What’s Shareable is bearable: New book on adoption and the importance of reading all you can

If nothing is happening in the process – READ and the READ some more.

“Children who have experienced traumatic times, as we know, do not just ‘get over it’. Better to come to terms with this than live in hope that one day all will be fixed” - Sally Donovan – The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting

Today sees the release of Sally Donovan‘s latest book – The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting. It’s a terrific book from someone who both understands the realities of parenting an adoptive child and who herself has read and learned as much as possible to help herself be the best adoptive parent she can be [Read my review here] With that in mind I was thinking about adoption books and reading and concluded that the best advice I can give to anyone considering adoption is to read. Read every step of way: when you’re considering adopting, when you’re in the process, when your child has been placed – READ. There are a lot of books relating to different aspects of childcare, attachment, trauma, and the adoption process, try and read as many as you can. Some will infuriate you, some will chime true with you, others will seem like new age or whishy-washy twaddle, some will manage to do all of this at different times within their pages. Some will only hit home somewhere down the road. The value to be gained however is immeasurable.

Here are a few I have read over the last 18 months and one example of things they said which connected with me. These may not be deep and meaningful or things that are world changing, but instead they are just simple things that made me go, oh yeah.

Parenting the Hurt Child – Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky

“A child’s History isn’t only in the past. It affects the present and the future.”

Help Your Child Develop Emotional Literacy – Betty Rudd

“Your child’s needs are like your needs: the need for structure (such as regular meals and sleep time); stimulus (such as going to see a show and being with a friend) and support (such as having someone to talk to and feeling safe enough to ask for a caring hug) in life. As parents you ensure these needs are met, because you understand them, while ensuring that you also take care of yourselves so that you own needs met, in order to be potent role models for your child.”

Raising Children Who Refuse to be Raised – Dave Zeigler

“Behaviors are not causes; they are effects. This means that we behave as we do because we think and feel in certain ways, not the opposite.”

The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting – Sally Donovan

“Behaviour systems which may work for other children, may not work for adopted children. For example, behaviour systems which involve public shaming or which are long-lasting may just teach a child already well-acquainted with shame that they are indeed bad and everything is their fault.”

Attachment in Common Sense Doodles – Miriam Silver

“Consequences only work when the child is able and motivated to achieve the positive outcome, and is already trusting in the relationship so they know they are an ok person even if they’re getting a negative consequence. As we’ve seen many children who come from a background of trauma, abuse and neglect are missing so many basic experiences that they aren’t familiar with the idea of a caregiver who cares about them and holds them in positive regard, let alone one who is consistent about what is expected of them and keen to support them to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

What to Expect when You’re Adopting – Dr Ian Palmer

“You cannot be perfect. Children can be vert trying at times for any parent, articularly when challenging and testing boundaries through their behaviours. No one feels good all the time, everyone is allowed to snap sometimes. This is normal. Do not add you difficulties by trying to be perfect all of the time; it’s impossible”

Preparing for Adoption – Julia Davis

“Children who have experienced neglect and loss can find it hard to play by themselves. They can feel abandoned or rejected if told to go off and play. They benefit from much more adult-led play than you would expect for a child of their age.”

Twelve Things Adopted Kids wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew – Sherrie Eldridge

“It is important for adoptive parents to discern what kind of fantasy the adoptee has of the birth parents so that honest, loving, and healing thoughts can fill up the void where fantasy reigns.”

And I’ll leave the last word to Sally, and the importance of focussing on you and you child not how it looks to others.

“I now give much less of a shit what other people think. Not giving a shit has been of great benefit to me and mine”

The trick is to keep breathing – Lisa Spillane’s children’s book aims to bring meditative breathing to meltdowns

Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa and Ted
Lisa Spillane
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
UK Pub Date: Nov 21 2014

Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa and Ted is a children’s picture book aimed at trying to help provide children with effective techniques for overcoming feelings of impatience, frustration and anger. We do so by joining Lisa, Ted and their dog, Bingo (our narrator) as they have a day trip to the beach. Along the way we encounter some familiar situations: Impatience at getting somewhere – are we there yet? And of not being able to master new thing immediately – surf board.

