The Rebirth of Rapunzel – Kate Forsyth
FableCroft Publishing, 2016
In this mythic biography, Australian author Kate Forsyth traces the famous fairy tale of ‘Rapunzel’ from its earliest recorded origins down through centuries of retellings into the inventive, irreverent and exciting incarnations of the modern day. How well do you really know the maiden in the tower?
I was given a hardback of this book, with its gorgeous cover by Kathleen Jennings, as a Christmas gift from my sister, because she knows me well and fairy tale biography. It is a brilliant concept that Forsyth has researched meticulously and presented in a way that is immensely readable. Though I disagreed with some of her interpretations, the history and context of this fairy tale’s growth and change is so well presented that it allows the reader to form their own opinions based on those facts. Included in this book are some of Forsyth’s other essays about fantasy, science fiction and writing. There are spoilers for her ‘Rapunzel’ retelling Bitter Greens, so I would advise reading that first. I love fairy tales and have strong feelings about ‘Rapunzel’ in particular because I wrote a retelling of it myself; The Rebirth of Rapunzel is a book I am delighted to have on my shelf, and I would be thrilled to see more ‘mythic biographies’ like it.
A Table in the Orchard: My Delicious Life – Michelle Crawford
Ebury Press, 2015
A lifelong fantasy of moving to the country and living off the land comes true for Michelle Crawford and her family when they trade in Sydney for Tasmania’s Huon Valley. Determined to grow as much of their own food as possible, and even make a profit from it if they can, Michelle sets to work with a will on transforming their farmhouse into the home of her dreams. Such an undertaking will take all the time, money and energy that can be thrown at it…but the way there is worth it.
I expected more a memoir, less of a cookbook. Michelle Crawford goes into a lot of detail about the process of creating her kitchen, garden, orchard and side businesses, but not many day-to-day anecdotes and the word ‘vintage’ was used with startling frequency. However, the photographs generously scattered through the book are delightful, the recipes look delicious, and anyone planning a tree change couldn’t help but be inspired by Crawford’s experiences.
The Wife Drought – Annabel Crabb
Ebury Press, 2014
How do you have it all? By not doing it all. Where many studies examine the workplace and the home as separate spheres, Annabel Crabb looks at the points where they connect – and in many cases, painfully collide. From examining the advantages of having a stay-at-home spouse, to historical precedents in enforcing there be one, to the modern shake-up of gender roles that still somehow raises eyebrows, this book tries to pinpoint exactly what it means to have a ‘wife’, and what it means to manage without one.
I don’t read much non-fiction, let alone non-fiction containing half as many statistics as The Wife Drought, but Annabel Crabb’s breezy, wry style makes this book immensely readable. She turns questions of gender roles around to look at them from all angles and makes some truly fantastic points (how I opened that blurb is one of them and she is so right). You don’t realise how ingrained some of your assumptions are until they are gently poked into the open. Crabb also hosts the ABC’s political cooking show Kitchen Cabinet.