Doctor Who Oxygen Review

YES. Jamie Mathieson episode time. I love this guy writing for Who. What a true find he was. Both Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express are great episodes in my book and The Girl Who Lived wasn’t half bad either. My money is on him having what it takes to be a show runner one fine day.

Anyway, Oxygen is about The Doctor and Bill doing space adventure. For the first time this series, Nardole comes along for the ride and gets some story beats in his own right. Oxygen is a commodity and suits are the three’s only hope of breathing for sustained periods. Then the suits turn on their human residents…

What I loved about this episode (which was yet another example of Doctor Who in confined space with guest stars getting murdered one by one), was the way it took the time to breathe, the way it let us fear for Bill and then The Doctor and then rage with all three main characters about the way capitalism has screwed us all over.

The Companions

I am still loving Bill. She is fast sky rocketing to one of the better companions in the show’s entire run. I loved her comment that inside the space station she couldn’t tell she was in space, but then she turned to a window and looked out, and the audience, like her, felt the wonder and emptiness of space. “That’s more like it.”

Of course, it’s Bill’s suit which malfunctions and we get to see Mackie’s acting chops on show as she does genuine shit your pants terror. I love that The Doctor gives his helmet to Bill and risks his own life. Even though Twelve is grouchy and sometimes coldly scientific (as his voice over at the start of the episode reminds us), when his companion is in trouble,he risks everything for their safety. Bill and The Doctor have a lovely relationship and I can’t wait to see where it all goes next.

This week as well, Nardole moves beyond mere valet and starts helping The Doctor on an adventure in his own right. I was never a huge fan of Matt Lucas, but this episode he grew on me with his combination of light comedy turn, cowardice and gentle put downs of The Doctor when needed. We also see that he values individual life. It is obvious that he cares for Bill’s safety because she is The Doctor’s friend. What else should the audience expect from an ex colleague of River Song?

The Doctor

Aside from protecting his companions and raging against capitalism (and with good reason in this story), there is another drop the mic Doctor Who moment which I for one did not see coming. The Doctor walks into a vacuum defenseless and seems fine. But this is not the case. His sunglasses shield the truth. That he has been blinded by his choice to spare Bill. I really hope that this story consequence isn’t hand waved away next episode. One of the great things about Capaldi’s Doctor (and I say this as someone who sees Eleven as her Doctor)is that he is a more back to basics kind of guy: less reliance on the sonic and on timey wimey stuff. More reliance on science, rationality and intellect. Series 10 has been a vehicle for great stories which underplay both of the former. Having a blind Doctor only adds to the difficulty of penning a story, but it makes for very interesting Doctor territory.

Other stuff

Guest stars this week were a mixed bag. The opening woman who is killed in the first five minutes gave a surprising memorable bit part performance. I was genuinely moved by her every time she was on screen. I loved the blue guy and his exchange with Bill on racism. I love that we can now depict racism and discuss racism on Doctor Who and it’s great that stories haven’t ignored Bill’s identity as a black woman. The female leader who distrusts The Doctor? I liked her for the most part (it doesn’t do to have everyone worship the ground The Doctor walks on all of the time) but I didn’t buy her sudden acceptance of The Doctor’s explanations for the oxygen, the suits, and the incoming new human cargo. A small niggle in an otherwise five star episode.

Memorable Quotes

The Doctor: They’re not your rescuers. They’re your replacements. The endpoint of capitalism. Bottom line. Where human life has no value at all. We’re fighting an algorithm. A spreadsheet. Like every worker everywhere, we’re fighting the suits!

The Doctor: The universe shows its true face when it asks for help, we show ours by how we respond.

Oxygen: 9/10 inky stars with another quality Mathieson entry

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Doctor Who Knock Knock Review

I got up early today to get this review done and tonight will be the double bunger on Oxygen followed by Extremis (which I need to re-watch because the episode was so dense, if brilliant). I have to admit I was a wee bit excited for this one. I’ve never heard of Mike Bartlett before, and as far as I know he’s never previously written for New Who, but I was damn keen to see David Suchet in something again. His turn as Poirot was pitch perfect.