The book tells us how to use Smiling Heart Sounds – using the power of smiling along with sound making, deep-breathing and visualising to help children self manage anger and stress. For example it introduces techniques such as having you eyes closed and moving eyes left to right ten times whilst visualising nasty things and then watching it fade away. Of breathing in ‘good energy’ and breathing out your ‘bad’ feelings and thoughts. In our household we have recently been trying to introduce deep breathing as a method of trying to calm our daughter down when she is having a meltdown, so this book is quite timely.

As a picture book/story my daughter felt a bit bored by it, but we did try doing the moving eyes technique just for fun, and it was useful to show that the idea of deep breathing was not one we had just plucked from mid-air.

I personally liked the blend of drawings and photos used in the book and the author succeeds in getting her message over, but I also agreed with my daughter that the actual story itself could have been stronger. My daughter is five and not yet reading for herself so with a lot of competition for bedtime and daytime reading, this book isn’t strong enough, or quirky enough, for this to be a ‘must re-read’ over and over one in our household. It may come into its own, at a later date, when my daughter is reading more on her own, but for now Lisa and Ted’s numbers are not really coming up.

Remeberance Day

Wasn’t sure what to do as a post today, but didn’t want the day to pass without remembering my Great Grandfather

Henry Campbell was the eldest son of William Campbell of Desertcreat, Tullyhogue, Cookstown, County Tyrone. He enlisted (2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)) in Cookstown just after the outbreak of war. The Battalion arrived in France on 22nd August 1914 and William joined them later after his initial training had taken place. He died from wounds at Rouen on 7th March 1915 and is interred in Plot A, Row 5, Grave 7 at St. Sever Cemetery, France. He is is commemorated on Desertcreat Parish Church Roll of Honour and on Cookstown Cenotaph.

But I didn’t just want to mention Henry, whose past I am still researching, but also I wanted to remember the eight men who lived on the street where I currently live who also perished during WW1.

PERCY RICHARD HOLMAN
Rank: Private
Service No: 63694
Date of Death: 29/11/1917
Age: 35
Regiment/Service: Royal Fusiliers 20th Bn.
Grave Reference: VIII. A. 27.
Cemetery: DOCHY FARM NEW BRITISH CEMETERY

Additional Information:

Commonwealth War Commission Record

Home Address: 10, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London.

Percy was born in Marylebone around July 1881. He was the third of four surviving children born to Richard Albert Holman (1849-1933) and Emily Matilda Dowles (1852-1939).

His siblings were: Albert (1876-19??), Edith (1880-1979), and Louis (1844-1966).

Father Richard and mother Emily were both London – Marylebone – born and breed.

They were married in Marylebone during 1874 and lived at 98 George Street in Maryebone (1881 Census) before moving to Camberwell (1891 Census). During these years Richard is listed as a Cabinet Maker by profession.
According to the 1901 Census the family were living – along with Emily’s mother Elizabeth – at 13a Nutbrook St, Camberwell. By 1911 Elizabeth had died and the family had moved to Longhurst Road, Hither Green. In 1901 Richard is listed as being a Surveyor, though the 1911 census has him as a Clerk for a Surveyor. Percy is listed as a Clerk in both, but as one in the Perfume trade in 1911. Older sister Emily is listed in the 1911 census as being a Confectioners manageress.

Percy was killed in action in November 1917, aged 35, and buried. He was later exhumed from that original burial location and reburied in Dochy Farm war cemetery. Dochy Farm New British Cemetery is located 7 kilometres north-east of Ieper town centre on the Zonnebekestraat, a road leading from the Zonnebeekseweg (N332) connecting Ieper to Zonnebeke. Two roads connect Ieper town centre onto the Zonnebeekseweg. Dochy Farm, which had become a German strong point, was taken by the 4th New Zealand Brigade on 4 October 1917, in the Battle of Broodseinde. The cemetery was made after the Armistice when isolated graves were brought in from the battlefields of Boesinghe, St. Julien, Frezenberg and Passchendaele.

