by Gretchen Shirm
The type of novels I like best are roughly around three hundred pages. There is something about the shape of narrative of that length of book that I find deeply satisfying. I think it is about the limitation that length imposes upon a writer – the narrative of the book has to be confined to that space, the novelist has to give more thought to what is left out and to silences. Silences, to me, are perhaps the most important thing about a novel.
Silences ask me as a reader to think, to insert myself into the book and to speak back. There are usually fewer silences in a longer book.
Many of my favourite novels are about this length – Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (288 pp), Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls, Fat and Thin (320 pp), Delia Falconer’s The Service of Clouds (322 pp), James Salter’s Light Years (308pp) and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (291 pp), for example. Many others are shorter.
In a longer novel, the focus is necessarily more diffuse; the canvas is larger.
Recently reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch made me think about the structure of the long novel and how it differs from the shorter one.
I’m always conscious when I pick up a longer novel of what else I could be reading in the same length of time. And perhaps, because of this, I demand more from the longer novel; I’m always conscious of the investment I am making in it.
I’m also very aware of the discipline of good writing – of the amount of material it requires a writer to throw away.
Part of me also resents the assumption that a longer novel is, because of its length, somehow more substantial than a shorter one.
From the moment I picked The Goldfinch up, I had to admit the book was riveting. Beginning with a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in which the 13 year old protagonist Theo Decker survives the incident, but loses his mother. It covers the span of over a decade until Theo reaches his mid twenties. While leaving the museum in the confusion of the aftermath of the explosion Theo removes Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch. The narrative is spun artfully around this missing masterpiece (in perhaps an ironic gesture, the painting itself is small). Theo’s guilt at having stolen the piece is meshed with his grief at having lost his mother in the same incident.
In order for a long novel to work, it must take on an architecture that is fundamentally different to the short novel. It requires an overarching plot to give the novel its continuity, but it also requires various subplots to sustain its length. At 771 pages, what is remarkable about The Goldfinch is its single perspective, first person narrative.
What I was attuned to in reading The Goldfinch was the way in which Tartt places a number of narrative threads in the novel that she picks up at a later point and through this structure, gives the novel its momentum and overwhelming sense of cohesion and inevitability.
This pattern is created from the very first page when we read that Theo is in Amsterdam as he narrates the book and has been involved in some type of crime. From this point, he tells us about the explosion that killed his mother, working from that point back (as a thirteen year old) to where he is today (as a twenty six year old). Already, we know the book is moving back towards Amsterdam, which already provides the book with its momentum.
It was this sort of placing and picking up on of key characters that seemed key to the movement of the novel. This occurs with Theo’s father, from whom Theo is estranged when the novel opens, but later plays a crucial role in Theo’s development. It also occurs with his school friend Boris, whom he meets in Las Vegas and years later runs into Theo in a bar in New York (this was the only ‘coincidence’ that I found slightly jarring.)
The second meeting with Boris divides the novel neatly in two. The first half of the novel has to do with Theo’s guilt about keeping The Goldfinch and his excruciating dilemma about whether to return it to the authorities. The second is in his effort to locate it after it is taken from him. With its two distinct parts, roughly covering Theo as a teenager and Theo as a young adult, The Goldfinch read to me like two novels in one.
Other elements include the three significant location changes in The Goldfinch: from New York to Los Vegas, back to New York, to Amsterdam. There is also a subplot about a man who tries to bribe Theo for the painting, another plot involving Theo’s fraudulent sale of several pieces of antique furniture and his betrothal to the sister of his childhood friend Andy Barbour, with whom he had lived after his mother died.
Whereas in the shorter novel, everything is working towards a single point, in the longer novel, there is often the sense of many of its separate threads finally coalescing. In the longer novel, there is usually more plot, more story, more characters than in a shorter novel. In a way, the focus in the longer novel is necessarily on resolving many of the unruly elements of the book that have been introduced to sustain its length.
In the shorter novel, the gratification for me is more often an emotional one – in the intimate account I have been offered of a character, in coming to understand that character as a human being, I have also come to terms with a part of myself. In the longer novel, the satisfaction often, and certainly in The Goldfinch, comes from bringing together the many different characters, plots and subplots into a resolution of events.
