Review: Lola Lafon – The Little Communist Who Never Smiled

The Little Communist Who Never Smiled
Lola Lafon

A merging of fiction and non-fiction to fill in the gaps, this novel follows the early life and career of Nadia Comaneci, a pioneering Romanian gymnast who broke the scoring system by receiving the first 10 in the history of gymnastics.

9781781255148The first half of the novel kept me enthralled, but this petered out in the second half. I was fascinated by the gymnastics, not by the politics. In the end, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to take away from the novel. Translated from French, I think this novel may have lost some of its charm.

At times I felt like the narrator and Nadia spent too much time fighting – and I was really confused about the intersection of the conversations they had. Were these actual conversations the author had with Nadia? Or something else? Nadia has also written an autobiography which I think could also be interesting.

Off the back of this novel, I watched Nadia’s performance at Montreal on Youtube. It is amazing the things they used to do on bars (they weren’t separated as they are now). My breath stopped every time it looked like she was going to fall. What many of the commenters on these videos were saying were that the tricks back then were easier than they are now. Having read this novel, I can confirm that is not the case. Many of the moves have changed, due to changing equipment or banning of particularly dangerous moves.

I’ll give this novel 3 stars – 4 stars for the first half, and 2 stars for the second half!


Allen & Unwin | 27th July 2016 | AU $27.99 | Paperback

Review: Neil M Hanson – Pilgrim Wheels

Pilgrim Wheels
Neil M Hanson

Neil has taken on the challenge of riding across the USA, sometimes with a friend, and sometimes without. He quickly learns the challenges and rewards of doing it on his own, as well as enjoying some time with old friends. Let me clarify here: He’s riding a PUSH BIKE across the desert.

24820176This novel covers only part of Neil’s journey! It is astounding how much he has travelled on his trusty bike. I can’t believe it, but then I think of other people who have cycled around the exterior of Australia and straight across the middle. Still though, its amazing what one man on a tiny bike can do if he is determined.

I interviewed Neil quite some time ago (I’m too afraid to look at the date), but the novel simply hadn’t taken my fancy to read until lately. I’m on a mission to get through all the novels authors have sent me personally – if you’ve sent me a novel and I haven’t reviewed it, pop me an email please!

This is non-fiction, and as such I’ll not be giving it any stars. That being said, I think this novel would be good for people who have a passion for a ‘singular’ sport – one like cycling or running where you spend a lot of time with the scenery.

Review: Maria Toorpakai – A Different Kind of Daughter

A Different Kind of Daughter
Maria Toorpakai

Maria was born in a part of Pakistan where being a girl means that you must travel with a man at all times, and remain inside the rest of the time. Maria felt trapped, but luckily her parents were free-thinkers that knew how to support their daughter. After Maria burns her dresses, there is no turning back and she lives as a young man for a number of years before being outed on a squash court when pursuing her dream.

27416066I could hardly put this novel down, which was surprising because its basically a memoir. I’ve never heard of her though, so it was all new to me. I did enjoy the ‘journey’ right from the beginning of her life.

I would go mad on ‘house arrest’. Maria was so brave, doing what she really wanted to do – but she also knew she would die if she didn’t play. I didn’t understand how destructive she could be, but I could understand how she felt she had no other options. All the same though, the kitchen seemed like a better place of practice than her bedroom!

Dengue! She catches Dengue virus! That’s my area of work, so I generally get super excited when it is mentioned. Here it is in a real world situation. Although it bring Maria to her knees, it doesn’t make any difference to her desire to play sport.

What wasn’t clear to me is whether Maria identifies as a woman or as a man, or something in between. With all the sports testing that is going on at the moment, I would expect this to be a problem. That’s not a complain about the book though. Just my particular interest in biology and genetics.

I really did enjoy this, and I’d recommend it to a wide range of readers – those who have doubts about Muslims being all part of the Taliban, or people who are interested in elite sport, or people who want to know about some every-day life in Pakistan.