Monday, September 9, 2013

Australian Women Writers Challenge - Sibyl's Cave by Catherine Padmore

Okkkk.... it's getting closer to the end of the year and I've got some reviewing to catch up on! As I said previously, for anyone who missed it, I'm doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge, in which you just read some books by Australian women writers and then review them. I'm doing the smallest version of the challenge, which is 3 books, but you can do more if you want. The first book I reviewed was The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody and my review of it is here.

I've had Sibyl's Cave sitting on my bookshelf for quite a few years, ever since I took Catherine Padmore's course on 'Writing Fiction' at La Trobe. I remember thinking she was cool, and that it was really cool that she'd had a book published, but I never got around to reading it until now. To be honest the genre of the book is not one I usually delve into (historical fiction/drama) but it was interesting to have a reason to read something like this. Here's what the cover looks like:

So... yeah. I don't read a lot of books with a cover like this. I've never really let go of that childish voice in my head that goes "that looks booorriiinggg" and hangs around the sci-fi section looking for the most interesting looking cover. But hey, the good thing about being an adult is you understand when the voice is being shallow, and you go ahead and read it anyway.

I did end up enjoying this book quite a lot. It revolved mainly around the life of one character, and all the stuff she goes through moving from Italy to England to Australia in the mid 20th century. Also all the serious *life biz* that happens. I found some parts of this book refreshingly honest, to the point where you cringe a bit like ugh, yep, that's real. Other times I found it a bit whimsical in its language. It's not that I thought the language was bad, it's just that whimsical isn't really my style, and makes me a little bit uncomfortable.

I was about to write a paragraph criticizing the title, but you know what? It's really fricking hard to come up with titles. I get the significance, I think it's a little obvious and far stretched at the same time, but whatever. The book itself is a good read, very well written. The characters are realistic and believable, and you do end up feeling like you know the main character very well. There was a point in the middle of the book where I was kind of wondering where it was going, which is the danger of something like this which isn't so focused on plot as it is character development. But the end wrapped up well, *spoilers* apart from the one bit where Eli cuts her foot, because I thought that was a little too cheesy and obvious. Like a family movie.

I was happy to read that some of the London parts in the middle were influenced by Vali Myers' biography, because that's really cool. 

So yeah. Not something I'd usually pick up, but I enjoyed reading it, and it was definitely well written. Interesting enough to keep you reading til the end, and for the characters to stay in your mind for a while afterwards. A good effort, Catherine Padmore! Well done.

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