I do often admire the longer novel for its sheer scale and the ambition of its writer. The longer novel covers more surface area. Like The Goldfinch, it often involves a broader cast of characters, more locations and events and yet, sometimes I feel when the effort is on so many things, it is taken away from the smaller, subtler details. The smaller details, the finite observations about people, what they do and how they do what they do. The details that disclose a person; they tell us the things a character doesn’t know even about themselves.
Sometimes, with a longer novel, I am in a way offered more, but I often find myself leaving with less.
by Gretchen Shirm
When I was younger, it happened all the time that writing changed me. This was because I had read so little, that everything I read seemed new and profound. When I was at high school, novels did this to me. Then it was short stories and poetry. Now, it is usually non-fiction. I read so much, it is rare that I read a piece of writing that has a world altering affect on me.
‘Against Interpretation’[i] was one of the few pieces of writing that changed everything for me. Specifically, it changed how I read and how I look at art. Never do I read a novel now without being conscious of the need to see the writing for what it is; I pay much more attention to words and sentences than to plot and content.
Susan Sontag in a bear suit. (Paris Review)
That the simple act of assigning meaning to a work might be to do it violence sounded revolutionary to me when I read this essay. I was therefore dumbstruck when I realised the essay was written before I was born. Sontag wrote the essay in 1964, at the height of modernism (shortly after Clement Greenberg’s famous essay ‘Modernist Painting’). In some sense, it was a response to the specific art movement of that time and is therefore in some senses dated. Sontag acknowledges as much in her essay ‘Thirty Years Later…’[ii]
In order to explain the effect this essay had on me, I have to convey my own version of it and in doing so, I am acutely aware of the irony of offering an interpretation of a text that derides interpretation. What I hope to do is to offer enough of a snapshot of it to explain the effect it had on me.
Essentially, what Sontag argues is that the role of the critic is not to convey what a work of art means, but what it is. Sontag begins the essay by observing that art was originally conceived by the Greek philosophisers as the interpretation of reality. Interpretation of art as an exercise, Sontag writes, is essentially reductive. It takes the elements of a piece of work and reduces it to less than the whole. In the act of interpretation, the text itself is altered, but the critic can’t admit that any violence is being done to the work and instead maintains that the act of interpretation discloses ‘its true meaning.’ (p. 6).
The tone of the essay is forceful, even polemic. Like much of Sontag’s writing, it entertains no alternate view. Her case is put so strongly, it is almost enough to ridicule any dissent into silence before it is spoken. That, I think, is part of Sontag’s particular appeal.
Interpretation, Sontag writes at her most fervent, is, the intellect’s revenge on art (presumably because the intellect is not capable of producing the work himself).
Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world – in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings”. (p. 7)
And later this gem, ‘Interpretation makes art manageable, comfortable.’ (p. 8).
Her essential problem with the critics of her time was their focus on content and meaning over form. In accordance with this model of criticism, Sontag writes that A Streetcar Named Desire has been read as an allegory for the decline of western civilisation and the tank in Bergman’s The Silence, a phallic symbol (p. 9).
Abstract expressionism, Sontag tells us was a deliberate attempt to defy interpretation. It attempted to have no content, so that no meaning could be attributed to it. It was a direct response to the criticism of art. Instead, the artwork became, about the form, even about the paint. What Sontag wants from critics is more attention to form and style (her essay ‘On Style’ goes into more detail about what she means when she refers to these elements). Famously, Sontag concludes her essay with these words,
In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art. (p.14).
Whilst I don’t agree with everything Sontag writes in this essay, it revolutionised the way I read and look at art. I no longer read ‘realism’ as an unmediated and seamless picture of the world, but as the use of language in a way that attempts to show the world as we see it. It has made me very aware of words, sentences and structure. When I look at a painting, I try to remind myself to look at the paint and brushstrokes and how the image has been formed by colour and lines.
It would be, I think, impossible to write about a work of art or a book at all without falling foul of some of Sontag’s rules. And to be unable to write about art or writing would be to significantly diminish our exposure to books and art. Good criticism, I think, pays attention to most of the tenets of Sontag’s essay and the work of criticism that gives a general appraisal of plot and pays no attention to style or form is of very limited value. I always balk at critical assessments that use metaphor in an effort to convey the work’s meaning – that is overstepping the critic’s role. Something essential, I think, to what Sontag is saying is that the artwork does and ought to be allowed to speak for itself.
