The Convict Lover


Merilyn Simonds - 1996
    In 1987, writer Merilyn Simonds found a cache of letters, albums, clippings and other memorabilia in the attic of her Kingston, Ontario, home, the bits and pieces of an unknown woman's life. Among the overflowing boxes and stuffed sugar sacks was a tin box that held one complete, brief collection of letters from the months immediately after the First World War in 1919, a one-way correspondence written in pencil on flimsy paper, undated and without postmarks. From this careless jumble of pages, remarkable individuals and events emerged: a convict, a penitentiary, a village girl, a life in small town Canada at the end of the Great War. Merilyn Simonds was drawn irresistibly to the lives of Joe "Daddy Long Legs," a thief and con artist incarcerated inside the stone fortress that was the country's most notorious prison, and of Phyllis Halliday, a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl whose family home bordered the prison quarry and who fell under the spell of a man she could never meet or touch, except through their clandestine correspondence. Around them swirled a cast of equally compelling characters, chief among them William St. Pierre Hughes, superintendent of the nations' prisons, whose fate, like those of Joe and Phyllis, was bound to the conspiracies and intrigues inside Kingston Penitentiary. All three are caught in prisons of their own devising; only one truly escapes. In the year after its publication, families of all the major characters in the book contacted author Merilyn Sinonds to share their stories and find out more about these little known relations. As a result, she learned that Joseph Cleroux had been part of the Cleroux gang that burgled Ottawa Valley businesses in the first decades of the 1900s. The story of Josie Cleroux's early years and what is now known about where he ended up is told in the epilogue of the paperback edition of "The Convict Lover" "From the Hardcover edition."

Solacers


Arion Golmakani - 2012
    The first child of a heartless father and a discarded mother is left to fend for himself on the streets of Mashhad, seeking food and shelter wherever he can. His lonely early years are an unbelievable tale of cruelty and betrayal on the part of nearly everyone who might be expected to help, save for one aunt who does her best to keep him from starving.But living a harsh and solitary existence has one advantage for this little boy: other than forcing him to be self-reliant, no one attempts to indoctrinate him on rural Iranian society's archaic cultural values and religious beliefs. And so he never accepts his wretched state as fate, choosing instead to dream big dreams about getting an education, having his own family, and starting a new life – possibly in the faraway land called America. He makes a plan and by the age of 17 he boards a plane to the land of possibilities, where his dreams eventually also take flight.

The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman


John Tesarsch - 2015
    Afterwards, hisdaughter Eleanor discovers a will, in which he has left his entireestate to a woman she has never heard of before. Hiding it fromher siblings, she sets out to solve this mystery, and to unearth theconfronting truth about her reclusive father’s past.But Henry isn’t the only Hoffman with secrets. In the months thatfollow, his children learn things about each other they could neverpreviously have imagined.The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman is a gripping andmany-layered story of love and loss, conflict and survival. Itexplores subjects that affect us all: guilt and redemption, theinescapability of the past, and how trauma resonates acrossgenerations.

Past the Headlands


Garry Disher - 2001
    The fall of Malaya and Singapore and the bombing of Darwin—what looked like the invasion of Australia—ebb and crash over a man’s long search to find a home and a woman’s determination to keep hers, connected by old memories and new betrayals. It is a thriller and a romance, a story of earth and water, air and metal—an unforgettable ride through the most precarious time in our region's recent history. Garry Disher writes: ‘Past the Headlands came from the same World War 2 research as The Stencil Man. I was struck by the power of two documents. The first was a letter written by a woman alone on a cattle station near Broome in 1942, at the time the Japanese were overrunning Malaya and Singapore and bombing areas of northern Australia. One day she found herself giving shelter to Dutch colonial officers and their families, who were fleeing Sumatra and Java ahead of the Japanese advance (many people like them lost their lives when Japanese planes shot up their waiting seaplanes in Broome Harbour in March, 1942). This woman stuck in my head (the isolation, the danger, the efforts to communicate, her bravery, etc). The second document was a war diary written by an Australian army surgeon who escaped Singapore ahead of the Japanese and was stuck in Sumatra, trying to get out. Here he treated many of the civilians (and Australian Army deserters) fleeing from Singapore. He was captured by the Japanese, but survived the war. But his last few diary entries detail how he and a mate were waiting for a plane or a ship to take them out, then one day he wrote, “Davis [his mate] left last night without telling me”. So much for mateship. I spent years trying to find my way into their stories. At one stage I spent a year writing 40,000 words before realising it wouldn’t work. I put it aside, then realised one subplot didn’t belong, so extracted it and turned it into a separate novel The Divine Wind, which has sold 100,000 copies around the world, won a major award and been published as both a young adult and a general market novel. But cutting it out like that freed me up to write about the woman and the man betrayed by his mate, in Past the Headlands.’

