Recently I attended an Australia Council Market Development Skills Workshop at the Queensland Writers Centre. Jaki Arthur the Campaign Manager at Hachette Australia lead us all through a day of learning how better to spruik ourselves and our writing in the marketplace. I came away having learnt an enormous amount – mainly about what I’d been doing wrong!. Bust also feeling as if the work of writing was valued and important. And that’s not something to be sneezed at.
At this workshop I met the lovely Juliet Darling whose memoir <em>A Double Spring, resonated with me, dealing as it did with madness and loss, two of my key themes. I’ve recently read her book and found it very moving. See the review I did for GOOD READS below.Double Spring: A Year of Tragedy, Grief and Love by Juliet Darling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautifully written book about the first year of traumatic grief after the murder of a partner. It is full of the raw emotions of grief – anger and pain, but also love and the beginnings of faith. Darling’s partner Nick (a famous patron of the arts) is portrayed as a wonderful man, though he wasn’t quite perfect. That Darling lets us us know this is one of her strengths. Nothing is hidden in this memoir. It is a rare and courageous writer who can lay herself so bare.
I couldn’t help but imagine that if my brother, who also suffered schizophrenia like the murderer in this book, had not killed himself at twenty, I may have ended up writing just such a memoir of murder. It is a travesty that it is so difficult to get the dangerously mentally ill hospitalised. A point rammed home by this terrible and avoidable tragedy.
What inspired me most about this book was that Darling never once got angry with God. She got angry at everyone else, understandably, but never the Divine. It seemed that through the priest Steve, who was a steadfast and wise friend as Darling struggled in the huge dumping waves of loss, she was able to find a way to peace and healing.
View all my reviews
A Double Spring by Juliet Darling
Nualla’s funeral card
Work has begun in earnest on my latest project – Dear Madman – a creative non-fiction exploration of the murder of my Grandmother’s sister as a child in 1912. For the past few weeks I’ve been trekking out to the QLD State Archives
at Runcorn and discovering the wonders kept there. Court documents, prison records, maps and more. Not only was it enormous fun leafing through the precious old documents, all handwritten in styles varying from pristine copperplate to the hurried scrawl of police officers taking down witness testimonies, it was also a delight to have somewhere warm to sit on cold winter days. My home office is chilly at the best of times in winter and downright unbearable when the sun doesn’t shine. Not only that, the Archives staff were kind and helpful, as were other people I met there, especially Dorothy who, though in her eighties, travelled two hours each way on buses to help compile state school records.
I found some great information to help me uncover the truth of the family myths surrounding the murder but, frustratingly, some records were incomplete or missing. For example, the prison records for Boggo Road Gaol, where the murderer was imprisoned, are missing a chunk of thirty years from just before the turn of the century. ARGH!
They had two photos recorded of the murderer, but none had survived. Double ARGH!
However, just as I had given up hope of ever seeing his face, I expanded my search on the miraculous online resource of digitised newspapers, Trove, and found him. Not nearly as ugly as I had imagined, but if I stare at him for long enough, I see a definite glint of madness – or is it meanness- in his eyes.
And now, I am becoming obsessed with this story. It fills my mind during the day, steals hours when I should be cooking dinner or helping with homework or sleeping. I dream of it, and wake up wondering what new information I will find. The only book I want to read is the one I’m writing. But the finished version!