When I am reviewing a book, I always repeat Sontag’s penultimate incantation to myself.
‘The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.’ (p. 14).
I try to remind myself that I must convey how, through words, language and sentences the text is what is. Having done that I cannot, however, claim to have always resisted the impulse to sometimes also say what I think it means.
[i] Sontag S (2009). Against Interpretation and other essays, Penguin Classics, Pp 4-13
[ii]Sontag S (1961). Where the Stress Falls, Penguin Classics, pp. 268-273
Second photo (C) Gretchen Shirm
A huge thanks to Claire Scobie for her excellent posts on the process of The Pagoda Tree.
This month, our blogger is Gretchen Shirm. Her bio is below.
Gretchen Shirm’s collection of interwoven short stories Having Cried Wolf was published in September 2010 and was shortlisted for the UTS/Glenda Adams Award for New Writing. In 2011, she was named as a Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Novelist. Her writing has been published in Best Australian Stories 2011, Review of Australian Fiction, Southerly, Sydney Review of Books and The Saturday Paper. She is a candidate for her Doctor of Creative Arts at the Writing & Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney.
by Claire Scobie
Trust the process. If I learned anything writing The Pagoda Tree, it is that. Except, like with any lessons, it’s easy to forget.
Over the past three weeks I’ve written about the fun stuff: planning, dreaming and researching a novel. The actual writing is much thornier. From the start I knew I needed to get the scenes down, however rough. Louis de Bernieres confirmed that approach after telling me how bogged down he became researching his epic Birds without Wings. If you research first and write later there’s a danger of getting lost in the morass of reading and sinking into your sources without trace.
For sure, you need to know enough about your world to get your characters moving. But it’s easy to get caught up in the details. Early on I couldn’t find out what transport they used in 1770s Madras. Was it a hackney carriage or a palanquin? After spending several hours trawling through my notes and online I realised it didn’t matter at that point in the writing process. What mattered was advancing the story.
Although I found generating the material hard, really hard sometimes, my focus remained on completing a first draft. I think of a first draft as a lump of raw clay. You go down to the river and scoop up this messy, formless mixture. It spills over the bucket and has a mind of its own. But if you don’t have the clay you can’t mould your pot. You can’t imagine what shape it will look like or what glaze will make it shine in the final design.
I’m no stranger to what former editor at the Good Weekend magazine, Fenella Souter, describes as the ‘slough of despond’. That midpoint when you can’t figure a way through, when it seems the story will never become coherent. For a feature article it may last a few days or a few weeks, rarely longer.
A book requires something else. I found the writing software Scrivener invaluable at compiling everything in one project. It also gave me my total word count. A year into writing and my research, character sketches and scenes totalled 100,000 words. Panic set in. I wondered if I’d ever find a way through.
When I was writing Last Seen in Lhasa I wrote out one of Ben Okri’s quotes and stuck it on my wall. ‘A true story-teller suffers the chaos and the madness, the nightmare – resolves it all, sees clearly, and guides you surely through the fragmentation and shifting world.’ As that was non-fiction and based around my seven journeys to Tibet, the story had limits.
A novel is a much bigger beast. I thought if I gave myself a brief and wrote to that, the structure would become clear. I wanted to be able to tick things off my to-do list. Yet my goal posts kept shifting. I think structure is the hardest aspect to get right and as a writing tutor, the hardest to teach. Chronology and compressing time can help, so can devices like using the seasons. In historical fiction, facts can be useful in anchoring your characters. They can also become shackles if you rely on them. During this time I deconstructed many novels, analysing them scene by scene. I read some books on craft and found James Wood’s How fiction works illuminating.
On some days it seemed to help. Other days, when I sat down at my desk it was like being blindfolded in a house with many corridors and rooms, stairs up, down and sideways. I felt overwhelmed, unable to do anything. Initially I didn’t want to plan too much and adopted the ‘writing into the void’ technique. This scattergun approach frees up the writing and encourages imaginative play. I thought if I made plans or wrote a synopsis I’d lose the magic.