Percy is listed on the Church of the Good Shepherd WW1 War Memorial. The memorial consisted of a new altar, choir stalls and pulpit in plain oak and a roll of honour caved in oak, with inlays of ebony and mother-of–pearl and was dedicated by Dr. Hough, Bishop of Woolwich, on Friday evening, April 22, 1921. The inscription read: In memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives for their country in the Great War, 1914—1918. The Church was destroyed by fire in 1941 and was rebuilt in 1957.

HERBERT FREDERICK ARTHUR
Rank: Rifleman
Service No: 393263
Date of Death: 28/03/1918
Age: 28
Regiment/Service: London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) 1st/9th Bn. [Formerly 878, 25Th London Regt.]
Panel Reference:Panel 87 and 88.
Memorial: POZIERES MEMORIAL

Additional Information:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Son of Herbert Charles and Alice Arthur, of 89, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London.

Herbert (Bert) was born in Peckham 26 May 1889. He was the first of six surviving children born to Herbert Charles Arthur (1869-1919) and Alice Collins (1869-19??) They Married on 4 November 1888 at St Giles, Camberwell.

His siblings were: Leonard, Albert, Percy, John (1904-1953), and Frank.

In 1891 the Herbert and Alice where living in Edric Road, New Cross Gate/Depford. Herbert was working as a clerk.

1 September 1896 Bert (Aged 7) – and brother Leonard (aged 6) were enrolled in Colls Road School. It opened in 1885 [Renamed Collingwood Secondary School in 1951, it amalgamated with Samuel Pepys School in 1982 to form Hatcham Wood School] The Family were living at 116 Asylum Road, Peckam at the time.

In 1901 the family had moved to Rye Lane, Camberwell. Herbert was now working as a salesman for a lamp/electrical lighting manufacturer – a profession he also held in 1911, when they had moved to 4a Fernbrook Road, just around the corner from Longhust Road where they’d be at the time of Bert’s death. At this time, Bert was working as a commercial clerk at publishers. Younger brother Leonard was also similarly employed whilst other brother Albert was a clerk at a fruit merchants.

Bert’s grave record

Bert is listed on the Ennersdale School (now Trinity) WW1 War Memorial. It is a Wall mounted tablet with inscription and names with the inscription: In Proud Memory Of Our Brave Brothers Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice In The Great War. The tablet was unveiled by Professors Lazarus-Barlow on Tuesday, May 10 1921 in the presence of many old boys, parents and friends.

Bert Left £110 in his Mother.

His father Herbert would die 18 month later, on 27 November 1919, at 48 Vanburgh Hill, Greenwich. He left £115 to his widow Alice.

EDWARD G. STANLEY
RANK: RIFLEMAN
REGIMENT: LONDON REGIMENT (CITY OF LONDON RIFLES) 6513. 1st/6th Bn.
AGE: 22
DATE OF DEATH: 22-10-1916
BURIED AT: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL
Additional Information

According to the information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Edward was:

Son of Emma ‘Esther’ Stanley, of 39, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London, and the late William Henry Stanley

Edward was born in South Hackney between April 4th and October 21st 1894.

He was the second of four children born to William Henry Stanley (1866) and Esther Emma Stubbs (1868).
His siblings were: Ernest (1893), Ada (1897/8) and Lilian (1903).

Father William was originally from Ramsgate. He started out as a groom before becoming a Coachman/Omnibus driver. He died 20 December 1921, at Longhurst Road [So, not sure how he could be the 'late' WH Stanley the CWGC refer too when his son died in 1916?]

Mother Esther Emma (1868) was originally from Nevendon/Billericay, Essex.

