Review – The Alphabet of Light and Dark – Danielle Wood

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“…it is often the silent who end up with the task of the telling. Perhaps it’s because, undeafened by the sound of their own voices, they’ve heard so much more.”

Yes, I’m reviewing another of Danielle Wood’s books. 🙂 I recently finished reading ‘The Alphabet of Light and Dark’, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book won the Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 2002 and it’s easy to see why. Reading Wood’s work you get the feeling that the sentences flow from the tip of her pen perfect and fully formed. The act of writing feels so easy as you are absorbed effortlessly into the tale.

This particular story really resonated with me at the moment, as the main character, Essie, is spending her days searching the past, trying to piece together the stories her grandfather told her so often, stories she has mostly forgotten, but of which she is reminded by the sea chest full of the trinkets to which the stories belong.

While I am not trying to recover half-remembered stories, I have been delving to the past as I research my latest WIP. Set in Tasmania, then called Van Diemen’s Land, in the 1830’s, my story features an indigenous character (with more on the periphery). But knowledge of the Tasmanian people is thin on the ground, as the focus was on removing them, rather than recording their culture, and so all we have is a smattering of history. In determining the narrative I am left to the same devices Essie is, opening herself up to let the ghosts of the past speak through her, hoping that the story that emerges is an accurate portrayal, if not of how life was, at least of how it might have been.

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Mothers Grimm – Danielle Wood

Mothers grimm

Mothers Grimm was not quite as I expected. I thought I’d be reading some traditional fairy tales, twisted to show the mother’s point of view. Instead what I got was a selection of short stories each expressing a different side to motherhood. The stories are heart-wrenching, some of them quite dark, but what brought me to tears was not the horror, but the joy. A teen who has just given birth looks to her own mother and asks about that gut-twisting spasm of love. “Hold onto that feeling,” the mother responds. “It has to last you through at least the next eighteen years.”*

But what this book shows more than anything else, is the different and difficult situations we all face in life. If only we could empathise with others, instead of assuming we know best and judging them based on our own situations and experiences. It’s something I strive for, and fail, every single day.

This is the first of Danielle Wood’s books that I’ve read. But I’ll definitely be going back for more.

Highly recommended!

*note: I must admit that I forgot to write down the exact quote before I returned the book to the library… so this is more a paraphrase…