What magic you ask? When your characters appear to move themselves across the page. Early on I had a mini-epiphany that they can’t do this in isolation of each other. It’s obvious to me now but it wasn’t back then. Conflict is a driver in plot because it puts characters in relation to each other – not necessarily against each other, although that works too – and that creates a forward momentum in the narrative.
Of course there is no right way to write and many authors talk about embracing the chaos. And yet, the more immersed you become in a story, the harder it is to see a path through. Salman Rushdie gave me heart. ‘When I’m writing a book, sentence by sentence, I’m not thinking theoretically,’ he says. ‘I’m just trying to work out the story from inside the characters I’ve got.’
Choosing my point of view wasn’t the issue, it was juggling my cast of characters. I knew who they were and stayed with each of them long enough to get into their stride. While there were gaps I didn’t fuss about them. I thought that a time would come when I could pull my different strands together.
As a way to chart my progress I kept a daily writing journal. Really this was mental flossing – a way to get out of my head and into the project. This is a typical entry. ‘It feels so enormous. This is such a rough draft and requires so much a) revision b) research c) work on it! Yeeks…’
I found rhythmic exercise helped – walking, yoga, the gym – as a way to loosen my rational mind and allow the subconscious to give me answers. I went to a weekend writing workshop with Buddhist author Joyce Kornblatt who reassured us that a novel takes many drafts. ‘It isn’t that writers are obsessive-compulsive, although they might be if they never stopped, it is because each time you do a draft you learn something new about the book,’ she said.
Each time I went back over what I’d written I used my inner ‘divining rod’ to see where there was a relaxation in the narrative or a more nuanced point of view. To see where the spark, tension and energy were. I kept working with my characters and sensed there was too much competition between them. One day it dawned on me. Just as European men dominated the archival research, they were taking over my narrative.
Looking back I see that I didn’t trust myself to write from the perspective of an eighteenth-century Indian woman. I felt I didn’t have permission. Then after re-reading a scene of Maya dancing, it became clear. The way forward was with my character, Maya, the young temple dancer. She was driving the scenes, not reacting. She had agency and courage. She was a force on the page. After 18 months of wrangling, I emerged from the forest blinking into the light.
There was still a long way to go but I’d found path. Or a trace of one. Footsteps in the sand. A way ahead.
The Pagoda Tree http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780670077335/pagoda-tree
www.clairescobie.com Twitter @clairescobie
Photos were taken from Fotolia. Dancer’s hand (C) f9photos. Foorprints (C) Alexander Ozerov.
by Claire Scobie
I’ve often found libraries sexy places to work; none more so than the British Library in London. As you walk up the marble steps, you feel the tension. Everyone is focused, everyone is busy. You can’t dawdle or daydream here. Inside the reading rooms the atmosphere is hushed. It’s this intensity, a combination of intellectual stimulation, furious study and a reverence – for books, for the written word – that fuels the headiness of the creative process.
During the four years working on The Pagoda Tree I spent many weeks there. My favourite place to write and read was in the cavernous rare books room. The library is home to some of the world’s most famous tomes including the original Magna Carta and the Gutenberg Bible. It also houses the India Office Records, the repository of all documentation of the East India Company.
Disappointingly I never had to wear white gloves as I leafed through eighteenth-century journals. But I did experience my first taste of ‘archive fever’. English novelist Sarah Waters (Tipping the Velvet, The Night Watchman) once described how her characters seem to ‘come out of the mist’ of the historical material once she’s done enough. But how much is enough? Kate Mosse (Labyrinth, Citadel) says she spends three-quarters of the time it takes her to write a novel doing the research. I knew that what I found in the British Library would only provide half my story.
On my second visit there I was figuring out my character, Thomas Pearce, who goes to India to make his fortune. I came across a reference of an anonymous diary, Mss Eur E292. Dated March to September 1773, the exact time that Thomas arrives in Madras, it was described as ‘in the form of letters addressed to Charles Maynard, 1st Viscount Maynard, of a voyage from Portsmouth to Madras on the East Indiaman Harcourt.’ An hour after ordering it, I picked up a heavy leather-bound book, velvety to touch. I carried it carefully to my desk. Inside, the thick yellowing paper was watermarked; the inked writing flowery and cursive.
