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FILMS & TV (20)

Film Review: 'About Time' 

Film Review: 'Alone in Berlin' http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/12-blog/228-film-review-alone-in-berlin

Film Review: 'Birdman'

Film Review: 'Brooklyn'

Film Review: 'The Dressmaker'

Film Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars' 

Film Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Film Review: 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'

Film Review: 'Jersey Boys'

Film Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Film Review: 'The Monuments Men' 

Film Review: 'The Revenant'

Film Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Film Review: 'Their Finest' http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/12-blog/229-film-review-their-finest

Film Review: 'Twelve Years a Slave'

Film Review: 'The Water Diviner' 

My Four Favourite Stories about Platonic Love 

My Top Ten Romantic Comedies

TV Review: Reality Big Guns

A World Without Books: Fahrenheit 451 

A World Without Downton: the 'Downton Abbey' Finale

HOME IN THE HIGHLANDS (2)

Home in the Highlands: A Tale of Two Chandeliers  April 2018

http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/blog/12-blog/233-home-in-the-highlands-a-tale-of-two-chandeliers

Home in the Highlands: The Secret Garden  April 2018

http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/12-blog/232-home-in-the-highlands-the-secret-garden

Home in the Highlands: Finding the Dream Home  March 2018

http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/12-blog/231-home-in-the-highlands-blog

COUNTRY LIFE (7)

Alpacas Versus Llamas

The Case of the Missing Monotremes

A Country Sunday

Country Ways

Frosty Tales

Life with a Platypus

When a Platypus's Fancy Turns to Love

ON WRITING (27)

Adverbs and Chocolate

An Aspiring Author's Guide to Book Jargon

Attack of the Anachronisms

Book Review: 'Kakadu Sunset' by Annie Seaton

Book Review: 'Lake Hill' by Margareta Osborn

http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/12-blog/230-book-review-lake-hill-by-margareta-osborn

Book Review: 'The Princess Diarist' by Carrie Fisher

Crafting Characters (Guest Post for 'Hey Said Renee')

The Cutting Room Floor

Five Things I Love About Writing Fiction

Free Bookmarks to Download

Happy Endings

How Big Is Your Book?

My Four Favourite Stories about Platonic Love

My Five Favourite Books about Unrequited Love

My Top Six Tips for Writing Historical Fiction  

http://www.deborahobrien.com.au/index.php/12-blog/227-my-top-six-tips-for-aspiring-writers-of-historical-fiction

Never Write When You're Hungry

Old-fashioned Heroes

Q&A with Annie Seaton, author of 'Kakadu Sunset'

Review: HOPE'S ROAD

Rose Scott Women Writers' Festival 2014

Spot the Anachronism!

Trivia Isn't Trivial

What Makes a Good Tagline?

Why Is a Book Like a TARDIS?

The World of the Book

A World Without Books: Fahrenheit 451

Writing and Art (Guest blog for Australian Rural Romance)

DOGS (7)

About A Dog

A Bonzer Aussie Dog

Country Dog

Lost and Found

Molly Grows Up

Puppy Love

Puppy Proof?

RECIPES (2)

Yummy Chocolate Mousse

Zucchini and Herb Frittata

SEASONS (7)

Christmas

Christmas At My Place

Meet Mrs Christmas

My Christmas 2014

Ode to Spring

When Winter Comes Early

A Winter's Tale

HISTORY and NOSTALGIA (8)

The Beatles and Me

Elegant Architecture

A Gallipoli Story: Finding Uncle Arthur

A Gallipoli Story: The Lost Shearer

'He Who Would Valiant Be'

Recreational Sewing in Cesarine

Tales of the Emporium

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking

MR CHEN'S EMPORIUM (8)

Amy Duncan and Her Books

An Aladdin's Cave

Anatomy of a Gold Rush Town

Angie's Westerns

An Emporium by Any Other Name

In Search of the Emporium

Inspirations for 'Mr Chen's Emporium'

The Jade Widow@Mr Chen's Emporium

THE JADE WIDOW (7)

The Amazing Mr Carroll

The Colour Lilac

Fairytale Turrets and Other Fantasies

'He Who Would Valiant Be'

Introducing 'The Jade Widow'

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking

Writing 'The Jade Widow'

A PLACE OF HER OWN (4)

Emporium Trilogy Quiz

First Impressions

Launching 'A Place of Her Own'

My Next Book: 'A Place of Her Own'

THE TRIVIA MAN (11)

A Bookish Trivia Quiz

Another Bookish Trivia Quiz

Launching 'The Trivia Man'

Meet the Cast of 'The Trivia Man'

The Nerd as Hero (Guest Blog at Dark Matter Zine website)

Quiz Kid?

