Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends: Tales from a Colonial Coroner’s Court by Catie Gilchrist.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.
Life in the nineteenth century, it seems, sucked.
That’s what I glean from Catie Gilchrist’s presentation of life through the coroner’s lens. Sydney, while not exactly a prison colony at the time, was still not really that cosmopolitan a place. With medicine and policing both rough and ready, corpses, violence and things taken care of in a how’s-yer-father manner, there was a distinct seat-of-one’s-pants approach to life and the grim reaper.
Aunts Up the Cross by Robin Dalton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This slim work is a collection of reminiscences of Robin Dalton’s childhood in a now-vanished Kings Cross. It’s brief, but reads entertainingly well, a collision of multiculturalism and religion with crime, the theatre and a distinct feeling of familial uniqueness. There’s spinster aunts, simple neighbours and a passing parade in a house which feels more like a cabaret than a homestead – but it’s never stuck in a self-congratulatory gear.
It seems fairly standard with reviews of this work to mention that it’s singular in its opening. The vehicular death of a great aunt is the subject, and while this in itself is a reasonably dramatic thing to start with, it’s also worth quoting in its entirety as it highlights Dalton’s precise prose.
My great-Aunt Juliet was knocked over and killed by a bus when she was eighty-five. The bus was travelling very slowly in the right direction and could hardly have been missed by anyone except Aunt Juliet, who must have been travelling fairly fast in the wrong direction.