So what was Knock Knock all about? Bill is at home on earth while The Doctor finally takes Nardole’s advice and minds the box. She and a bunch of uni friends are moving out and where do they pick? A dilapidated nightmare out of a haunted house film, but hey, the rent is cheap, though the land lord is a creep. Side note: this whole series seems to have a running thread through it about neo-liberalism and its harmful, soul sucking effects. Last week the episode of the week was about a villain who put money over children. This week we have a land lord who seems to genuinely want to give some young people a cheap, convenient deal, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Rent is expensive and a decent house ever more unattainable in UK, as in Australia, so desperate people take shitty options because what else can they do? Anyway, the house starts coming alive, people get offed one by one, The Doctor shows up (which means trouble), and the damn land lord is still hanging around like a bad smell. Why?

The Companions

Nardole is scarcely in this story. Nothing to see here. Move along. Knock Knock is, however, Bill’s story even more so than it is The Doctor’s. We learn a bit about the hodge podge of friends she has decided to keep (and yay BBC for ethnic diversity) and deals well with idiot boys with crushes on her. She is curious and intelligent, but most of all just enormously fun to be around.

Having Peter Capaldi play Twelve makes for a more interesting companion/Doctor dynamic too, with Bill’s way of interacting with The Doctor reflecting Susan in some ways. The Doctor even refers to Bill as his granddaughter when he comes to the house and won’t leave. Bill is rightfully terrified throughout this adventure, and horrified by the death she sees, but she still sticks with The Doctor to sate her curiosity. I loved The Ponds as a family unit group of companions, but Bill may well become one of my favourite companions if she keeps this up.

The guest star

There isn’t all that much to say about The Doctor in this episode, at least until the episode’s denouement. There is plenty to say about the guest stars this week, both of whom were superb.

David Suchet chooses to play his mannered, old fashioned part in a very understated way and this works perfectly. In Suchet’s hands, the land lord is both creepy, cruel and tragic. The ending of this story is perfect. I didn’t see it coming, even when we first met Eliza. Once we know everything the land lord does with his flesh eating alien lice is in the name of preserving his mother, the story shifts into another gear. Suchet had flashes of sadness under the menace, even from the episode’s opening, and flashes of anger masking his ultimate selfishness too. I didn’t want to, but I did sympathize with his desire to keep his Mum alive, whatever the terrible cost.

Eliza, played by actress Mariah Gale, is also a tragic figure. Made of wood and living a half life, Mariah sold to us in a relatively short time period, her emptiness and pain and then, finally, the suffering at the terrible decision she had to make to protect others. Eliza kills her son and commits suicide, yet rather than feel vindicated that the villain of the week and his aliens are conquered, I just felt terribly sad for the waste of the land lord’s life in a false dream.

I thought series 9 was the best series since 5, but 10 could also be another blinder.

Memorable quotes:

The Doctor: What’s the point of surviving if you never see anyone, if you hide yourself away from the world?! When did you last open the shutters?

The land lord: Hope is its own form of cruelty.

Knock Knock: 8/10 inky stars for another quiet breathing episode which nonetheless packed emotional punch.

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Doctor Who Thin Ice Review

Wow. That was something. Plain, good old fashioned Who fun penned by Sarah Dollard who wrote Face The Raven last season (which was pretty damn good in its own right). I’m also a sucker for Regency era settings, Dickensian working and living conditions and The Doctor preaching humanism to the villain of the week.

What happens?

Bill and The Doctor travel to the past and discover an unusually cold London winter, a fun fair on the ice, and something odd beneath the water. But is the thing beneath the ice really evil or is the truth far more sinister? What I love about stories like this is that there is space to breathe. Character moments have air time because the alien plot isn’t complex and grandiose. Instead, this story reminded me in terms of set-up of a cross between The Beast Below where the alien of the week wasn’t the big bad at all and was instead a creature who needed freedom to be happy and The Snowman where yes, there were aliens in the story, but they couldn’t have gotten where they did without human fallibility getting thrown into the mix.

thin ice

The Doctor and his companion

Peter Capaldi got more to do this week. I enjoyed his quips to Bill about the TARDIS. Namely:

The Doctor: I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS, you reason with it.
Bill: How?
The Doctor: Unsuccessfully, most of the time.

I also liked that we saw Bill’s horror at the small thief’s demise and The Doctor’s seemingly callous disregard for his life in favour of saving his sonic screw driver. This Doctor appears to be very focused on reason over heart, but deep down he is still The Doctor and different to the rest of his race because he does feel passion and emotion just as much as he does reason and logic. The Doctor ticks Bill off for stamping her foot instead of doing something about the problem posed to them and he is vehement to Bill when he says that passion fights but reason wins the day. Twelve claims he puts logic and reason over feeling and emotion, but he’s a liar. It’s a front to allow a brave face on the world until something happens… and he snaps. He sees (figuratively) children crying (Moffat really found an essential aspect of all incarnations of The Doctor with Amy’s quote) and has to read them a story, and then get even and get angry, get passionate, to make things better.