They were married 4th June 1893 at St Faith’s church, Stoke Newington. The Church was built on Londesborough Road twenty years before in 1873. The church would be badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War (in 1944), and finally abandoned and demolished in 1949.

According to 1901 Census the family were living at 4 Victoria Grove, Hackney.
By the 1911 Census the family had moved to 41 Abernethy Rd, Lee., just five minutes from where they’d be in 1916.

Stanley was listed on the Holy Trinity WW1 War Memorial, in honour of local church goers who had died in the war. The unveiling and dedication of the War Memorial took place on Sunday evening, November 4, 1923. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Woolwich (Dr. Hough). Holy Trinity Church was in Glenton Road, Lee. It was in use until 1948 and was demolished in 1960.

CHARLES HENRY DAWE
Rank: Leading Signalman
Service No: J/10018
Date of Death: 21/07/1917
Age: 23
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy H.M. S/M. “C34.”
Panel Reference: 21.
Memorial: PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL
Additional Information:

Son of William Dawe, of Osmington, Weymouth; husband of Violet Eva Dawe, of 125, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London.

Charles was born in Osmington, Dorset in 1895. He was the third of four children born to William and Annie Dawe
His siblings were: William Guppy (1891-?) Lilian Lousia (1893-1979), and Dorothy (1844-1966).

Father William was from Beaminster, Dorset and mother Annie from Stratton Arxley, Oxfordshire. They married in 1889.

William and Annie were living in Osmington near Weymouth in Dorset in 1891 and by 1901 they had moved to nearby Poxwell, where they remained in 1911. William was a farm labourer.

Charles married Violet Eva ?? before the war.

Charles was lost at sea, following the sinking of the Submarine he was on. He was aboard HMS C34, a Group 2 C Class submarine built before the First World War, which were the final evolution in the Royal Navy of the original Holland design. The C Class featured innovations such as forward hydroplanes, but lacked even a proper toilet for her crew. C34 was the last C Class submarine built at Chatham. According to the Kent History Forum, HMS C34 was laid down on No 7 slip on 29th March 1909. She was launched into the Medway by Mrs Ommanney, wife of the Admiral Superintendant at Chatham, Rear-Admiral Robert Ommanney on 8th June 1910. After fitting out, she commissioned at Chatham on 17th September 1910. HMS C34 was with the 4th Submarine Flotilla at Dover at the outbreak of WW1, with HMS Arrogant as her depot ship, employed on patrols in the English Channel. By July 1915, she had moved to Harwich and was employed on ‘U-Boat Trap’ patrols in the North Sea. The U-Boat Trap was an attempt to disrupt U-Boats then causing mayhem in the North Sea. It worked by having a bait vessel, usually an armed trawler, towing a submerged submarine. When challenged by a U-Boat, the trawler would transmit orders to the submarine which would slip its tow and attempt to torpedo the U-Boat. This method did have some success, but after the loss of 2 C Class submarines, including the Chatham Built C33, it was abandoned. On 24th July 1917, HMS C34 was caught on the surface off Fair Isle in Shetland by U-52 and was sunk by gunfire. There was only one survivor, Leading Rating John Capes, who was rescued by U-52 and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.

Charles is listed on the Church of the Good Shepherd WW1 War Memorial. The memorial consisted of a new altar, choir stalls and pulpit in plain oak and a roll of honour caved in oak, with inlays of ebony and mother-of–pearl and was dedicated by Dr. Hough, Bishop of Woolwich, on Friday evening, April 22, 1921. The inscription read: In memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives for their country in the Great War, 1914—1918. The Church was destroyed by fire in 1941 and was rebuilt in 1957.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Also:

WILLIAM SANDS
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 51239
Date of Death: 08/03/1918
Age: 20
Regiment/Service: Royal Fusiliers No.3 Coy. 13th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 28 to 30 and 162 to 162A and 163A.
Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL
Additional Information:
Son of Mrs. Elizabeth R. Miles, of 84, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