12 Edmondstone Street


David Malouf - 1985
    A complex history comes down to us, through household jokes and anecdotes, odd family habits, and irrational superstitions, that forever shapes what we see and the way in which we see it.Beginning with his childhood home, David Malouf moves on to show other landmarks in his life, and the way places and things create our private worlds. Written with humour and uncompromising intelligence, 12 Edmondstone Street is an unforgettable portrait of one man's life.

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars


Andrew X. Pham - 2008
    From the award-winning author of Catfish and Mandala comes a son's searing memoir of his Vietnamese father's experiences over the course of three wars.

Secret Storms: A Mother and Daughter, Lost then Found


Julie Mannix von Zerneck - 2013
    She spends her pregnancy surrounded by the mentally challenged and the criminally insane. On April 19, 1964, she gives birth to a child, whom she is forced to give up for adoption.A loving middle-class couple adopts a month-old little girl from Catholic Charities. She is adored and cherished from the very beginning. It is as though she is dropped into the first chapter of a fairy tale-- but we all know how fairy tales go.This is the story of a mother and daughter. Of what it is to give up a child and what it is to be given up. Of what it is to be a family, and to never lose hope-- because anything is possible. In this award-winning memoir, Julie Mannix von Zerneck and Kathy Hatfield recount the stories of their lives. Written in two distinct and deeply expressive voices, their stories seamlessly meld together in a breathtaking ending."The book is beautifully written and...compelling, to the extent that readers might feel they are sitting with the authors, listening to them tell their tale...more like a novel than a memoir."-ForeWord Reviews“Shining through both narratives is goodness and the power of the human spirit. A dually narrated, uplifting tale on overcoming profound adversity.”-Kirkus Reviews “A heartbreaking but ultimately life-affirming mother-daughter story that defies fiction. Every plot twist, every emotion touches a chord, even for those of us who have not had to endure such a brutal separation. Read it and weep—and then finally rejoice. An ode to the enduring power of family ties.”-Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means“In my writers' workshops, the greatest gospel I can preach is the obvious one—to tell the truth, whatever form it takes. This amazing mother-daughter writing team exemplifies the concept to the max. The plot is Dickensian, rife with villains and struggle, the revealing of it, breathtaking in its simplicity and heartbreaking in its courage. What a story.”-Ernest Thompson, Academy Award-winning writer of On Golden Pond “What an extraordinary and compelling story, all the more so because it’s true—and told so beautifully by its two heroines.”-Alice Maltin, producer & Leonard Maltin, film critic and correspondent for Entertainment Tonight “This story will break your heart, bring on tears of joy, and make you believe in the healing power of love, forgiveness, and family.”-Meredith Rollins, Executive Editor, Redbook Magazine“This is an uplifting story of hope and personal courage that is sure to resonate with most readers.”-Monsters and Critics

Woman of the Inner Sea


Thomas Keneally - 1992
    Kate's odyssey takes her from a privileged girlhood, through her meaningless marriage to a lawless tycoon, and an empty erotic affair with a true-blue gentleman. But when her life of pampered pleasure gives way to one of unspeakable tragedy, all certainties are shattered, and Kate is plunged into a blind gamble on an unknown future in the middle of nowhere. The job she finds, the lovers she takes, and her final confrontation with her husband's power and her own past self interweave comedy, irony, drama, suspense, and wondrously affirmative human revelation. With its vivid setting, its cross-section of colorful characters, and, at its center, its passionate heroine caught in a nightmare of grief and deception, Women of the Inner Sea is at once startlingly intimate and universally appealing. It adds a new dimension and fresh luster to one of the major literary reputations of our time.One of the finest storytellers in the business . . . at the top of his form . . . an extraordinary, eloquently written tale.--The Boston Globe

Butterfly on a Pin


Alannah Hill - 2018
    Alannah Hill, one of Australia’s most successful fashion designers, created an international fashion brand that defied trends with ornamental, sophisticated elegance, beads, bows and vintage florals. But growing up in a milk bar in Tasmania, Alannah’s childhood was one of hardship, fear and abuse. At an early age she ran away from home with eight suitcases of costumes and a fierce determination to succeed, haunted by her mother’s refrain of ‘You’ll never amount to anything, you can’t sew, nobody likes you and you’re going to end up in a shallow grave, dear!’At the height of her success, Alannah walked the razor’s edge between two identities – the ‘good’ Alannah and the ‘mongrel bastard’ Alannah. Who was the real Alannah Hill? Reprieve came in the form of a baby boy and the realisation that becoming a mother not only changes your life, but completely refurbishes it, forever.Yet 'having it all' turned out to be another illusion. In 2013 Alannah walked away from her eponymous brand, a departure that left her coming apart at the seams. She slowly came to understand the only way she could move forward was to go back. At the heart of it all was her mother, whose loveless marriage and disappointment in life had a powerful and long-lasting effect on her daughter. It was finally time to call a truce with the past. This extraordinary book is the fierce and intelligent account of how a freckle-faced teenage runaway metamorphosed into a trailblazer and true original.

