Tag Archives: grieving

Rabbit Hole

I first saw Rabbit Hole as the famous play by David Lindsay-Abaire, which won the 2007 Pullitzer Prize for Drama. In fact I saw the Australian premiere in Sydney at the Ensemble Theatre a few years back. It’s a great play, sad and funny at the same time, and tackling a difficult subject, the grieving process of a couple who have lost their only son, run over by a car in front of their house. Lindsay-Abaire’s writing is subtle, yet powerful, and never in-your-face. I loved it.

I have just now watched the 2010 movie version of the play, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, and with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in the main roles. It is good as well – Kidman does a great job I find – but it lacks some of the good (read: funny) moments of the play, which lightened the atmosphere. Those moments are essentially those where Becca’s (Kidman’s) sister appears – I adored her character. The play and the movie are different, and having seen the play first did not make the movie any better or worse. It’s just two sides of the same story. And a good one.

Movie trailer:

And a video about the Australian premiere at the Ensemble Theatre:

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Filed under Arts, Movies, Theatre

Derek Clendening: The Between Years

Hi Derek, could you please describe yourself in five words?

Dork who writes every day.

What can you tell us about The Between Years?

The book focuses on Randy Fuller who has separated from his wife because the grief of losing their 6 month old baby boy Kenny is too great. Basically, Randy wants to have another child right away and Carol isn’t ready. Therefore Randy moves into his ancestral home, a Victorian house along the Niagara River. While there, he sees the ghost of his son at age four one night, then age eight, twelve and eighteen on the succeeding nights. He realizes that Kenny is growing up rapidly in the walls, which forces Randy to face realities of parenthood that he had never considered.

It’s an emotionally charged book that has no good guys or bad guys. The characters are people who are presented in all their frailty and imperfections. I leave it to the reader’s best judgment as to who is right and wrong in this book.

Who’s your favourite author?

I have several: Stephen King, Rio Youers, John Langan and Richard B Wright.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

Sure. My advice is to write (and read) every day. Writers get asked that all the time and they will always give some variation of that answer, but it’s the truth. Here’s why: writers need discipline and they must hone their skills. You can’t take shortcuts. Also, novels—or projects of any length, really—cannot be finished if they’re not being paid proper attention. A writer must strap themselves into their chair and write constantly. We all lead busy lives but serious writers will always find a way to write every day.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing a zombie novel, tentatively titled The Breeding. I’m also outlining a sequel to The Vampire Way, my young adult novel.

Where can we find you online?

Why right here, my good man: http://thehorrorofderekclendening.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Derek!

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Filed under Author interview, Books, Reading, writing

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

One millisecond, that’s all it takes, and Mia loses everything dear to her heart. Her life is over. Or is it, really? After a terrible car accident, Mia finds herself outside her body, witnessing her family’s and friends’ distress, the effort of the medical team to save her life, her boyfriend’s struggle to get the right to visit her in the ICU, and her own body fighting death… Soon Mia realises that her fate lies in her own hands. She faces a dilemma bigger than everything she’s ever experienced, should she decide to stay – and face her losses – or move on to another dimension…

The issues of out-of-body experience, afterlife, and death that Mia faces interest me. In my latest novel Body Swap, the hero faces something similar. I was therefore looking forward to finding out how Gayle Forman dealt with those issues in If I Stay. The story is gripping. Mia’s dilemma, her struggle, her hopes and fears become ours. It is impossible to read this novel without asking oneself the question of what we would do, would we find ourselves in Mia’s situation. Forman’s writing is full of vivid images, at times light and airy, at times strong and heavy, such as the minutes following Mia’s accident. But they are always spot-on. I found the questions going through Mia’s mind sometimes a little too obvious or brushed over too quickly, but overall, Forman did a very good job. I did get slightly annoyed at first though when the narrative went from the present to the past, and again, and again. I felt that the flashbacks slowed the action and were a little repetitive. But once you got to know the characters, it was fine. Some parts of the book seem to lack emotion at first, for example the cold way Mia watches the world from outside her body, but in fact it’s a way for Forman to show the distance between the new Mia and her former life – that is until she finds herself dragged back into it – big time.

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Blacklands, by Belinda Bauer

I first came across Blacklands by Belinda Bauer when I read a review of the novel on my friend Nikki-Ann’s blog (you can find her review here). She raved about it, so I felt I had to read it. Blacklands is also one of the crime novels on the list of the Great Transworld Crime Caper.

Blacklands tells the story of Steven Lamb, a twelve-year-old boy whose uncle Billy Peters was murdered by a pervert when he was only eleven. The murder has had a strong impact on the family, which has become somewhat dysfunctional since the event. Steven’s grandmother (Billy’s mother) never got over losing her son and pays little attention to Steven. To get a little bit of his grandmother’s love that he is yearning for, Steven decides to find his uncle’s body. To do this he starts writing to his uncle’s murderer, who sits in a jail nearby. Starts a dangerous game of cat and mouse between Steven and Billy’s murderer, which turns deadly when the pervert escapes from prison and looks for Steven with more than just a chat in mind.