You need a bit of reason and logic and a bit of feeling and emotion to succeed at anything in reality. And by the episode’s denouement,this is what has happened, passion and reason in balanced mix. Why else would The Doctor tell the human devil of the story why he has fallen short morally of a brave new world.

The Doctor: I preferred it when you were alien.

Sutcliffe: When I was…

The Doctor: Well, that would explain the lack of humanity. What makes you so sure your life is worth more than those people out there on the ice? Is it the money? The accident of birth, that puts you inside the big, fancy house.

Sutcliffe: I help move this country forward. I move this Empire forward.

The Doctor: Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species.

God The Doctor must hate austerity measures and the Tories (why has no one made that episode?) But on a more serious note, The Doctor might claim to Bill that he has never had the luxury of outrage, but like Ros Huntley in Line of Duty, it’s a case of ‘watch what I do, don’t listen to what I say.’ The Doctor does get outraged. He gets outraged when the little people are subjugated, exploited, damaged. He gets outraged when people are treated like things. He flies in the face of everything that neoliberalism stands for with its hard line every man for themself, clink of dollar signs the most alluring sound in the world approach. If he ever stops getting outraged and begins to accept these things, accepts that individuals (alien or otherwise) cease to matter in favour of some imagined greater good… well… that is the end of The Doctor. The name you choose, it’s like a promise you keep. The Doctor has made a choice to draw a line in the sand with his name a reminder to never break that promise. Always heal and help. Always kind. Never cruel. Never cowardly. Never give up and never give in.

The mystery of the week

Nardole turns up for a brief cameo (are they ever going to develop Nardole as a character? I don’t dislike Nardole or Matt Lucas as Nardole, but he has zero to work with). Why is Nardole convinced The Doctor shouldn’t time travel? What is inside that damn box? My vote is on someone Gallifreyan. The John Simm Master? More than one Master? Or maybe another Time Lord from classic Who?

Thin Ice: 9/10 inky stars as series 10’s strongest episode yet

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Doctor Who Smile Review

I’m keen to review this before tonight and Thin Ice (why does time always fly away from me when I try to watch the show live?) So what did I think of Smile, in which Twelve and Bill journey to human beings in the future ala Nine/Rose and The End of the World (is this series deliberately riffing off Series 1 of RDT Who like Series 5 riffed off Rose/Mickey through Amy/Rory? Maybe). I hated In The Forest of the Night penned by the same script writer, but I thought Smile, bar a rushed ending, was actually quite good. Not amazing, not terrible, but not bad either.

So what happened? Bill gets to choose where the TARDIS takes her for her first real adventure as companion and she chooses the future. The Doctor takes Bill to see humanity of the future, a future where emoji robots help to regulate emotion for the soon to appear humans who may well have lost everything. Only something has gone horribly wrong. The original human team sent to start the new colony all died before they could complete their mission. Why?

This story reminded me an awful lot of Michael Crichten’s Prey, a truly chilling horror, sci fi, thriller type which I read years ago around the time I read Jurassic Park for English class. In Prey humanity stretches itself too far in trying to create a new heaven and new earth and scientists experimenting, and the people close to them, pay the consequence.

The Companions

Again, I found Bill to be a wonderful companion in this episode. She’s funny, inquisitive, smart, blunt and blessedly normal after years of Clara the human cipher. I love that she doesn’t wait in the TARDIS as The Doctor commands her to do. I love that she tries to solve problems her own way. Pearl Mackie seems to be having the time of her life in this role and it comes across to the viewer.

I can’t say the same for Matt Lucas’ Nardole. In Series 10 I haven’t had a problem with his acting, but his character is a non-start. The story can work perfectly well without him being in it. I feel I could grow to like Nardole, but right now, I’m not sure what layer he adds to the story, if any.

The Doctor

I remember someone saying once that a Doctor always finds his feet with the companion who starts with him first. Though I liked Twelve and Clara far more than I liked Eleven and Clara (too similar in personality and they drowned each other out), Clara’s Doctor was still always Eleven. I feel like Capaldi is really able to come into his own with Bill. No previous writing baggage, no weight of expectation. There is a quiet confidence to this series, just as there was to series 9, and I am excited to see where this will land both Bill and Twelve.

