November Reading Events Tally

November has too many great reading events! Thankfully, I started a new job this month, so my participation was curtailed by the exhaustion of all day in new surroundings, all day surrounded by people, and all day learning new things. So, my goals were a little too lofty this year!


Sorry, German Literature, but you were the one that got lost in the crowd this time. No worries–I’d already read one German book in translation this year.


My Nevile Shute reading put me in good stead this year. I finished my second book by the Australian author at the start of the month. I reviewed What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (Also titled The Ordeal) and the newer Jane Harper novel Lost Man.



Nonfiction November is an event I look forward to each year. This year I did “ok,” not great, but “ok.” I finished two audio books–Christmas Far From Home about Christmas in the Korean War and The Women of Rothschild, a biography of the women of that famous family.



I had big hopes for little books this year! But Novellas in November just didn’t go very far this time. A few “double dips”–books that worked for this and some other reading challenge or event. I reviewed A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry which “doubled” with 20 Books of Christmas, and What Happened to the Corbetts which doubled with Aus Reading Month.



20 Books for Christmas is still on going, so I’m not done. I’m trying to just use Christmas themed books–fiction or nonfiction. So, I reviewed Christmas Far From Home (nonfiction), The Christmas Escape,   The Christmas Bookshop, Mistletoe and Magic for the Cornish Midwife, and another book I’m reviewing on Monday.

I also read two other books, too long for NovNov and not Christmas Themed Meredith, Alone and The Blue Castle.

Have you done a November reading round-up type post? Have you read any of these books? Read anything else you think I’d want to know about? Leave me a comment or a link to your post!

Aus Reads Month & NovNov Review: What Happened to the Corbett’s (aka The Ordeal) by Nevil Shute


My Interest

I have enjoyed each Nevil Shute book I’ve tried. So, why not another? Plus, he’s an Aussie author and this one was really short (my kindle version was 221 pages–barley over the 200 page limit suggested for Novellas in November, so I am counting it). This book was written in 1938 and published in 1939. It is fiction, but foretells what would happen in the Blitz.

The Story

“‘Home’s where your people are,’ he muttered to himself. “That’s about it.”

Peter and Joan Corbett are in their early 30s, with three young children. Peter is a lawyer in a partnership with one other lawyer. Both he and Joan were privately educated–he at Repton, she at an unnamed boarding school. The live in a newish home, next door to a contractor. They have a live-in nurse for their children and two maids who live out. Like the parents of young children everywhere, they are a bit distracted and not paying as much heed to the news as they should. Peter isn’t even sure which nation they are now at war with–so like today if happened, I’m sure. When war starts with a bombing raid, the Cobetts must deal with their lack of preparation–and the lack of preparation made by others around them.

With the calls from every corner for men to enlist, Peter decides he must see his family to safety first. They endure a few nights in the slit trench he painfully digs, covered by their car. As they sit in the rain on chairs in the mud, Peter hatches a plan to take his family to their yacht moored not too far from their Southampton home [a lot of boats are called “yachts” in the UK–not just the type Aristotle Onassis had] They will stay on it until things are calmer. Now, this is a fairly ordinary boat with one cabin–the baby’s “bed” hangs, if you can imagine, over the toilet! Imagine living one room, on water, during a war with bombs! In the end the family help in a very small scale Dunkirk-like operation.

My Thoughts

Shute uses contrived friendships (oh so convenient to have a builder/contractor next door, a doctor friend in the neighborhood, a friend in the RAF, etc.) to educate Peter and Joan, and hence the readers, on life in wartime. On taking seriously the government’s warnings and preparedness tips. It was a bit heavy handed for today, but it is largely a propaganda piece, albeit one I couldn’t put down.

Tiny Spoiler

“…you leave a mark behind you. A sort of impression. I’d like to think so, because I think we must have left a good one. We’re not famous people, and we’ve not done much. Nobody knows anything about us. But we’ve been so happy. We’ve lived quietly and decently, and done our job. We’ve had kids, too–and good ones.”