ARTHUR MATTHEWS
Rank: Private
Service No: 17290
Date of Death: 16/08/1916
Age: 24
Regiment/Service: Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) 9th Coy.
Grave Reference: XXXIII. H. 4.
Cemetery: SERRE ROAD CEMETERY No.2
Additional Information:
Son of Walter Charles Mathews, of 50, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

E J HEATH
Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 940057
Date of Death: 08/12/1917
Age: 38
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery “D” Bty. 281st Bde.
Awards: M M
Grave Reference: III. G. 27.
Cemetery: H.A.C. CEMETERY, ECOUST-ST. MEIN
Additional Information:

Husband of Elizabeth Heath, of 106, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London. Native of Lewisham.

1891 Census, Ernest, then just 14, is listed as being a draper’s apprentice along with over twenty other boys at Lowndes Terraces, Knightsbridge. This was on the south side of Knightsbridge east of Sloane Square. According to British History Online, before 1903 the buildings along this side of Knightsbridge (then generally called Knightsbridge Road) were numbered under the names St George’s Place and Lowndes Terrace. St George’s Place extended from St George’s Hospital as far as William Street, Lowndes Terrace occupying the remainder of the frontage up to Sloane Street. (A small part of St George’s Place at its west end was known until 1860 as Knightsbridge Terrace.) In 1903 both these names were abolished and the buildings renumbered as part of Knightsbridge.

He married Elizabeth Wright

Ernest died in action.

Ernest is listed on the Church of the Good Shepherd WW1 War Memorial. The memorial consisted of a new altar, choir stalls and pulpit in plain oak and a roll of honour caved in oak, with inlays of ebony and mother-of–pearl and was dedicated by Dr. Hough, Bishop of Woolwich, on Friday evening, April 22, 1921. The inscription read: In memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives for their country in the Great War, 1914—1918. The Church was destroyed by fire in 1941 and was rebuilt in 1957.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

FREDERICK EDWARD CROWHURST
Rank: Private
Service No: 242059
Date of Death: 31/12/1917
Age: 19
Regiment/Service: Lincolnshire Regiment 2nd/5th Bn.
Cemetery: BERLENCOURT (LE CAUROY) COMMUNAL CEMETERY
Additional Information:
Son of Frederick and Julia Crowhurst, of 23, Longhurst Rd., Lewisham, London.

Frederick was born in early 1898, to Frederick Crowhurst (1853-??) and Julia Roberts (1863-??). He was the second of two surviving children. He had an elder sister Violet Gertrude (1890-1972).

The family lived at 18 Amersham Vale, New Cross, at the time of birth.

He was baptised on 10 Mar 1898.

Father Richard was from Meopham and mother Julia from Sittingbourne. Both in Kent.

By 1901 the family were living at 20 Beacon Road, Hither Green. Frederick senior is listed as a general labourer at this time.

By 1911 the family had moved to 14 Elthruda Road, Hither Green. Frederick senior was still a labourer in the building trade. Sister Gertude (now listed as Inez G) worked as a clerk for theatrical costumiers
Berlencourt (Le Cauroy) Communal Cemetery contains four Commonwealth burials of the First World War.
[Death date listed as 9 January 1918 in Grave Registration Reports]

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Bono sticks up for Spotify

In a week where Taylor Swift’s record company yanked all her albums off Spotify, and her new album 1989 shifted 1.287million copies in the first week of release (the biggest first week sales of any album in 12 years) a couple of people have come out in defence of Spotify. This week saw both Adele’s manager Jonathan Dickins, and Bono come out in support of streaming and of Spotify in particular.

Jonathan Dickins talking at an industry panel said: “Personally, I think streaming’s the future, whether people like it or not, but I don’t believe one size necessarily fits all with streaming,” He went on to point out the disparity between the industry’s attitude to YouTube and Spotify, “On the one hand, labels are trumpeting YouTube as a marketing tool: 10 million views on YouTube and it’s a marketing stroke of genius. But on the other hand they’re looking at 10 million streams on Spotify and saying that’s x amount of lost sales.”