Olga: A Daughter's Tale


Marie-Thérèse Browne - 2007
    It’s one family’s experiences of hardship, discrimination and love. Set in Jamaica and London between the years of 1900 and post war England, the reader is taken on a journey with one family through history and cultural change.Written with diary entries and letters, "Olga – A Daughter's Tale" is based on a true story about cruelty, revenge and jealousy inflicted on an innocent young woman and about her moral courage, dignity, resilience and, in particular, love. It is the story of a remarkable woman who because of circumstances made a choice which resulted in her losing contact with her beloved family in Jamaica. That is, until nearly half a century later, when her past caught up with her.

The Promise of Iceland


Kári Gíslason - 2011
    What he finds is not what he expected.Born from a secret liaison between a British mother and an Icelandic father, Kári Gíslason was the subject of a promise – a promise elicited from his father to not reveal his identity. The Icelandic city of Reykjavík, where Kári was born, was also home to his father and his father’s wife and five children – none of whom knew of Kári’s existence. Moving regularly between Iceland and Australia, he grew up aware of his father’s identity, but understanding that it was the subject of a secret pact between his parents. At the age of 27, he makes a decision to break the pact and contacts his father’s other family. What follows, and what leads him there, makes for a riveting journey over landscapes, time and memory. Kári travels from the freezing cold winters of Iceland to the shark net at Sydney’s Balmoral, an unsettled life in the English countryside and the harsh yellow summer of Brisbane, and back again. He traces the steps of his mother who answered an ad in The Times for an English-speaking secretary in 1970 and found herself in Iceland among the ‘Army of Foreign Secretaries’, and in the arms of a secret lover. Iceland becomes the substitute for the father Kári never really knew as he discovers the meaning of ‘home’ and closes the circle of his own fatherless life.

The Convict's Daughter: The Scandal that Shocked a Colony


Kiera Lindsey - 2016
    There she was to elope with James Butler Kinchela, wayward son of the former Attorney-General. Her enraged father pursued them on horseback and fired two pistols at his daughter's suitor, narrowly avoiding killing him. What followed was Australia's most scandalous abduction trial of the era, as well as an extraordinary story of adventure and misadventure, both in Australia and abroad. Through humiliation, heartache, bankruptcy, and betrayal, Mary Ann hung on to James' promise to marry her. This is a compelling biography of a currency lass born when convicts were still working the streets of Sydney. Starting with just a newspaper clipping, historian Kiera Lindsey has uncovered the world of her feisty great, great, great aunt, who lived and loved during a period of dramatic social and political change.

Her Father's Daughter


Alice Pung - 2011
    But with each step she takes she feels the sharp tug of invisible threads: the love and worry of her parents, who want more than anything to keep her from harm. Her father fears for her safety to an extraordinary degree - but why? As she digs further into her father's story, Alice embarks on a journey of painful discovery: of memories lost and found, of her own fears for the future, of history and how it echoes down the years. Set in Melbourne, China and Cambodia, Her Father's Daughter captures a father-daughter relationship in a moving and astonishingly powerful way.

Journey of a Thousand Storms: A Refugee's Story


Kooshyar Karimi - 2016
    Until he was kidnapped by the Intelligence Service.Behind his professional success, Kooshyar was a rebel on several fronts. Marginalised since boyhood as a Jew in a fundamentalist Islamic state, he was a member of a political group that opposed the government. He'd also been using his medical skills illegally, to save unmarried pregnant women from death by stoning.Snatched from the street, he was jailed and tortured and then forced to spy for the regime, before finally escaping to Turkey. There he faced a whole new struggle to keep his family safe while awaiting refugee status from the UN. He was forbidden to work and at the mercy of corrupt police, con men and red tape. Then life became more dangerous still, when the Intelligence Service tracked him down and used his mother, back in Iran, as blackmail.Kooshyar's inspiring story of how he managed to forge a new life in Australia is heightened by his largeness of heart, strength of character, and insight into human behaviour, from the unfathomably evil to the selflessly kind. With the skill of a natural storyteller, Journey of a Thousand Storms recounts a life of endurance, compassion and gritty determination.

An Uncommon Woman


Nicole Alexander - 2017
    . .It’s 1929, and the world is changing. Cars are no longer the privilege of the rich. Hemlines are rising. Movies are talking. And more and more women are entering the workforce.For Edwina Baker, however, life on her family’s farm in Western Queensland offers little opportunity to be anything other than daughter, sister and, perhaps soon, wife.But Edwina wants more. She wants to see the world, meet new people, achieve things. For while she has more business sense than her younger brother, it will be Aiden who one day inherits the farm.Then the circus comes to town. Banned from attending by her father, Hamilton, Edwina defiantly rides to the showground dressed as a boy. There she encounters two men who will both inadvertently alter the course of her life: pastoralist Mason with his modern city friends; and Will, a labourer who also dreams of escape.And when the night ends in near-disaster, this one act of rebellion strikes at the heart of the Baker family. Yet it also offers Edwina the rare chance to prove herself in a man’s world. The question is, how far is she prepared to go, and how much is she prepared to risk?