Ross Gibson, professor of contemporary arts at Sydney University, describes how the moment you first approach a historical object, you need to be attentive to everything left behind, ‘to the drama, to the semantics and form.’ He encourages writers to wait for the artefact to tell you what it wants you to know. He says that some have a ‘sense of pulse and flare’ and as you work with them, there’s a moment of realisation. This is the essence of archive fever: when the past streams into the present. Something shifts, like a piercing through the fabric of time.
Unlike the majority of primary sources in the India Office Records, this text was anonymous. By knowing the recipient of the letters, though, I sensed traces of the author. I guessed him to be a well-educated clerk rather than a friend of Viscount Maynard. From his writing, the power balance was clearly favoured towards the viscount, most likely his patron.
As I read through, making notes as I went, my excitement grew. There were some apposite details and a baldness of language. ‘A crooked flagstaff; a parcel of black fellows; a repast of bacon and cabbage.’ Later on, he writes plaintively how ‘we had to wait while our Excellency put on a pair of breeches.’ I realised how time moved more slowly back then and this was important to understand my characters. God knows, it could take a year to reach India by ship. And that’s if you arrived there at all.
Through these letters – sometimes banal, often prejudiced – I was entering into the same world as my character Thomas. I read quickly, wanting to find out what happened. And then, the story suddenly ended. Blank pages. The letters stop. What happened to the author: did he die, did he give up?
Over the months I went back to the manuscript, always looking for more traces. I tried to be alert to how it made me feel. Sometimes repulsed, other times moved. He was hemmed-in – by duty – and buttoned-up – by his masculinity. Yet his curiosity was endearing and some of that quality seeped into Thomas.
But that single anonymous text had a much deeper influence on my final story. I knew the author had a name, though he chose not to include it. For whatever reason, he named his patron over himself. This, I imagined, was deliberate.
In archival research, naming matters. It mattes a lot. From a colonial perspective, the deliberate un-naming of native peoples was a way to marginalise, dispossess, control and subjugate. According to the cultural theorist, Edward Said, naming and categorising was one way that the West controlled the East. This extended to keeping native women out of the official records.
I teased this idea out in my novel. It became a quiet theme and one that was important to me. Not only were Indian women rarely named in official records, they were unidentified in eighteenth-century paintings, which I often referred to in my research. And even when these women had long relationships with British men, the custom was for him to name himself and his children in the baptism register. The mother – usually a non-Christian – remained nameless. In a very small way, I wanted The Pagoda Tree to challenge this silence.
Now, two years after I’ve finished my novel and a year since its publication, I’m seeing how pivotal one artefact can be, how its influence bleeds into a story. The fact that Mss Eur E292 was anonymous meant it became a leveller. I could inject my character in there and it could respond without taking over. I only wish I could have worn white gloves as I turned its pages.
Thanks to Rachel Morley at the Writing and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney for introducing me to the phenomenon of ‘archive fever’. Thanks, too, to the Centre for organising the Creative Ecologies Retreat in 2011 where I heard Ross Gibson talk.
Photos were taken from Fotolia. British Library (C) Jgz. Manuscript (C) ulkan.
by Claire Scobie
On my second visit to Thanjuvar, I interviewed the current Prince, Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, in his palace with its air of fading grandeur. I was hoping for pomp and ceremony, but he arrived in beige slacks and a pressed white shirt. He’s a modern Prince – he’s on Linked-In.
As we sat drinking chai in a dark room hung with chandeliers and portraits of his royal predecessors, he mentioned we were sitting in the original harem. I felt a frisson of excitement. My character, Palani, is based on the real Muddupalani, a royal courtesan and poet who lived in the palace in the mid-1700s. I wondered, would she have languished on a low divan or paced as she tried to find the rhythm in her bold, sexy poetry?
When I told him I was researching the history of women like her and asked whether any would have had relationships with European men, he said, unlikely. ‘Society was – and still is – very conservative.’
I chose to set The Pagoda Tree in the mid-eighteenth-century because, unlike the later Raj era, there was still the possibility of exchange between cultures. Paintings and travelogues from the Georgian period indicate that the temple dancer was a well-recognised figure in European literary and artistic circles. In part this was a reflection of her visible presence in Indian society; in part the fascination – bordering on fetishism – that European men had with the exotic.