Bono too has spoken out, and made a point I have made a number of times when artists have started moaning: “When people pick on Spotify: Spotify are giving up 70% of all their revenues to rights owners. It’s just that people don’t know where the money is because the record labels haven’t been transparent,” The money is there, if the artist is not getting it, the culprit is the same one it has always been the record company and the terms of the contract they signed.

Bono is also right when he rejects the ‘no one will go into the business if they can’t make money’ argument often put forward by established moaners with fake worries about up and coming talent. “I would be as excited as I was when we formed U2 when we were 17 / 18 years old. Though it is clear that there are some traumas as we move from physical to digital and 20th century to 21st century, and the people paying the highest price for those traumas are songwriters rather than performers, I still think forming a band is so exciting.” Who said tax dodging pop stars can’t make sense some of the time.

Dickins also puts forward an argument that could help bridge the gap between some artists – like Swift and Adele- and Spotify: allowing some albums to be initially to be restricted to its paying customers only. “The premium tier to me are real active record buyers, paying their $9.99 or €9.99 or £9.99 a month. My feeling would be to get around the situation with someone like Taylor Swift – but Spotify won’t do it – is a window between making something available on the premium service, earlier than it’s made available on the free service.”

Spotify isn’t interested (and unless other streaming services follow suite you could perhaps understand why) but I think it is a sound idea. Whether for a couple of weeks or a month, it would allow an artist to maximise the initial ‘sales’ of a record and still give ‘fans’ access if they valued music enough to be paying a sub. It might even encourage a few to subscribe, which would benefit everyone in the food chain.

Jonas Karlsson’s short tale of Bjorn and the secret room is an instant classic

The Room
Jonas Karlsson
Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Hogarth
UK Pub Date: Jan 15 2015

“It was a fairly small room. A desk in the middle. A computer, files on a shelf. Pens and other office equipment. Nothing remarkable. But all of it in perfect order. Neat and tidy”

The Room is one of those beautiful novellas that comes along every once in a while that you devour in one or two sittings. Its quirky nature engages you immediately and its self absorbed central character has you smiling in disbelief just as quickly. This person is Bjorn, a faceless bureaucrat who has been moved to a new department within ‘The Authority’: ” It wasn’t really my decision to move on …somehow I outgrew the position and ended up feeling that I was doing a job way below my abilities, and I have to admit that I didn’t always see eye to eye with my colleagues.”. In his new position, as part of a team in an open plan office, he quickly sets about building up profiles on his new co-workers and looks at how to position himself to quickly get to the top and command respect. But it is his discovery of a secret room, and the problems that brings to his work-life, that quickly become his biggest concern.

If this set-up sounds pure Kafka, then the execution owes more to Carver and Handler. Short clipped sentences. Sharp characterisations. It is beautifully crafted. It also has a wonderfully dark comic heart.

Bjorn is a wonderful character. He doesn’t want to fit in. He creates his own ‘ personal strategic framework’: ” I arrived half an hour early each morning and followed my own timetable for the day: fifty-five minutes of concentrated work, then five minute break. Including toilet breaks. I avoid unnecessary socalilising along the way.” He is a man who is never in any doubt about his superior intelligence or his superiority over his fellow co-workers. When they react against his pomposity and rudeness he sees it as bullying: “I am all too aware that intelligence and talent always upset people of more average abilities. For that reason alone, I am prepared to forgive you. Little people can’t always be held accountable for the fact that they sometimes feel drawn to ruin and undermine their betters.” When someone asks him if he is on drugs he immediately spins it around and concludes they must be one drugs. Then they challenge the existence of the room itself. Are they right? Is this a Being John Malkovich moment or is he deluded?

