Midge Raymond and My Last Continent

Midge_Raymond_photoOne of the most delightful and enthusiastic authors at the Brisbane Writers Festival this year was Oregon-based Midge Raymond. I was fortunate to moderate one of her sessions in front of an informed and interested audience. We spoke mostly about her new novel My Last Continent (Text Publishing) but Midge also told us about her boutique publishing company Ashland Creek Press, which publishes books about the environment.

My Last Continent is one of those novels that is enjoyable and thought provoking and also lingers afterwards. I missed it after I’d finished reading, particularly learning about and understanding Antarctica and human interaction with the continent. I wanted to read more, so it was wonderful to have Midge continue the action, adventure, danger, science, history and romance of her tale in person.

People have a range of reasons for visiting Antarctica. They run out of places to hide or, in contrast to early explorers, want to be the last to see its sights and inhabitants. Midge celebrates the untamed beauty and danger of Antarctica and also offers a personal and literary affinity with its creatures, mainly here through her protagonist, naturalist Deb, whose personality, longings and hopes are shared with the reader. The major relationship in the novel is between Deb and Keller, an elusive man who also comes to love the far south and its creatures. He even discovers an Adelie penguin who sits in his lap to be stroked and Midge revealed how this is actually based on a penguin in Argentina, Turbo.

ContinentThe structure of the novel builds to the pivotal episode of the shipwreck of a cruise ship. Chapters oscillate expertly between ‘5 Years Before Shipwreck’, ‘5 Days Before Shipwreck’, ‘One Week Before Shipwreck’, hours before shipwreck and ‘Afterwards’. Foreshadowing also creates an ominous tone.

Tension from how far south ill-equipped ships travel for sights and experiences to thrill their passengers and when they should turn back for the sake of safety is threaded into the story.

A scientist and Antarctic voyager in the audience endorsed the accuracy of Midge’s research and her tale in glowing terms.

Midge is also the author of Forgetting English, which won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction, has taught communication writing at Boston University and has written two writers’ guides, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.

As well as reading My Last Continent, it is worth exploring Midge’s blog. I feel privileged to have met her.


Review – When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett

9780733626586Past The Shallows was an exceptional novel and Favel Parrett has out done herself with her new book. When The Night Comes is a story of growing up, both as a child and as an adult. It is about journeys into the great unknowns. And that anything in life is possible.

The story alternates between two points of view; Isla, a young girl who has moved to Hobart with her mother and younger brother to leave behind their life on the mainland. And Bo, a Danish sailor who crews an Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan.

Parrett’s writing is truly mesmerizing. Her words immediately draw you in and you are swept away. Poetical, evocative and truly moving Parrett will not only have you immediately falling for her characters but she will also have you falling in love with a ship.

Favel Parrett has carefully crafted an exquisite novel. Skilfully written, elegantly constructed, beautifully told and an absolute pleasure to read and experience.

Buy the book here…

Guest Post: The Little Red Ship – Nella Dan

Author Favel Parret on the inspiration behind her new novel When The Night Comes

images (1)When I was about thirteen, the Antarctic supply vessel, MS Nella Dan ran aground on the windy and mysterious mountain in the Southern Ocean – Macquarie Island.

Everyone was evacuated quickly and without injury, thanks to the organised crew and the LARC drivers (amphibious trucks). Staff at Macquarie Island worked hard to give everyone hot showers and meals and a warm place to sleep. The base was packed to bursting and no one knew what was going to happen. Some of the crew and passengers were sent back to Hobart on another supply vessel, but they were certain they would see Nella Dan again by Christmas.

download (1)Over the next 21 days people fought and argued and had their opinions about what the future of Nella Dan should be. There were three insurance companies involved, which made things complicated and drawn out. Australian polar explorer, Phillip Law raised a lot of money to try and get Nella Dan back to Australia, and many were sure she would be towed ‘home’. But that was not to be. It was decided by the powers that be that Nella Dan should be scuttled in deep water off Macquarie Island.

The Captain and Bosun and some other officers stayed on Nella Dan, without heating or power. They would not leave her. They had lunch together after they were told she was going to be sunk, and afterwards they threw their used plates down the shaft. They said that the sound of the plates breaking was devastating.

9780733626586While writing this book, I often thought of those Danes who stayed with their ship. How their hearts must have ached as they watched her being put down. And then they had to injure a crowded voyage to Hobart on the tug, Lady Lorain. They got little sleep.

For many, Nella had been home for a long time. She was home. Even people who only sailed on her once talk about her as if she was special. She old fashioned, small and comfortable. She had a grace and an air about her. She always felt safe even in huge swells, even though often many passengers were very sea sick on board.

Writing this book has brought back a lot of memories for me, and I love Nella Dan more now than I did as a child. But some of the mysteries are still that – mysteries. I will never know everything about her last days.

I have read so many reports and talked to a lot of people. I have travelled to Macquarie Island, to Antarctica, to Denmark. It’s been quite a journey. Without Nella Dan, I would never have travelled to such wonderful places, or met so many incredible people. I feel very blessed.

Favel Parrett

Buy the book here…