At the end, Peter and Joan both reflect and plan for the future. “This is the end of our young married life, Peter. We’ll be middle aged [when the war ends].” But it isn’t all doom and gloom ahead. Joan says “I do want a decent radio. The children are getting old enough to listen to good music now–just a little bit, now and again. I’d like to have a piano.”  Peter thinks that a piano could be out of reach. Joan returns to the radio: “We could have the radio, couldn’t we? Even if we had to put ion the Never-Never?” [payment plan]. I loved this! A man with his “yacht” thinking a piano out of reach for them! I bet after the war, Joan got the radio and Peter got a new boat.

One interesting thing:

Baby Joan (yes, the same name as her mother) was always referred to as “baby”–not “Baby” as in a cute nickname, but “baby” a noun and nearly always given the pronoun “it” which today would shock people. I know in old movies and books we often her Nanny saying that, but today it sounds really awful. Joan does sometimes say “the baby” as in “It’ll be good when things get settled down and we can get some maids again….I’m sick of washing nappies for the baby.” Nonetheless, the Corbett’s were good, loving, caring parents. Peter even cooks! They do go a bit far “afield” getting milk for “baby” [no spoilers]. And while he hides it very well, “[Peter] very much disliked looking after the children” which I thought was hilariously honest. They also just offer random kitchen workers a few coins to watch their children for an hour knowing nothing about the people! Imagine today?

Once again, Shute leaves me desperate for a sequel. I want to know someone took that boat to Dunkirk? Did Peter live through the war? Does their marriage survive? After the war, does Joan get that “one more boy” she mused she’d like to have had to complete their little family? Is there anything left of their nice house in Southampton? Or of Peter’s law office?

This was my second book by Shute in which the main male character’s name was Peter. I wonder if there is a reason for the repetition?

My Verdict


What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (aka The Ordeal ) is $0.99

You can also read this book free on Project Gutenberg’s Canadian site where it is titled The Ordeal

My Reviews of Other Books by Nevil Shute

  1. Pastoral
  2. The Far Country

I’ve also read A Town Like Alice, which is one of my favorite books of all time, but I read it before blogging was invented. It is currently $1.99 for Kindle and worth much, much more!

Aus Reading Month Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

My Interest

“The outback”–no not the steakhouse chain, but that hellishly hot, sparsely populated part of Australia where there are more cattle or sheep than people. Where they have “land trains” [imagine a semi with three full trailers going at ridiculous speed on a deserted highway]. This captures my imagination. I’ve enjoyed each of Jane Harper’s books, but missed this one when it came out for some reason. Since it is Aus Reading Month, hosted by Brona’s Books, I thought this would be a perfect fit.

The Story

Cameron and Nathan Bright, along with the much younger brother, Bub, run cattle on a huge “station” in the outback of Australia. The station is so large their individual homes are hours apart by car–imagine! The area is so sparsely populated that they make do with one police officer. When Cameron is found dead, Nathan tries to piece the story together. As the chapters go on, the family’s secrets roll out.

My Thoughts

The word “hardscrabble” has always seemed to me to have been coined for the outback. But perhaps “hot-scrabble” would be better? A place where you plan your car trips to include gallons of water, extra food, extra fuel and more is pretty hard to live in.  You can see in this story how the isolation, the “hardscrabble life” wore down the Bright family, putting them in situations that could never be judged by a jury of their peers–unless all were from the same desolate area, the same hellishly hot and hard existence.

No excuses are made. The story is told–and though I like linear stories, this nonlinear story was amazingly well-told. The roll out of each new secret, each piece of information was done with such a deft touch that I didn’t see them coming. I think this may be may favorite of Jane Harper’s books.

My Verdict


My Reviews of other Jane Harper books:

  1. Survivors: A Novel by Jane Harper
  2. Force of Nature: A Novel by Jane Harper
  3. The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper

The Lost Man: A Novel by Jane Harper. Listened to the audio version.

Aus Reading Month 2022: What I May Read

Brona of This Reading Life–Brona’s Books blog hosts this annual event. I have friends in Australia so I like to be sure I participate in this challenge. For the “other” Aussie reading event–The 2022 Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Booklover Book Reviews, I read and loved Nevil Shute’s Far Country (link is to my review). (I will soon review another of his books, Pastoral, read for a Classics Club Spin but not finished on time. That I didn’t finish on time is in no way a reflection on the book!)

What I am likely to read or listen to for this year’s challenge:

I was able to request the Jane Harper from the library. At some point I acquired the audio of The White Girl–maybe one of those Amazon World Book Day freebies or similar? I can’t remember. It sounds very compelling. Last year I read an Australian classic, My Brilliant Career, so this year I want a contemporary book.

