Tag Archives: review

Review: Langue [dot] doc 1305 by Gillian Polack

One of the things I enjoy most about Gillian Polack’s books, besides their quirky sense of humour, is how wonderfully she explores the everyday and the ordinary, giving them texture and depth so that they’re not ordinary or mundane at all.

In Langue [dot] doc 1305 Polack marries her deep knowledge as a Medievalist to a favourite SF trope – time travel to the days of knights, lords and peasants – and then does her usual magic of transforming the ordinary into the profound.

Artemesia Wormwood (a name she chose for herself) finds herself a last-minute addition to a team of Australian scientists travelling back in time to  Languedoc, France, to the year 1305. She’s taken on the task of team historian for the money – her sister needs it for cancer treatment – but when she goes back in time she finds the scientists generally don’t have interest in, let alone respect for, her expertise.

The team is meant to be studying the era without interacting with it, and especially not with the inhabitants of the local town, St-Guilhem-le-Desert. You can imagine how successful that turns out to be.

The inevitable folding together of medieval humanity and the time team is subtle and slow, and Polack interleaves the lives of both groups of people with a gentle but inexorable rhythm.

We see parallels and echoes of each group in the other. The mischief makers and the leaders; those who are arrogant and those who are quietly trying to keep their society functioning; the friendships and the growing emnities.

Artemesia keeps trying to warn the time team that the people out there are real and that these are dangerous times. As the two groups begin to interact in small ways, however, even Artemesia may be getting complacent through her role as liaison with the knight Guilhem, himself an outsider looking for his place in the community.

Langue [dot] doc 1305 has many delights, from the superb low key characterisation that develops such wonderful, fully human people, to Polack’s equally low key yet pointed storytelling which points out how many fallacies people retain about what it is to be human in the medieval era.

Some characters are more sympathetic than others, though Polack’s compassion in drawing out human frailty and strengths means that your sympathies may wax and wane until the last few chapters. Artemesia’s playful academic humour and the way she’s often relegated by her colleagues to ‘pointless, useless irritant’ ensure you’re on her side from the start.

The build up to the confrontations of the conclusion is steady but never dull. When the final events take place (within the caves that are temporary home to the team, within the village, and where those two connect) they have a strong impact on both characters and reader.

I love the texture, intelligence, compassion and craft of Gillian Polack’s writing. I love her quiet women finding their strength and her wit. I love her perspective as a Jewish Australian and her great humanity as a writer.

And I loved Langue [dot] doc 1305.

Since the sad demise of Satalyte Publishing, Langue [dot] doc 1305 is  out of print. Happily, it’s due to be rereleased later in the year. (I’ll blog again then when it’s available.)

In the meantime, if you can’t wait, you can try Abe Books or contact Gillian Polack directly on Twitter or through her website for one of the first edition copies she still has.

 

Narrelle’s Holiday Reading Guide

The end of the calendar year is coming, bringing with it school holidays, the Christmas break, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the solstice and other observances and festivals, including the new year!

Whatever the occasion – it’s always a good time for a book, am I right? Seems a good time to suggest a recommended reading list of the books I’ve enjoyed this year!

Pardon the blatant plugging, but I have stories in a couple of fantastic anthologies that have been published over the year which you might enjoy, especially if you enjoy crime, adventure or fantasy!

Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook is a collection of stories set in Australia (and on a boat to New Zealand) in 1890.

Authors include Kerry Greenwood cowriting with Lindy Cameron, Lucy Sussex, Steve Cameron, Meg Keneally and Jason Franks!

And then.. Volumes One is an absolute treasure trove of great fiction by Australian writers, including Sulari Gentill,  Jason Nahrung, Alan Baxter, Jason Franks, Lucy Sussex, Amanda Wrangles, Evelyn Tsitas, Peter M Ball, Dan Rabarts, Kat Clay, Sophie Masson, Tor Roxburgh, Emilie Collyer and Tansy Rayner Roberts.

There are stories in outer space, in ancient lands, involving dragons and mysteries and alien life forms and pretty much everything in between!  Volume Two is coming as well – check out Clan Destine Press for details (and other cool books by Australian authors!)

I’m especially delighted with Scarlet Stiletto: the Ninth Cut 2017, as it contains my Award-winning ghost/crime story Jane. In fact, every story in the volume is an award winner, by fabulous new Australian crime writers.

I have novels and short stories out too, like the action-filled paranormal thriller/gay romance Ravenfall ,and lesbian romance Near Miss!

But it’s not all about me, I know that.

It’s also about Emily Larkin, whose Baleful Godmother series has been a delight all this year. The sixth book of this magical regency series of books and novellas has just been released, but you can start with the delightful Unmasking Miss Appleby, then dash right along with Resisting Miss Merryweather,  Trusting Miss Trentham, Claiming Mister Kemp, and Ruining Miss Wrotham before finishing (for now) with Discovering Miss Dalrymple.

Tansy Rayner Roberts has been another joy this year (and every year) with her Belladonna University/Fake Geek Girl and Castle Charming novella series, her Patreon posts and pretty much just everything she writes. I interviewed her recently, so you can find links of books to love right there. Her brand new book, Girl Reporter, is due out on 19 December too!

More gruesome splendour is provided by Emma Viskic, whose  And Fire Came Down, is every bit as good as its award-winning predecessor, Resurrection Bay.

Full of action, drama, serious injury, and featuring a cast of diverse supporing characters and a deaf protagonist. Highly, highly, highly recommended!

I also want to wave flaily hands at Gillian Polack’s The Wizardry of Jewish Women, because it displays her customary wry wit and intricate world-building in a seemingly innocuous domestic setting with suburban Australia.

Get The Wizardry of Jewish Women in Mobi or Epub formats at Bookview Cafe. 

That’s enough fiction of various types to be getting on with. If you want to try some more ideas, just search my blog on the tag ‘reviews’ for suggestions.

Enjoy your break, if you get one, and may every book you read be golden!

And please – if you have a great book recommendation for the 2017-18 transition, please leave a comment, and maybe even a link!