Short stories, Poems, Book reviews

Review of What Glass Ceiling? a memoir by Suzanne Newnham

Suzanne Newnham’s memoir What Glass Ceiling? chronicles her mother Patricia’s extraordinary journey in establishing her career during a period of Australia’s history when women did not have many opportunities to do so. Newnham’s fluent storytelling reveals her mother’s inquisitive nature, fostered by her parents when she was a small child in the 1930s, encouraging her questioning mind and enabling her to succeed later.

As a young girl in the 1950s, Patricia is intelligent, hard-working and determined to attend university to study medicine. While this dream is unrealised due to bureaucratic reasons, Patricia studies accountancy at college, just as her beloved father (and her role model) did. Later, she begins an internship with an accountancy firm, showing great aptitude for auditing and bookkeeping. Her work assignments are fascinating – auditing the accounts of a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of Australian companies, giving Patricia (and the reader) rare insights.

Newnham’s colourful bird’s-eye descriptions of Sydney’s city streets create tantalising images. We ‘see’ Patricia arrive to brief company board members wearing her smart two-piece and heels (she had done some modelling in her twenties, so she knew how to enter a room), carrying ledgers, pencils, and paper in hand, confident of her skills. One gets the sense that Patricia is undeterred by the social norms of the times, entering this male-dominated field expecting full access. When one company’s board member assumes he will be briefed by a male version of ‘Pat’, Patricia remembered:

“As I walked into the board room for a client meeting with a group of executives to discuss accounts, I was greeted by many incredulous expressions: this was in addition to hearing a lot of fussing about me being a female and not a male accountant, so I calmly queried “do you think I had two heads?” It probably wasn’t a mature way to speak, but an educated woman in a position of responsibility within a company shouldn’t be considered odd!”

Over the years, Patricia adds marriage and four children – fitting her work and voluntary activities around family life. She epitomises ‘work-life balance’ before the term is in common usage. Yet, as we turn the pages to the story’s end, Newnham’s evident love, pride and respect for her mother’s achievements leave a lasting impression.

What Glass Ceiling?  is a ‘must-read’ for daughters of today’s generation as they evaluate how to ‘do it all.’ They would learn a great deal about one woman’s unintended leadership shaping a fulfilling career just ‘by doing’ at a time when it was often exclaimed: “Ladies, just don’t do that!”

What Glass Ceiling? reveals the merits of walking beyond the obstacles that aim to prevent us from achieving. Rather, we should not consider life a strategic project – all mapped out in front of us. It should be taken in bite-sized portions, never more than we can chew.

Karen Kentwell 2023

What Glass Ceiling is available at–articles.html.html

Review of ‘Cull’, a novel by Stafford Ray

‘Cull’ is a sophisticated and absorbing read, a fable for our times. It’s a prescient warning to governments that fail to deal swiftly enough with two of the most urgent issues we face today.

Dropping us straight into the murky world of a shocking conspiracy, led by the US government, it hinges on a radical solution to rampaging population growth and global warming. It forces us to look at the real possibility of horrific answers if the world does not face up to these two challenges adequately.

This is a world in which morality has been largely replaced by expediency and secrecy.

Stafford is like a puppeteer, deftly controlling the spectrum of characters and the breadth of the conspiracy. The action moves back and forth from the halls of power in Washington, Canberra, Beijing and Tokyo, and a group of refugees on a boat in the Indian Ocean.

The plot is given breath by skilful dialogue. The behind-the-scenes encounters between leaders and their staff provide, at times, entertaining repartee, but mostly a chilling recognition of the lengths they will go to for self-preservation at the expense of others. As the head of the Australian Dep’t of Sustainability says to his PM, ‘You have policy (to deal with), I only have science.’

We follow events as they unfold, through the protagonist, Harry Fromm, the US Ambassador to the UN. Harry is in the unenviable position of knowing too much and too little at the same time. How does an individual follow his conscience when he is being blackmailed to remain silent?

‘Cull’s a genuine page turner, particularly over the last 100 or so pages, and I was breathless by the end. In the current state of affairs globally, it is not much of a stretch for the events of the novel to become a reality.

‘Cull’ is available in bookshops and also online

Rosie Toth

Overview of ‘Fifteen Shards of Broken Glass’ by Phoenix L James

My name is Annie Clarke, and this is my story of courage in the face of true adversity.
Abandoned one Christmas Eve by my real father, my mother was forced to fend for herself and her two daughters. She met a man who offered to help, but help was never his intention – not after he married my mother.
He killed my family and sold me into a life of prostitution.
That’s when Detective Oliver Bradley found me, changing my life forever. He gave me self-worth as a human being, teaching me how to love and trust again.
Now, I have to fight to reclaim everything my evil stepfather took from me – starting with my little sister, Gracie-Lou. I have to make sure she doesn’t end up with the life that monster made me live.
I refuse to be a victim; I am a survivor.
This is my time for revenge…

The novel is available from Barnes and Noble and Hooked on Books, Bateman’s Bay. Links, including reviews –