Book Fix / Pocket Book Club

Hungry and lost: Terra Nullius

IMG_1811The Pocket Bookclub does not have many rules. It is however customary for the month’s chooser of the book to bring supper. Of late these suppers have in part been inspired by the book.  Some members have been quite imaginative and set a high bar. Notably, our civil war inspired supper when discussing Lincoln in the Bardo.

This month was my book choice. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman. I must make supper. The problem is most of the characters in the book spend most of the time very hungry. Being hungry and thirsty is the key state of being. Starving to die hungry. Foods eaten were gruel, rotten fruit,  watery porridge, goanna, kangaroo and mouldy bread. No inspiration there. I went for the great fallback and cheese platter it was. You can’t go wrong with cheese. Unless you have a lactose issue.

As a person adverse to spoilers it is difficult to write about Terra Nullius. I had read there was a twist to this tale and that is what attracted me to it. Unfortunately, I looked at a photo of Claire and the caption beneath included the spoiler. Really. Be careful.

The point is that the book changes tack at its midpoint. This produced a mixed reaction in the pocket bookclub readers. While some were pleasantly surprised, others were underwhelmed, and another set felt the analogy of the book would have been better served if the ‘big reveal’ were actually a slow reveal.

Terra Nullius is about the colonisation of Australia. It is about longing for home and to belong and endurance against the odds.

“It was always a problem for him defining ‘lost’; he had a vague idea where he was but he had no real idea where he was going. East was a direction, not a destination. Jerramungup was a place but he had no idea where it was…He was not lost, he just didn’t know where he was going; he was not lost, his destination was.” p57

And on the topic of hunger (in case you did not believe me earlier!)

“Hunger – desperate, painful hunger – …There was no greater drive, no greater force in behaviour than hunger; it trumps even sex, the desire to breed, for those desires do not exist in the truly hungry. People will do almost anything if you starve them long enough. p80

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11 thoughts on “Hungry and lost: Terra Nullius

  1. Which camp did you fall into — pleasantly surprised, underwhelmed or slow reveal? I have a copy but haven’t started it yet. Thanks for the spoiler avoidance tip!

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  2. Haha, Kathryn, that would have been hard to food match! My reading group did Helen Garner this week – the day before ANZAC day, and so the host did Anzac biscuits, and scones, jam and cream. Nicely Aussie which suited both the author and the day. We don’t though make a practice of matching supper to the book, but occasionally a host will do so if something pops up. I don’t think many of us would like the pressure of feeling we had to?

    My group’s previous book was Terra Nullius, as you may have seen me report on my blog. No-one liked it – except me. And now, you’ll be cross I suppose because I didn’t worry about spoiling “the reveal” in my review, because it happens so relatively early in the book. I think if you are going to talk about the book seriously you need to talk about this. I guess I don’t think that plot point is critical to my enjoyment of the novel? I did check out a few reviews before I wrote mine and saw that people took different approaches. I don’t usually do spoilers, and when I do I write a warning sign in red, but I seriously felt that you can’t spoil something that happens so early in the book?

    But maybe as a writer, you feel strongly about this issue??

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  3. I first read Lisa’s review and I was intrigued when she said there would be an unexpected surprise. It was the not knowing which made me want to read it. I did not want to spoil that anticipation for others. On the other hand the concept is interesting enough to probably have brought me to the book anyway. That is why I am in the slow reveal camp. Many of the issues your book club group had were the reactions of my book club too! We decided high expectations can be dangerous. The readers with the least expectations liked it the most.

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    • I know what you mean about high expectations – they area dangerous thing – but I’m not sure that was true in my group. Most of them barely knew of it.. Some asked why we were reading it. I’m not sure why they were so oblivious – all love reading but not all keep up with the literary world I think.

      Fair point re the spoiler issue. Another reason why I decided to go ahead the way I did, was because I felt (rightly or wrongly) that by the time I read it, it had been enough in the media for people to know.

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      • Yes, the horse has probably already bolted on the spoiler issue! I had been avoiding reading anything about it has I had it on my to-read pile. I don’t even like it when at the end of a tv show they want to show me highlights of next week’s episode.

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      • Actually, I pretty well never read reviews of books I expect to read. If I see them pop up on blogs I try to remember they’re there and come back later, or I read the first para and tell the blogger I’ll try to come back later. I don’t read newspaper review pages either. So, I regularly come to books not knowing the first thing about the plot or even the subject matter. (I thought The trauma cleaner – which I’m reading now – was a memoir and wondered who this Sandra Pankurst was who opens the book!! Then the penny dropped! I do listed to radio interviews with authors though – so sometimes I will know what a book is about.)

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