Series Arc

Again, Moffat seems to be emulating RTD in going for a snippet story-arc style which is straight forward to follow, but will presumably come into focus come finale style. As long as Moffat doesn’t throw the proverbial kitchen sink at his final story arc in the finale as both he and RTD have done in the past, I’m happy to take a less complex approach to the story for now.

Who told The Doctor to guard the box? What’s inside it? Is it good, bad or both? Why is Nardole caught up in the guarding of the box? I guess we wait for tonight to find out the next lot of bread crumbs leading to the gingerbread house which is Twelve and Moffat’s end. See you on the other side…

Smile: 6/10 inky stars for an above average plot, with decent pacing until the rushed end (this could have been a two parter) and the continuation of a winning combo with Twelve/Bill.

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Doctor Who: The Pilot Review

And so it begins! A new season of Doctor Who after a year’s hiatus and two measly Christmas specials. And boy is it good to be back. It might not be the best drama on television, or the best comedy either, but for sheer reliable outrageous fun, a new episode of Doctor Who beats everything else out there hands down…

I went into this episode with no real expectations. I’ve tried to avoid the promotional hype around New Who as much as possible as I like to be surprised. I had seen images of Pearl Mackie, but had no real opinion of her appearance or acting ability. I like the Twelfth Doctor, I generally like Moffat Who and Series 9 was an especially strong season of the show in my humble opinion(the strongest since Series 5 by my book), but I was bored to tears by The Return of Doctor Mysterio. So what did I think?

I agree with many other pro reviewers who saw this as a soft series reboot, right down to the knowing episode title. We got a new companion who has no prior knowledge of The Doctor and his TARDIS, meaning we as viewers saw the show fresh through her eyes. We got an episode which doesn’t rely on past knowledge of the show (it’s arguable that the photos of Susan and River Song on The Doctor’s desk are merely fan service), and we got an alien lite episode ala Rose to get new viewers used to our favorite time travelling gang. Moffat still proves in this episode that he has a way of pinning down the human condition and relationships and how we understand the world the same way that our greatest fantasy writers do. Quotes like this one:

Hunger looks very much like evil from the other end of the cutlery. Do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?

And this one:

Time. Time doesn’t pass. Time is an illusion. And Life is the magician. Because Life only lets you see one day at a time. You remember being alive yesterday, you hope you’re going to be alive tomorrow, so it feels like you are traveling one to the other, but nobody’s moving anywhere! Movies don’t really move. They’re just pictures, just lots and lots of pictures, all of them still. None of them moving, just frozen moments!

Simply reaffirm for me that beneath the story writing pressures and mistakes and clever gimmicks Moffat falls back on in his TV storytelling, there is a great fantasy novelist waiting for the perfect opportunity to come out hidden there somewhere. Anyhow, The Pilot is fun, if slight, with some great character moments for new companion, Bill.

New Companion Bill

I loved the concept of The Doctor as a university lecturer and I loved why Bill was in his office (because she smiled when confronted with questions she didn’t know the answer to). I wasn’t a huge fan of Clara or of her story trajectory and felt that she only really worked as a plot device until the Series 8 finale and all of Series 9 when she morphed into a Doctor-like role. With Bill, for the first time in a while, there is a companion in the TARDIS who meets The Doctor by chance and bonds with The Doctor through common quirks of personality, rather than because they are a mystery to be solved. I like mysteries as much as the next person, but am ready for a companion who is exactly who she says she is.

Having said that, a friend’s partner did point out the way the camera panned on the Doctor’s photographs of River Song and his granddaughter Susan coupled with the way The Doctor went out of his way to take photographs of Bill’s Mum to surmise that Bill could somehow be related to Susan through her Mum. Though I’m always happy for some in show Susan loving, and it’s not a shabby theory, I’m not sure I’m ready for another companion mystery. Rather, I assumed that The Doctor went back in time to take photograph’s of Bill’s Mum because Bill had been sad when she mentioned she didn’t have any photos of her Mum to The Doctor (and we all know The Doctor doesn’t interfere in people or planets unless there’s children crying).

Bill and her character was a key part of The Pilot in other ways too. This week’s horror film inspired big bad puddle needed a host to move around through and landed on Bill’s crush, Heather, as the perfect host. Bill’s story about selling chips to Heather was a nice way of establishing Bill’s sexuality and the mundane boredom of her life in comparison to the one we know she will soon gain through travelling with The Doctor. It also meant we felt sad when Heather had to let Bill go and Bill had to let Heather go, beyond saving. The obligatory companion ‘bigger on the inside’ was excellent as was the toilet gag and I loved the brief view of Australia before The Doctor whisked Bill to The Daleks and another nod to yesteryear (this time through Destiny of the Daleks and the Movellans). By episode’s end, I was grinning as much as Bill was at joining The Doctor and Nardole in The TARDIS.

