In Praise of the New 

Louise Pfanner shares her latest discoveries.

May 2017

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to my favourite dog in print—Emma Chichester Clark’s Plumdog. Despite reviewing all of her previous books and referring to her correctly as a girl, I carelessly referred to her as ‘he’ in the April Gleaner’s children’s books page. Plum, I’m sorry. Plumdog has been the central character in an excellent book of comic strips, and two beautiful children’s picture books, and she has her own hilarious blog (‘Plumdog Blog’). So I’m very happy to say that Plum has another new book—The Plumdog Path to Perfection—a handy guide to life, full of wisdom from well known sages, and lots of unknown ones as well ($23, HB). If you have ever had a dog, you’ll recognise a lot of the sentiments, and if not, you’ll enjoy it anyway. Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations are a joy, perfectly matched with each guiding phrase. With advice on perfect friendship, perfect character, perfect love and even a small section called ‘Not absolutely perfect’, this little book will happily lead you onto the path of perfection.
Speaking of perfection, Mimi Thorisson’s new cookbook, French Country Cooking ($50), would be almost impossible to believe in, such is the level of beauty and perfection in her life, if it weren’t for the very down to earth way she writes, and her fabulous recipes. The author and her photographer husband, Oddur Thorisson, live with their many children and many dogs, in a beautiful old house in a small village in the Médoc region of France—surrounded by vineyards and gardens. The house, the family, and the region are all extremely picturesque, and the recipes all beautifully styled and photographed. Each detailed recipe has an excellent introduction, cleverly making the reader feel ‘I can do that’. There’s a very informative section on wine, and a chapter about the restaurant the family run in the house.
M. E. McGuire’s Cynthia Nolan: A Biography ($30) is both greatly lacking in detail, and admirably lacking gossip. Most of the book is about Cynthia Reed’s younger life—she was born in 1908 in Evandale, Tasmania, the youngest child of a large, establishment family, with strict, straight laced parents. For someone from that background, at that time, Cynthia followed a really unconventional path. She was part of the Melbourne art scene, and opened an interior design shop in Little Collins Street. She studied dance and acting and became an actress in Hollywood, and she studied psychiatric nursing as well. She was also a single parent, and wrote several books. So why is this book not more interesting? I think the author has assumed her readers know the story of the extraordinary Cynthia Reed, her complex relationship with her brother and sister in law (John and Sunday Reed), and her marriage to Sidney Nolan. I did not know many of these facts, nor did I know that she was perceived as a ‘difficult woman’, and I still don’t really understand why. As a book, it’s admirably brief, and accessible, with clear footnotes at the end of each chapter, but it’s a very uneven look at a whole life. Louise

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