Actor turned writer Jonas Karlsson has written an instant classic with The Room. He has taken that familiar bureaucratic environment of the office and created a beautifully surreal tale about the power of the collective and the disruptive effect of the unmanageable talented individual. It is a literary snack of the finest order. Packed with complex flavours, and with a big umami finish. The only thing you want to do when you finish it, is start again. Were if not for the fact that it does not get published until early January, this would have been a Christmas gift for a lot of my friends this year. As it is, it will be one of 2015′s must reads. Don’t miss it.

Carey’s latest novel plunders Australia’s dark political past and our digital future

Amnesia
Peter Carey
Faber and Faber Ltd
Pub Date: Nov 6 2014

There are some authors from whom the arrival of a new book is a treat to be savoured. For me this list would include Anne Tyler, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Paul Auster, Daniel Handler and Ian McEwan. It also includes Peter Carey. His twelve previous novels have spanned centuries, continents, cultures and genres making him never predictable and often surprising. I’ve admired all ten of his book that I’ve read, but have not felt universal love for them all. For every book I’ve loved: Oscar and Lucinda, Jack Maggs, My Life as a Fake, Parrot and Oliver in America, there have also been ones that have left me a bit cold: His Illegal Self, The Chemistry of Tears. The one constant in these books, continued here in his thirteenth novel, is a quality of writing that many aspire to, but few reach – it is not by accident that many reviews over the years have mentioned Charles Dickens. And it is that which always makes his novels worth reading, in that hope that everything comes together to produce a great novel.

The latest, Amnesia, is set back in his native Australia. Its initial narrator (I’ll come back to this) Felix Moore is hack reporter best known for not necessarily letting the facts get in the way of a good story. We first meet him as his life is falling down around him. He has just lost a high profile defamation case. He is told he has to destroy all copies of his book containing the defamation, which he does, only he does so by setting them alight inadvertently also setting his house on fire and thus alienating himself further from his wife and children. He’s at rock bottom. His silver lining comes from old friend and shady property baron, Woody Townes (a sort of Rupert Murdock type figure), who hires him to write the biography of Gaby Baillieux, a hacker who’s computer virus has allegedly opened the cell doors of all the prisons in Australia and America. She is public enemy number one and the Americans want her. Indeed, the underlying theme of the novel is of a country kicking out against colonial powers – both Britain and America. These links are highlighted by the pasts of the female characters. Celine’s mother’s relationship with and American GI, and Gaby’s birth on the date the British governor general announced the ‘sacking’ of Australia’s legally elected government. Felix (and Carey) see the hand of the CIA in the move to keep Australia in check as a ‘client’ state. Yes, there is a touch of the Julian Assange story floating in the background here. In the words of Felix ‘American Politicians who did not seem to understand she [Gaby] was not their citizen and therefore could not be their traitor any more than she could be their patriot’.

What additionally shapes Gaby is her father’s involvement in politics and his seeming inability to bring corporate capitalist powers to task. So she seeks out early internet and coding geek Frederic Matovic as her kindred spirit and embarks on a journey of kicking against the system and taking direct action.

As the story unfolds the motives of all the parties are brought into question. Does Woody want Felix’s story to clear or bury Gaby? Does Felix care either way? Does he just want to write a good story? Is he interested in either the truth or providing a version of events that will clear Gaby’s name? Or does wants her to be guilty of the courage and principle it would need to do the crimes she is accused of?

This is a good book. The insight into seventies and nineties Australian politics and media culture is never less than fascinating but as engaged as I was at the beginning of this book I finished this book feeling it was another Carey book that failed to totally grab me. It has taken me a few days to pin-point where this happened. Around half way through the book we lose Felix as our omniscient narrator and the voices of Gaby and Celine take over as their voices, from the interview tapes he has at his disposal to craft his ‘story’, take over ever larger bits of the narrative. Whilst what they have to say remains interesting, and add to the story, the loss of Felix also meant that for me a connection was lost with the book that I never really recovered. It is still a good book, but not – for me at least – up there with the author’s best. Still, if you’re interested in Australian politics of the seventies and nineties that alone is reason enough to give it a go.