Trivia Isn't Trivial

The Trivia Man Blog Tour

'The Trivia Man' Competition

The Trivia Man Is Coming

'The Trivia Man' Trivia Competition

 THE RAREST THING (4)

'The Rarest Thing' Blog Tour 2016

'The Rarest Thing' Book Tour 

'The Rarest Thing' Playlist

What is 'The Rarest Thing'?


fbook icon 60‘He Who Would Valiant Be’

JNorris Scrapbook 33 

In February of 1885, the news of General Gordon’s death during the fall of Khartoum reverberated around the British Empire, even to the far-flung Antipodes. Ever since the previous year, Australians had been anxiously following the story of the besieged general and his garrison, courtesy of newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald and the Argus.

During the previous decade the reporting of news had been revolutionised by a system of electric telegraph lines and submarine cables, commonly known as ‘the Extension’, joining Australia to London via Singapore and Bombay. In 1884 the telegraph line connecting Khartoum to Cairo was severed by rebels, and so were communications. After that, the only means of contacting the outside world was by letter, usually sent by steamer sailing up the Nile. Sometimes the mail was hijacked. And even if a letter did get through, it would take weeks to reach London.

Consequently rumours swirled as to Gordon’s fate. Although he was killed on January 26, news didn’t reach London until the second week in February. Australian newspapers reported his death on February 12. By the 14th the NSW government had already offered to send a contingent to participate in a campaign to avenge his death.

Who was General Gordon, anyway? Well, at the time, he was considered one of the British Empire’s greatest heroes. He had served in China where he was dubbed ‘Chinese Gordon’ by the emperor. In Africa he’d fought the slave trade. In the wake of a rebel uprising in the Sudan, there was pressure from the British public and the Opposition to send Gordon to sort out the situation and evacuate the Egyptian forces stranded there. The Prime Minister, William Gladstone reluctantly agreed. But soon the General, who’d been sent to save the day, found himself besieged and in need of being rescued.

Although very few modern-day Australians realise it, Gordon’s death precipitated the self-governing colony’s first involvement in a foreign war. It was a brief campaign involving about eight hundred men raised in New South Wales largely from volunteers, but also from the First NSW Regiment.

Most people embraced the war, seeing it as ‘a great adventure,’ but there were some who disagreed with the NSW involvement – The Bulletin newspaper, the former Premier, Sir Henry Parkes (who had retired from politics but stood again to protest the war) and protesters among the general populace. In THE JADE WIDOW I describe the rush to enlist, as well as the embarkation day only a couple of weeks later, when a public holiday was declared and tens of thousands of Sydneysiders lined the streets to watch the Contingent march from Paddington Barracks to the Quay.

There were no deaths in action, largely because there was very little action at all. By the time the NSW Contingent arrived at the end of March, it was almost over. They were part of an assault on the desert settlement of Tamai; then things fizzled out. After that, the Australians were sent to help protect the building of the Berber railway. In early May they received news they would be going home. There were nine deaths in total, as a result of disease. Two privates made it home, only to die in the Manly Quarantine Station overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Afterwards, there were parades and banquets, medals and souvenir booklets. The campaign was a precursor of bigger, deadlier Imperial wars to come – the Boer War in South Africa and then the Great War, in which over 400,000 men enlisted from a population of around five million.

Echoes of that war haunted my childhood. In the aftermath of Gallipoli, my grandfather, along with a bunch of other patriotic young men from central-western NSW, who called themselves the ‘Boomerangs’, marched to Bathurst to enlist. (See the Australian War Memorial website for more about the trip.) For my granddad, Ted, it was a very personal decision.