Bauer mentions that when she started writing her book, she didn’t have a crime novel in mind. Instead, what she wanted to write about was the story of a boy and his grandmother. Well, she certainly succeeded in that regard. The relationship between Steven and his grandma is fantastically portrayed and you find yourself suffering in silence in Steven’s shoes. In fact, the relationship triangles in the whole family are wonderfully described, with Steven’s younger brother Davey, his mother Lettie, and Lettie’s boyfriend Uncle Jude all playing a big role. However, with the murderer’s entrance, the story takes on a more sinister turn. Bauer has made smart use of the novel’s environment. The eerie atmosphere of the Moors plays such a large role in the book that the landscape almost becomes a character with its own set of rules and even feelings. This is a great, psychological story. I find it hard to put it into a specific genre, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned: it is as much as a coming-of-age story than a crime novel or a story about grieving. I read it in two days and I am looking forward to Bauer’s next book, Darkside.


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The tree

The Tree is a Franco-Australian film based on the novel by Judy Pascoe, “Our Father Who Art in a Tree“. It is the story of a family who lives happily in a beautiful Queenslander (those houses built on stilts that can be found throughout Queensland), under a gigantic Moreton Bay Fig Tree (at least from what I can tell). But disaster strikes and the O’Neill head of family dies of a heart attack while driving his ute, which collides head-on with the tree. Dawn remains alone with their four children, including eight-year-old Simone who was very close to her dad and believes he has reincarnated in the tree.  The tree becomes an obsession for Simone and a fight, but it will eventually bring the family together. The Tree is mostly about the grieving process that Simone and each member of the family goes through, but it is also a story of hope, of love, and of struggle. There are beautiful pictures of the Australian countryside in the film, the story is well constructed, and the characters are all credible. Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of the infamous French singer Serge Gainsbourg and of English singer Jane Birkin, both well-known in France (Gainsbourg, who died quite a few years ago, was a sex symbol for many French women, which, for me, remains one of life’s biggest mysteries.) I don’t particularly like Charlotte Gainsbourg – She seems to have inherited her father’s bad looks and her mother’s stupid airs – but I found her really good in this film. In fact, I think she is the one who makes it come together. Her accent is not Australian, of course, so she has been given a French background (it works). There is something poetic about this film; it has beauty, it has depth; and it goes (too) quickly. My only negative comment is about a piece of dialogue that takes place between Simone and her best friend: although Simone is only eight years old, she speaks as a grown-up person, which I found particularly annoying. But if The Tree is shown at a cinema near you, don’t hesitate to go see it. It’s definitely worth it. 

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Filed under Australia, Movies

Book trailer for Body Swap

I’ve created a new book trailer for my latest young adult novel, Body Swap. I thank Danosongs again for the music.

Here it is:

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The Killing Fields – My Father’s Guests

It’s so nice to have a little bit of free time! I’ve managed to see two movies over the weekend, which, as most of you would know, is quite an achievement for me! The first one I watched (on DVD) was  “The Killing Fields” directed by Roland Joffe. It is an oldish movie (It dates from 1984) and one that I had actually seen before, but after my trip to Cambodia last month, I wanted to see it again. It stars Sam Waterstone, Haing S. Ngor, and John Malkovich, and won three Academy Awards (Best supporting actor, best editing, and best cinematography). The story is about Sydney Schanberg, a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia, and his local Cambodian interpreter, Dith Pran. When the American forces leave in a hurry before the Khmer Rouge forces enter the capital city of Phnom Phen, Dith Pran manages to send his family away while he stays behind with Schanberg to cover the event. Schanberg and his fellow journalists eventually leave the country, but Pran, as a local, has to stay and is arrested by the Khmer Rouge. Pran will survive and manage to flee the Khmer Rouge regime and is reunited with Schanberg. It’s a great movie about a story too often untold: the fate of the Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge regime who managed to murder two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. It’s not an easy movie, but then it is a very difficult topic as well. The story is well presented, the actors are all very good, there are beautiful landscapes to admire, and it is impossible not to be touched by the story of Pran and his narrow escape from death. I find it amazing to see how Cambodia has managed to overcome those terrible years and become what it is today, a welcoming, peaceful, and stunning country. As a consequence of the war years, there are unfortunately still too many land mines in the country. The country is definitely worth an extended visit. The Killing Fields will give you an introduction to a dark side of its recent past.

The second movie I saw on the weekend was “My Father’s Guests” (Les invites de mon père in French) as part of the Hong Kong French Film Festival. The film is from 2009 and was directed by Anne Le Ny. It stars Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Michel Aumont, Valérie Benguigui, and Véronica Novak. It is the story of how Lucien Paumelle, a retired doctor, welcomes two very special illegal migrants from Moldova in his home. His commitment leads him to marry the sexy, young woman, Tatiana, several decades younger than him, to the dismay of his adult son and daughter, Babette and Arnaud.  They soon realise that despite being 80 years old, Lucien has succumbed to the charm of his guest. While Tatiana and her daughter invade Lucien’s home, Babette and Arnaud’s lives turn to chaos. The movie is fun to watch, especially the beginning when Tatiana makes herself comfortable in her new home and family. It touches on tricky topics such as illegal migrants, fake marriages, racism, sexual relationships by interest, and age and grieving. I was particularly interested by the topic of an old man dating a young woman while the mother had recently passed away, and how the children react, since this is the main theme of my latest full-length play “Sorting Dresses.” I don’t like Luchini as an actor, he annoys me, but he is okay in this movie. As for Karin Viard, she is as good as always. I was however a little disappointed with the last part of the movie: too fast, not realistic, some big holes in the story, and an ending that did not gel with the rest of the film.

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Filed under France, Hong Kong, Movies