Monday, December 29, 2014

December Reading

58. Mr. Jelly's Business - book 4 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1937
Kindle
finished 12/1/14

59. Winds of Evil - book 5 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1937
Kindle
finished 12/4/14

60. The Bone is Pointed - book 6 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1938
Kindle
finished 12/11/14

61. The Mystery of Swordfish Reef - book 7 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1939
Kindle
finished 12/18/14

62. Spot's First Christmas 
by Eric Hill
children's book 1983
finished 12/19/14
written about here.

63. Bushranger of the Skies - book 8 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1940
Kindle
finished 12/22/14

64. Death of a Swagman - book 9 in the Inspector Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1946
Kindle
finished 12/29/14

My reading and television life has been centered in Australia these last weeks. Via my beloved Tunnelbear, which I mentioned here, I’ve seen Janet King, The Code, Miss Fisher’s Mysteries (from Acorn and Netflix instant), A Place To Call Home, and The Doctor Blake Mysteries.

And as I mentioned in a couple Monthly Reading Notes, I’ve been reading the Napoleon Bonaparte series by Arthur Upfield. 


I’m not sure that I’ve ever read such fascinating mysteries, with such an interesting sleuth. Napoleon Bonaparte is the son of an Aborigine mother and white father. He knows nothing about his father, and he was found next to his dead mother when he was a baby. He was brought to an orphans’ home where he was given his unusual choice of name, and treated with love and kindly care. He grew up a happy, contented soul who is now married with three sons. His wife is also part Aborigine and part white. They are truly happy though his forays all over Australia as a detective do drive her a bit crazy. I’m hoping we get to know her better in some of the following books. 

Though the constantly used description ‘half-caste’ makes me cringe, I realize this would have been the known and used term in the time the books were published. There is prejudice. There is name calling. And there is insecurity in the man who likes to be called just ‘Bony.’ He is a little overly dependent on people looking at him as a person, not part Aboriginal, especially on women who do not judge him. He doesn’t cheat on his wife; he doesn’t fall in love with the women; but he is drawn to them and to their good opinions of him. Other than that, he is very secure because he knows he will always solve the case. He knows he is a genius because he has the logic of a white man and the tracking abilities of an Aborigine. In his mind it is very cut and dried. There are some facts which were surprising to me. One, that a person who is only part Aborigine may begin life quite white in appearance, but may, and often does, darken as he gets older. I had to look this up and see if it was a novelistic device or if it really happens, and it seems to be something that can happen or not.

I found this very interesting page

Racist definitions of Aboriginal identity
Caste categories in an identity card used in the 1940s.From 1910 to the 1940s white people classified Indigenous people into castes. They defined
• a ‘full-blood’ as a person who had no white blood,• a ‘half-caste’ as someone with one white parent,• a ‘quadroon’ or ‘quarter-caste’ as someone with an Aboriginal grandfather or grandmother,• a ‘octoroon’ as someone whose great-grandfather or great-grandmother was Aboriginal.
Another informative site is the National Geographic page (click on feature article).

Most everyone Bony comes in contact with either respects him immediately, or comes to before the book is over. He is the most amazing detective. And the reader is made privy to Bony’s thoughts, fears, worries. When he does something, we know why and how. Every single case is completely different one from another. And every place he goes is in a different area. If you’ve ever read Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, or the English title Down Under, you know that Australia is a one of a kind place. The creatures, the landscape, the weather are like no other. The language is full of words I had to look up. Never have I used my Kindle dictionary (Oxford Dictionary of English) more.

Claypans
claypan |ˈkleɪpan| nounAustral. a shallow depression or hollow in the ground with an impermeable clay base which holds water after rain.

The Walls of China 


A billy-can
billy 1 |ˈbɪli| (also billycan |ˈbɪlɪkan| ) noun (pl.billies) Brit. a tin or enamel cooking pot with a lid and a wire handle, for use when camping.ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: perhaps from Aboriginal billa ‘water’.

A swag
 Austral./NZ a traveller's or miner's bundle of personal belongings.

Cabbage trees 


We also learn much about the Aboriginal culture, including what to me was one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard. Pointing the Bone.
The expectation that death would result from having a bone pointed at a victim is not without foundation. Other similar rituals that cause death have been recorded around the world. Victims become listless and apathetic, usually refusing food or water with death often occurring within days of being "cursed". When victims survive, it is assumed that the ritual was not done faultlessly. The phenomenon is recognized as psychosomatic in that death is caused by an emotional response—often fear—to some suggested outside force and is known as "voodoo death." As this term refers to a specific religion, the medical establishment has suggested that "self-willed death," or "bone-pointing syndrome" is more appropriate. In Australia, the practice is still common enough that hospitals and nursing staff are trained to manage illness caused by "bad spirits" and bone pointing.
So, you see that reading these books is an education for this reader. Every book teaches me something new about the country, the culture, the people, the history. As well as an endearing sleuth and excellent, well-solved mysteries. 

12 comments:

  1. As always, you've given us some interesting books to look into. I just finished reading "Introducing the Honourable Phyrne Fisher"- a set of three stories. Loved it - as I do the PBS series out now. Love the characters and story lines.
    Mary

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    1. I just bought the first one for the Kindle, and will get to it when I finish all the Upfield books!

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  2. You find the most interesting books in the world EVER! The Australian mystery series would definitely be good to read on Kindle because of that dictionary feature. I love having that capability. Thank you much for the suggestions. As always. And Happy New Year to all.

    It seems to me that I have read old novels about the reconstruction era and Jin Crowe era even that used similar terms (so very prejudiced now) .... The word octaroon for example I would have recognized at least what sort of word it was .....

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    1. I so love the dictionary! And a great New Year to you two as well!

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  3. Interesting post. I met some Australians while in Italy this year and realized how little I know about the country. I'll look out for this series, sounds very intriguing.
    Hope you and your family have a Happy New Year.
    Ann

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    1. You can really learn a lot from these books. I am just fascinated.
      Thank you and the same to you!!

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  4. I have always wanted to go to Australia. I might give this series a read since this would be as close as I would ever get to Australia.

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    1. Have you ever read the Bill Bryson book? The bugs, the snakes!! Oh, I was shaking my head all through reading it.

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  5. Another lovely post, Nan! I enjoyed discovering more about Aborigine culture and seeing the pictures. You are definitely making this series sound so interesting. I also like Spot's First Christmas snuck in there, due to the grandchildren I imagine?? lol Love it! Happy New Year to you, Nan.

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    1. I couldn't be happier with this series. It is just wonderful. Such a good writer. If you click on the Spot book link, you'll see little miss Hazel Nina reading it. :<)) Happy New Year to you, too! I think of John's words "Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear"

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  6. Fascinating Nan! I'll have to try this series!

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    1. Oh, these books have your name written all over them, Peggy!!

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