Nardole: The Second Companion

I always like it when there’s more than one companion in The TARDIS. There’s more scope for actor’s to bounce off each other. Look no further than The Pond years where The Doctor vs River vs Amy vs Rory banter was enormously fun. I’m not always keen on Matt Lucas, but his Nardole is growing on me. I feel that with time and the right script, Nardole could really come into his own beyond the mere comedic.

The Mystery

For once in Moffat Who the mystery starts light. Just what is The Doctor and Nardole protecting inside the university and why? Is it to protect something or to prevent something getting out? And will the show keep revisiting Twelve as the university lecturer so we can keep revisiting this mysterious box? Does that mean we’ll see more of Bill and her foster Mum as Bill navigates time travel and ordinary life and relationships? Certainly, one of the major criticisms of Moffat Who is the lack of meaningful family life for his companions, so this could be a good way to keep Bill feeling rounded. Finally, will Bill find out what’s in the box, and it it, as my friend’s partner suspects, connected to Bill in some way?

There’s only one way to find out folks, and that’s by tuning in next week…

The Pilot: 8/10 inky stars for a solid and fun start to series 10

PS: Did I seen Simm Master in that series trailer? WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING MOFF????

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Q&A with author Deborah O’Brien

Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer and visual artist. She is the author of the bestselling Mr Chen’s Emporium, its sequel The Jade Widow, plus A Place of Her Own and The Trivia Man, as well as a dozen non-fiction books. Her latest novel is The Rarest Thing.

deborah-obrien_colour5x7-600

1. You’re a visual artist as well as a teacher and writer. How does your visual work creep into your writing?

That’s a very interesting question. As a visual artist, I’m always experimenting with light and shade and I suspect I’ve carried that approach into my novels, creating dark moments to tone down a tendency to be ‘heart-warming’. Another aspect of being an artist/writer is that I picture the scenes in my head as I write them, as though it’s a film, which means the writing process becomes both a visual and a text-based experience.

2. You write historical fiction. What is it that draws you to the historical?

It’s the time travel, the notion of journeying into the past and becoming immersed in another world. I always think of that famous quote from the novelist L.P. Hartley, who wrote The Go-Between: ‘The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.’ I enjoy exploring those ‘foreign countries’, whether it’s the 1870s in Mr Chen’s Emporium, or 1966 in The Rarest Thing, or the 1930s and ’40s, which is the setting of the manuscript I’m writing at the moment. In many ways, writing historical fiction is pure escapism.

3. Do you have any tips for the aspiring historical fiction writer?

Do your research. Familiarise yourself with the period. Live there in your imagination until you know it intimately, and then just start writing. You can fact-check the details as you go along. Oh, and resist the temptation to dump chunks of historical information into the story, no matter how fascinating you might find them – too much historical detail can overwhelm a manuscript and slow down the narrative. The historical infrastructure of a novel should act like the electricals in a house – everything should work properly, but you really don’t need to see the wiring.

4. The Rarest Thing features a paleontologist main character. Are you yourself interested in fossils or where did the idea come from?

I find fossils fascinating but I have to confess my only experience of paleontology has been watching Sam Neill and Laura Dern in Jurassic Park! Actually, it took me a while to come up with an occupation for Katharine. What kind of job would enable her to accompany Scott King on his High Country trek to locate and photograph the mountain pygmy possum in its habitat? A photographer’s assistant? A journalist? Then my lovely niece Natalie, who’s a zoologist at the Melbourne University, came up to Sydney to measure koala skulls at the Australian Museum as part of her ongoing research into koalas and climate change. I was so intrigued by Natalie’s work that I decided to make Katharine a scientist. A zoologist like Natalie would have been the obvious choice, but I’d already formed a mental picture of someone more comfortable with ancient bones than living, breathing creatures.

5. The Rarest Thing is the first time you’ve self-published a novel. Have you learnt any lessons along the way?

Yes, I certainly have! For a start, I’ve learnt how difficult it is to wear multiple hats: writer, editor, designer, publicist and so on. I’m more comfortable with some of those roles than others. I did outsource a few aspects of this project – the proofreading, for example, and the printing, of course.