Despite what the prince said, there are accounts of European men who had sexual liaisons with Indian women; some who had troupes of dancing girls. The English lawyer and memoirist, William Hickey, wrote with great affection about his Indian wife or bibi in his memoirs. In 1778 the East India Company directors went so far as to declare that they would give five rupees to every child of a rank soldier baptised in Madras. This policy did not last, however. From 1786, Anglo-Indians – those of mixed race – were excluded from European social and political life.
I soon realised the sensitivity and complexity of these issues: both of inter-racial relations and the status of these women in general. One journalist was contemptuous when I told him of my interest in devadasis; a Chennai academic told me of ‘the shame’ she experienced when doing interviews with their descendants.
As a journalist, I’ve been taught to dig deeper. The more resistance I face when researching a story, the more determined I am to pursue the leads. Then, as often happens, found an ally in Dr Perumal, the affable senior librarian at the Saraswati Mahal Library, in the Royal Palace. He found me somewhere to sit as I poured over dusty manuscripts; he ensured I received the hourly cup of sweet chai brought to all the workers.
One afternoon Dr Perumal invited me over to his desk and unfurled a yellowing eighteenth-century map of the city, pointing out where the British troops were garrisoned and the proximity to the street where the devadasis lived. Remnants of the barracks still exist next to the ‘Big Temple’. In order for the devadasis to reach the temple to perform their daily rituals, they would have had to walk past the garrison and Dr Puramel encouraged me to physically retrace their steps. He also conceded, with a wry smile, that it wasn’t out of the question that a relationship between a devadasi and a British man could have developed.
This is where I started experiencing ‘history with my feet’. I retraced the path that my main character, Maya, and her family, would have walked. I watched the nightly Bharatanatyam dance performances at the palace. These follow the tradition of the devadasis’ dance repertoire, albeit with much of the sensuality excised.
One day I found myself on the back of a bullock cart heading to an outlying village to celebrate the spring festival Pongal. The rutted road was lined with bushels of sugar cane and the rain pelted down. Later on, in a palm leafed feasting tent, I suddenly got a real sense of my character, Walter, an English reverend. I imagined him sitting there in itchy woolen breeches, uncomfortable in the dampness, uncomfortable in his skin.
The next morning one of the prince’s aides called me excitedly to say my picture was in The Hindu on page three. ‘There you are, Madam, most elegant on the back of a bullock cart.’ Not usually words I would associate, but delightful all the same. I kept a copy for my scrapbook.
I have a strong (though unsubstantiated) belief that stories have a life force of their own. The deeper you go, the more likely the right person, phrase or document, will land in your lap. Sometimes, literally. I’m sure this is because you’re more open and receptive. It’s also part of the mystery of storytelling.
After ten days in Thanjavur, I understood what the Prince meant about the conservatism of the region. I was feeling stifled. The whole time I was conscious of myself as an outsider and the cultural sensitivities I was navigating through. There was the question of authenticity, authority and the responsibility of a novelist in relation to historicalevidence. There was also a cultural acceptance of shame and a frequent denial of the devadasis having any historical agency. Yet Muddupalani, the first woman to write erotic poetry in southern India, a woman who celebrated female pleasure, showed another perspective.
In my last days there I contacted academics who specialised in the field. I was excited to hear back from Davesh Soneji, a Toronto-based scholar, who’s been studying the devadasis of Thanjavur for over a decade. In his email he described the voices of these women as ‘irretrievable’.
I remember sitting in an internet café, the sound of rickshaws and motorbikes screeching past. I remember the heat and how my legs were sticking to the cheap plastic chair. I read his words again and briefly felt a wave of panic. Irretrievable. I repeated the word to myself. Later that day I returned to the ‘Big Temple’. Walking through the stone corridors, I heard the swish of silk and the laughter of a child. And it dawned on me, for a historian, these voices may have vanished. For a novelist, it was a question of becoming quiet enough to hear.
All photos courtesty of Claire Scobie www.clairescobie.com
Find her book ‘The Pagoda Tree’, here: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-pagoda-tree-claire-scobie/prod9780670077335.html