His older brother, Arthur, had been killed at Gallipoli on 7 June, 1915. Only twenty-two years old, Arthur was a six-foot-tall shearer and a real larrikin, if his military records are anything to go by. I wish I could have met him.

Ted joined General Monash’s Third Division. In June, 1916, he was gassed near the Belgian village of Messines. He survived the mustard gas but was permanently incapacitated as a result.

In a way, THE JADE WIDOW is a tribute to my grandfather and my great-uncle and the sacrifices they made. Two valiant young men, who should never have been there in the first place. The conflict of 1885 was the foreshadowing of horrific wars to come. Visionary men like Sir Henry Parkes saw the future and opposed the colony’s involvement in the Sudan. He feared it would set a tragic and dangerous precedent. But voices like his were drowned out in all the righteous flag-waving and jingoism.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose …

Read more about the Sudan campaign at the Australian War Memorial website.

Steamship pic courtesy of Jan N's heirloom family scrapbook c. 1890


Deborah O’Brien

August 2013


fbook icon 60A Winter’s Tale

DOB Winter 004 

Winters can be rather bleak in my part of rural New South Wales. This year, however, the average July daytime temperature was a mild 13 degrees as opposed to a historical mean of 11 degrees.

Already the roses are starting to bud, new lambs are gambolling in the paddocks and I haven’t seen a morning frost in days. Am I jinxing myself by telling you this? Probably. After all, there’s still another month remaining until winter is officially over. And here in the Southern Tablelands, winters are wont to last considerably longer.

DOB Winter 018

Around my garden the wattle trees are in bloom – a glorious, glowing yellow. They’re such a contrast to the bare tracery of branches on the deciduous trees.

DOB Winter 003

This morning my dog and I went out early for some platypus spotting down by the creek. Instead, we found a flurry of ducks, some beautiful cows and a small flock of sheep with three adorable lambs.

DOB Winter 025

Deborah O’Brien

August 4, 2013


fbook icon 60Fairytale Turrets and Other Fantasies

Wind Vane Small

Ever since I was a small child, I’ve dreamed of living in a fairytale castle, complete with turrets. I blame it on Walt Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty. I adored that film – the music, the princess and especially the magical castle with its soaring towers, castellated parapets and sweeping staircases.

‘When I grow up,’ I told my mother, ‘I want a house just like that.’

Did I get my fairytale castle? Of course not. Instead, I made it my mission to visit as many castles as I could. My personal favourites are:

  • King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein near Füssen in Bavaria. An exercise in wish-fulfillment and fantasy in the most breathtaking location
  • the elegant Château de Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher and celebrating its 500th birthday this year
  • Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, a 14th century medieval fortress with its own moat. And Sissinghurst in nearby Kent for its Elizabethan tower and gorgeous gardens.

As a novelist, I’ve managed to incorporate some of my unfulfilled architectural dreams into my stories. In MR CHEN’S EMPORIUM, it’s the Old Manse, a Victorian gingerbread house with fancy bargeboards and arched attic windows.

In my new book, THE JADE WIDOW, which is set during the mid-1880s in the fictional Australian town of Millbrooke, the centrepiece is an establishment called the Emporium Hotel with its own two-storey turret, housing the luxurious Oriental Suite.

You can see the entrance on the cover of the book – an arched portico guarded bySmall Front illustration TJW a pair of Chinese urns containing jade plants, or money trees, as they’re often called. Inside the foyer we catch a glimpse of the Jade Widow herself, the hotel’s proprietor. She looks a little aloof. Perhaps the world has made her so.

The Emporium Hotel boasts all the latest innovations of the era: internal bathrooms, a domed leadlight ceiling in the conservatory, and one of Australia’s first ‘ascending cabinets’. The only limitation on its design is the historical context. It would be anachronistic, for example, to have electric lighting or an electric lift.

It’s the kind of place where you would expect dreams to come true. A little corner of happy-ever-after land. But real life isn’t a fairytale, and happy endings aren’t easy to come by – whether you live in a turreted castle or the most humble little cottage.

Deborah O'Brien

August 2013