From a Nigerian novel to consciousness


The Dangers of Female Provocation
Zoe Coyle, Ultimo Press, $34.99

Is Zoe Coyle’s The Dangers of Female Provocation really a feminist revenge fantasy? Well, with a protagonist named Odessa Odin, you’re primed for the Valkyries to descend. It’s a bit of an anticlimax to discover that Odessa is a wealthy Londoner with a loving husband, close friends and her own successful career. And the heart sinks further when she finds out that her husband is having an affair. For Odessa, her husband’s infidelity triggers a mountain of long-suppressed rage and resentment at male entitlement, compromises made, promises unkept. She becomes a self-appointed feminist avenger, going after her friends’ husbands to catch out their bad behaviour, looking to smash the patriarchy and save the sisterhood from its exploitative ways. Odessa lands herself in trouble (joining forces with the dark web is never a great plan) and is brought to her senses through another, keener moment of loss that puts her own travails into perspective. Adultery is an unimaginative hook for fiction, and Coyle’s second novel seems too hastily sketched to be genuinely subversive or satisfying.

<i>The Frontier Below</i> by Jeff Maynard.

The Frontier Below by Jeff Maynard.Credit:

The Frontier Below
Jeff Maynard, William Collins, $14.99

When Jacques Cousteau made the first successful test of what has become modern diving equipment – the demand regulator and tanks of compressed air – he later wrote: “I looked into the sea with the same sense of trespass that I have felt on every dive”. While “trespass” reflects the awe the experience provoked, it also captures the unsettling questions such as “Do I belong here?” that are raised by pushing a frontier. Not that it stopped the pearl divers, inventors, entrepreneurs and plunderers from antiquity to the modern day who led the charge to go deeper than any man or woman had gone before. Jeff Maynard’s pithy style condenses the broad sweep of history as effectively as a scuba compressor while capturing the human drama behind the technological breakthroughs and the passion that paved the way for the scientific discoveries and exploitation that inevitably followed.

<i>The Wisdom of Morrie</i> by Morrie Schwartz.

The Wisdom of Morrie by Morrie Schwartz.Credit:

The Wisdom of Morrie
Morrie Schwartz, Hachette, $32.99

There is a woman who looks like Annie Lennox hanging from the aerial silk doing some stunning moves. She stands out because she looks so at ease, in her element. As a beginner, I want to be like her. Even more so when I learn she is 70. Ageing has had such a bad rap. Confronting how we all internalise the negativity of ageism, says American sociologist and therapist Morrie Schwartz, is crucial to finding the wisdom and joy in growing older. Chock-full of useful advice, this guide to ageing gracefully is informed by Schwartz’s own struggles with his declining health, the patients he has treated and the positive role that mindfulness meditation has played in his life. Much of his counsel demands that the reader confront their habitual ways of thinking and behaving, become curious about things that may have once provoked fear and be prepared to embrace change and the unknown.

<i>Hard to Bear</i> by Isabelle Oderberg.

Hard to Bear by Isabelle Oderberg.Credit:

Hard to Bear
Isabelle Oderberg, Ultimo Press, $36.99

In the middle of her sixth miscarriage, Isabella Oderberg was told by her obstetrician that it wasn’t something to cry about. It was natural, it was normal. This “gruff dismissal of my grief”, says Oderberg, only compounded it. In her research into miscarriage, its impact and society’s response to it, she found that this response was only too common. Central to the silence that surrounds the subject is the history of blame, the assumption that it is the woman’s fault. This comprehensive work helps to dispel such myths by shining a light on the many forms of miscarriage, how they are experienced and treated, the trauma that can ensue, how different cultures view pregnancy loss, the role played by exposure to certain chemicals and the toll of multiple miscarriages. Written with frankness and flashes of dark humour, Oderberg’s own story dramatically illustrates this ordeal.

<i>All in the Mind</i> by Lynne Malcolm.

All in the Mind by Lynne Malcolm.Credit:

All in the Mind
Lynne Malcolm, ABC Books, $34.99

Musician Andrew Schulman was put into a medically induced coma because of severe complications after a cardiac arrest. No one expected him to live until his wife played him his favourite piece of music, Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Within hours, he’d made a miraculous recovery. His powerful experience of what is known as “embodied cognition” inspired him to use music as a tool for the healing of critically ill patients. What is the mind if it is not confined to the brain? What is consciousness and does it come from outside the body or from inside our heads? How can we use neuroplasticity to help our brain to heal itself? Written with the immediacy and accessibility of a podcast, this work by the one-time host of ABC radio’s All in the Mind, Lynne Malcolm, probes these profound questions about the unfolding mystery of the brain, the psyche and their interaction with our bodies.

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