mention by JK Anowe for Praxis Magazine Online. His short story ‘Loop’ has been adapted into a short film. He is a finalist of Poetry Africa’s Slam Jam competition 2020. Loic currently resides in the south of Johannesburg where he reads, writes, and daydreams.

How to Wake a Butterly, by Loic Ekinga, is published by Ensorcellia, an imprint of Odyssey Books, in 2021
You can also find it at Bookshop Org, at BookDepository (free shipping), Waterstones, Amazon in Kindle and also in paperback, and Barnes and Noble, among others.

I encourage you to also look at, from Odyssey Books, When No One Is Watching by Linathi Makanda. See my review here.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Alina: A Song For The Telling, by Malve Von Hassell

‘Something tugged at me – a dream of seeing distant lands’. Ch. 3.

‘Fourteen-year-old Alina refuses to accept the oppressing life her strict aunt wants to impose upon her. When the opportunity comes along for her to escape, she and her brother embark on a journey through the Byzantine Empire all the way to Jerusalem.’ Back Cover.

In the Spring of 1173, young Alina and Milos set out from Provence. They have lost their parents. Milos is supposed to inherit his father’s land but the estate is controlled by their uncle. Alina has only a bleak marriage to a suitor selected by her aunt to look forward to. But when the siblings reach the far land, the Holy Land, almost anything seems possible, perhaps even an independent future which for Alina had been an impossible dream. Her dream is to become a trobairitz like Beatriz de Dia, that is, a woman troubadour.

I have always loved stories set in medieval times. I devoured books by Henry Treece, Geoffrey Trease, Rosemary Sutcliff, Alfred Duggan and Zoe Oldenburg. Most of these novels featured knights or barons – men in a male world. Only one or two, such as The Lady For Ransom by Alfred Duggan, placed a woman centre stage, and these were the wives of powerful men. In Malve von Hassell’s story, however, heroine Alina is young, not wealthy and not beautiful. What she does have is the highly valued gift of making music and song.

‘In Jerusalem, nobody will care that we are the children of an improvised troubadour .. or that his wife was falsely accussed of witchery.’ Milos to Alina, Ch. 3.

I enjoyed the children’s journey from Provence to Venice to Acre and on to Jerusalem almost as if I had become a tourist a thousand years ago and was seeing the sights for myself. Once in Jerusalem the pace of the story changes as Alina and Milos rely on the dubious promises of crafty men and get drawn into the complexities of the court. The author skilfully disentangles all the plots and factions and the competing suitors for the hand of princess Sibylla – who is even younger than Alina. I galloped through the last half of this story. Suspicions mount and danger follows danger. This is book so deftly written that you would almost not realise the depth of the research it must have taken to create it. The story is fascinating and Alina is a wonderful creation. I also enjoyed the portrait of Princess Sibylla, imperious and arbitrary to Alina, but really just a child struggling to face her imminent responsiblities in a little kingdom facing danger on all sides. This is highly readable historical fiction.

Malve von Hassell is a writer, researcher, and translator.  On her website you can learn more about her works including Letters from the Tooth Fairy, written in response to her son’s letters to the tooth fairy, The Falconer’s Apprentice, her first historical fiction novel for young readers and The Amber Crane, a historical fiction novel set in Germany in the 17th century,

Learn more about Trobaritz, the women singers and song makers of the Twelfth Century, on Malve’s excellent blog, Tales Through Time. The quote that precedes the tale of Alina is by Countess Beatriz de Dia, who composed the one piece from that time that survives with musical annotations, the A chantar m’er.

Where to find Alina A Song For the Telling

Alina, A Song For The Telling, published by BHC Press 2020, is available through Bookshop Org, BookDepository (with free shipping), Amazon – including in Kindle and Audio, Waterstones UK, Booktopia, AbeBooks, Chapters Indigo and more.

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Mawson’s own Blog is Mawson, A Writer-Bear for Our Befuddled Times.
Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Stories by Rebecca Burns: The Settling Earth

The women in these stories voyaged from Britain to the ends of the earth, “the Antipodes”. Driven by hardship, propelled by hope, they left behind their old lives and strived to make new ones in New Zealand. But the settlers brought with them the same stultifying conventions and social constraints they had left behind. For women in particular, sometimes little seemed to have been gained.

Isolated on bleak farms or confined to soul-destroying boarding houses, these women are each at the mercy of men’s whims and male control of property. They live one slip away from destitution, and must reach deep inside themselves, getting past old ways of life and old conditioning, to do what they need to do to survive.

Each story is complete and satisfying in itself, and yet, like life, they are also connected by events or characters; so that the stories towards the end satisfyingly close the circle of themes raised by the earlier ones. The last story, by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori viewpoint of these arrivals.

 I found The Settling Earth to be a fascinating perspective into frontier New Zealand and Burns new novel Beyond The Bay further looks into life in a raw new country as seen through the eyes of two sisters in Auckland.

Novels and short stories by Dr Rebecca Burns

Where to find The Settling Earth: Published by Odyssey Books, The Settling Earth is at BookDepository, Amazon, and Bookshop Org, among others. More excellent short stories by Rebecca Burns can be read in Artefacts and Catching the Barramundi. Her novels include The Bishops Girl and Beyond the Bay. See her website here.

You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson has his own website too, called (wiggles ears modestly) Mawson Bear.