I’ve also learnt to typeset a manuscript. I know that sounds odd but it turned out to be a deeply satisfying experience. The way the words fall on the page has always been important to me, and in this case, I could actually tweak the text myself. I worked through the book, word by word, line by line, adjusting the spaces and playing with the layout. It was like knitting a jumper, stitch by stitch – a surprisingly creative process.

6. What was your favourite part of writing The Rarest Thing?

I really enjoyed writing the early chapters where Katharine and Scott meet for the first time and begin to develop a friendship. I wrote those scenes like a ‘meet cute’ romance novel but with hints that the book would deal with some very dark issues. I also loved writing about the Burramys (mountain pygmy possum), both as a character in its own right and as a metaphor for Katharine’s situation.

Thanks so much for answering these question, Deborah, and good luck with your new release The Rarest Thing. For those keen to follow Deborah, you can find her on Facebook here and at her website here. You can purchase her new release novel at Lomandra Press. Finally, you can read my review of The Rarest Thing here.

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Book Review: The Rarest Thing

Title: The Rarest Thing
Author: Deborah O’Brien
Publication Date: November 2016
Publisher: Lomandra Press
RRP – Limited Gift Edition Paperback: $29.99
RRP – Ebook: $14.99
Purchasing Info: ‘The Rarest Thing’ (signed gift edition paperback or ebook) is available direct from Lomandra Press: www.lomandrapress.com.au (It will not be available in bookshops at this stage.)

From Penguin Random House author, Deborah O’Brien (author of historical fictions including the best-selling Mr Chen’s Emporium and romances such as The Trivia Man) comes a new novel that marries O’Brien’s love for the historical with her love for a good romance with depth.

the-rarest-thing-cover

From the press release…

It’s 1966, and a mountain pygmy possum – a species that scientists considered to be long extinct – is discovered in the Victorian High Country and transported to Melbourne where newspapers dub it ‘the world’s rarest creature’. Thirty-year-old Dr Katharine Wynter is a palaeontologist who’s more comfortable with ancient bones than live human beings, particularly men – an exotic species of which she has little personal experience, apart from a predatory professor who has made her working life hell. Having studied the tiny possum in fossil form, Katharine is curious to see it in the flesh, but her visit is disrupted by the presence of wildlife photographer, Scott King, taking pictures for an international magazine.

Soon Katharine and Scott are thrown together on a quest to locate the miniature marsupials in their habitat – the rugged Australian Alps. Along the way, the timid scientist discovers a side to her character she never knew existed, while the dashing photographer abandons his bravado and confronts memories he’s hidden for decades.

As for the elusive possums, the cute little creatures lead their pursuers on a merry chase…

Book Review

I very rarely read romance of any kind, and especially not the new craze that is rural romance. However, when Deborah approached me about her latest novel, I was intrigued enough to give it a shot on the strength of another novel of hers I’d read in the past which allowed for romance in a historical setting with a real sense of pathos and authenticity. Deborah is an author who doesn’t take the easy story-telling route and I knew that any romance story she told would be complex with fully fleshed out characters. I wasn’t wrong.

The two protagonists of The Rarest Thing, Katherine and Scott, both have dark ghosts that haunt their chances at relationships despite their appealing natures. Katherine may be an intelligent and relatively successful academic (given her status as woman in a university in the 1960s) but she faces the derision and the exploitation that some women faced in positions of previously male dominated roles. Scott is handsome, creative and therefore in no shortage of opportunities Katherine imagines, but then, he has his own terrible family secrets.

possum

The novel is prefaced by a quote from Oscar Wilde: To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Though ostensibly about an expedition to find a pygmy possum, really this story is about coming to terms with who one is as a person and remembering to make the most of every moment. Both Katherine and Scott start The Rarest Thing living part-lives, either because of fear or because of repressed emotions and doubts. In the end, as they find possums, each other, and finally true love, the two realize they can move beyond automaton existence and truly live.

The Rarest Thing is a beautiful, truly Australian romance between two people who have complex and rounded pasts. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Australian nature, history, a positive message and a dash of mature, adult romance.

The Rarest Thing: 4/5 inky stars

Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow up Q&A with the author!

About the Author: Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer and visual artist. She is the author of the bestselling Mr Chen’s Emporium, its sequel The Jade Widow, plus A Place of Her Own and The Trivia Man, as well as a dozen non-fiction books.

www.deborahobrien.com.au/

 

 

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