Are you participating in AusReading Month this time? Leave me a comment or a link to your post–I’d love to hear what you hope to read.

Aus Reading Month Review: My Brilliant Career

My Interest

This book has been on my TBR for years. For some reason, I got it into my head that it was huge. It isn’t. The someone (I forgot again to note who) blogged about the author–a woman, writing under a man’s name. That, and the number of pages, got me to boot it to the top of my TBR list since it worked for both Aus Reading Month and for Novellas in November–a different kind of “win-win.”

The Story

Sybylla is a firey, headstrong, Tom boy of the old school who won’t be reformed into a dainty drawing room porcelain doll, just waiting for a marriage proposal. But in Victorian-era Australia, that is what she should want to be and do. When her parents luck changes for the worst, Sybylla is finally rescued by her grandmother who brings her to live at her house with extended family.  Sybylla is afforded opportunities that would otherwise have been denied her. (Once such gives rise to the title phrase.) One opportunity is the very wealthy young man with whom she falls in love. But, surely she’d rather be a writer? Oh, it was confusing for her.

But the real world her parents are inhabiting is not yet done with Sybylla. That is what makes this book so much more interesting than a typical Victorian romance. I cannot write more or it would be a spoiler. 

My Thoughts

The descriptive prose in this book is magnificent. I felt I was THERE where ever Sybylla was at the moment. It was all very real and the later parts of the book were too real. It is justly called a “classic” in every way.

Review: The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe for Aus Reading Month

My Interest

I was almost late to the Aus Reads Month party so I knew I had to pick carefully to get it read in time. [I still failed.] I have a couple of friends I could have asked for their own recommendations of what to read from their country, but I felt that was almost a silly question. I imagined myself sputtering to someone requesting a “typical” American novel to read. I dug around on the internet, finding lists of Australia’s best or newest or shortest or longest reads. I looked at the Amazon previews and then chose this collection of short stories that are somewhat related.

The Story

Here is how Amazon describes this collection:

Set among the surf and sandhills of the Australian beach – and the tidal changes of three generations of the Lang family – this bestselling collection of short stories is an Australian classic. The Bodysurfers vividly evokes the beach, with the scent of the suntan oil, the sting of the sun and a lazy sensuality, all the while hinting at a deep undercurrent of suburban malaise.
From first publication, these poignant and seductive stories marked a major change in Australian literature.

Various stories were related, it is true. A few (Body Oil being one) were mostly related. One did not “work” to me (Looking For Malibu). Most told slightly depressing tales of weary people who did not seem real but who were surrounded by often vividly described scenery, scents, or feelings. Many, I’m sure, would earn the sobriquet “gritty” even if no one was killed, overly drunk, or similar at the time of the scene.

Here are two passages that did not leave me depressed or weary:

Just beyond the Gosford exit warm spring whiffs of eucalypt pollen and the fecund muddy combustion of subtropical undergrowth suddenly filled the car with the scents of the holidays. (The Bodysurfers [title story])

The electric cleansing of the surf is astonishing, the cold effervescing over the head and trunk and limbs. And the internal results are a great wonder. At once the spirits lift. There is a grateful pleasure in the last hour or softer December light. The brain sharpens. The body is charged with agility and grubby lethargy is washed away. (The Stingray)

An occasional worthwhile observation helped to move a story along, such as this one in After Noumea:

Brian picked her at once as a nosy bourgeois person.

This was possibly the most astute judgment in the collection.

My Thoughts

The people felt like worn-out factory workers. The place felt worn out. Both of these seem wrong in a post World War II setting in a young country with vast natural resources and gorgeous coastline. Was this intentional? Most of these stories were actually good reading–just not very happy or uplifting. Such stories have their place. They did evoke, I suppose, the time and place of their setting. I could hear and feel the see–just couldn’t get to know the people. I could sense the emotions of the flat, unreal characters which sounds contradictory, but isn’t. The characters lacked a personality but still had emotions. I think that must be a talent for a writer. I imagine he did not want the personalities to overwhelm the stories which were, after all, supposed to be about their time at that place.

The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe

My Verdict


Click here to read my earlier Aus Reading Month post


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