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“A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.” —The New York Times In this spellbinding and poignant historical novel—perfect for fans of All the Light We Cannot See and The Flamethrowers—a Swedish glassmaker and a fiercely independent Australian journalist are thrown together amidst the turmoil “A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.” —The New York Times In this spellbinding and poignant historical novel—perfect for fans of All the Light We Cannot See and The Flamethrowers—a Swedish glassmaker and a fiercely independent Australian journalist are thrown together amidst the turmoil of the 1960s and the dawning of a new modern era. 1965: As the United States becomes further embroiled in the Vietnam War, the ripple effects are far-reaching—even to the other side of the world. In Australia, a national military draft has been announced and Pearl Keogh, a headstrong and ambitious newspaper reporter, has put her job in jeopardy to become involved in the anti-war movement. Desperate to locate her two runaway brothers before they’re called to serve, Pearl is also hiding a secret shame—the guilt she feels for not doing more for her younger siblings after their mother’s untimely death. Newly arrived from Sweden, Axel Lindquist is set to work as a sculptor on the besieged Sydney Opera House. After a childhood in Europe, where the shadow of WWII loomed large, he seeks to reinvent himself in this utterly foreign landscape, and finds artistic inspiration—and salvation—in the monument to modernity that is being constructed on Sydney’s Harbor. But as the nation hurtles towards yet another war, Jørn Utzon, the Opera House’s controversial architect, is nowhere to be found—and Axel fears that the past he has tried to outrun may be catching up with him. As the seas of change swirl around them, Pearl and Axel’s lives orbit each other and collide in this sweeping novel of art and culture, love and destiny.


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“A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.” —The New York Times In this spellbinding and poignant historical novel—perfect for fans of All the Light We Cannot See and The Flamethrowers—a Swedish glassmaker and a fiercely independent Australian journalist are thrown together amidst the turmoil “A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.” —The New York Times In this spellbinding and poignant historical novel—perfect for fans of All the Light We Cannot See and The Flamethrowers—a Swedish glassmaker and a fiercely independent Australian journalist are thrown together amidst the turmoil of the 1960s and the dawning of a new modern era. 1965: As the United States becomes further embroiled in the Vietnam War, the ripple effects are far-reaching—even to the other side of the world. In Australia, a national military draft has been announced and Pearl Keogh, a headstrong and ambitious newspaper reporter, has put her job in jeopardy to become involved in the anti-war movement. Desperate to locate her two runaway brothers before they’re called to serve, Pearl is also hiding a secret shame—the guilt she feels for not doing more for her younger siblings after their mother’s untimely death. Newly arrived from Sweden, Axel Lindquist is set to work as a sculptor on the besieged Sydney Opera House. After a childhood in Europe, where the shadow of WWII loomed large, he seeks to reinvent himself in this utterly foreign landscape, and finds artistic inspiration—and salvation—in the monument to modernity that is being constructed on Sydney’s Harbor. But as the nation hurtles towards yet another war, Jørn Utzon, the Opera House’s controversial architect, is nowhere to be found—and Axel fears that the past he has tried to outrun may be catching up with him. As the seas of change swirl around them, Pearl and Axel’s lives orbit each other and collide in this sweeping novel of art and culture, love and destiny.

30 review for Shell

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    “As with all of my books, Shell was not written because I knew something. I write, always, compulsively, because I don’t know something. It is always about a question. At the end of that process I find I have no solid answers. Only possibilities, a whole new set of questions.” I was taken by what Kristina Olsson writes to her readers in a beginning letter. It made me think that this is what good fiction should do - open up possibilities, make us think. This is exactly what this novel does. Quiet “As with all of my books, Shell was not written because I knew something. I write, always, compulsively, because I don’t know something. It is always about a question. At the end of that process I find I have no solid answers. Only possibilities, a whole new set of questions.” I was taken by what Kristina Olsson writes to her readers in a beginning letter. It made me think that this is what good fiction should do - open up possibilities, make us think. This is exactly what this novel does. Quiet, beautiful writing, with revelations about the characters slowly coming to the surface through introspective narratives that dig deep into who they are, their pasts, how they have gotten to where they are, fighting the demons of that past. It’s an interesting piece of historical fiction, and although not too far in the past, it was an opportunity to learn several things. The story takes place during the mid 1960’s and centers on two events - the building of the Sydney Opera House and the Australian lottery that drafted young men to fight in Vietnam. I knew absolutely nothing of the politics surrounding the building of the Sydney Opera House and had no idea that Australia was involved in the Vietnam War. Around these events, Olssen has created a complex story around complex characters. Pearl Keogh, a journalist, an anti war activist is focused on trying to find her younger brothers who she has not seen for years. She carries the guilt of abandoning them after she leaves the orphanage they were all sent to when her mother dies and her father’s grief is so overwhelming, he cannot take care of them. She’s obsessed with finding them, to warn them and save them from the draft. Her narrative is blended with that of Axel Lindquist, a lonely glass sculptor from Sweden, trying to find a place for himself working on his art commissioned for the Sydney Opera House. Pearl’s story was more compelling at first. I waited for the characters to connect and they did, but still it took until close to the end before I had a better understanding of Axel’s story. His story brought another level here. He is scarred by the disappearance of his father, during WWII, when Axel was 10 years old. Sweden’s neutrality is juxtaposed with the Australian participation in the Vietnam War. This actually brought to my attention another thing I had not known about - the White Buses, the efforts of the Swedish and a Danish governments and the role they played in freeing Jews from the camps in 1945. I wondered how this book came to be and it made sense when Olsson tells of her background. She’s a former journalist with an Australian mother and a Swedish father and connected in ways to the events that are part of this novel. When I finished this, my first response was to rate it 3.5 and round it up, but the more I thought about the fantastic prose and the profound themes, I realized that this is deserving of a full 4 stars. I received an advanced copy of this book from Atria through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    It was the 1960s and Australia was on the brink of change. The Vietnam War was about to take a poke at Australia’s youth – and the Sydney Opera House was under construction. The draft for the Vietnam War was in the form of a lottery, and all the young people who were born within a certain time period had their birth dates put in a barrel. If you were lucky, your birth date didn’t come out. (My husband’s didn’t thank goodness!) Journalist Pearl Keogh was in a desperate search for her two younger b It was the 1960s and Australia was on the brink of change. The Vietnam War was about to take a poke at Australia’s youth – and the Sydney Opera House was under construction. The draft for the Vietnam War was in the form of a lottery, and all the young people who were born within a certain time period had their birth dates put in a barrel. If you were lucky, your birth date didn’t come out. (My husband’s didn’t thank goodness!) Journalist Pearl Keogh was in a desperate search for her two younger brothers whom she hadn’t seen in years. Pearl was anti-war and an activist – her protesting could put her career at risk; but her guilt was deep, so she was determined to find her brothers to help them avoid the draft. Meanwhile, Axel Lindquist, newly arrived from Sweden, was working as a sculptor on the Opera House. His art work was his salvation – his hopes were that the new country would also help him find the inspiration he had lost during WWII. Pearl’s and Axel’s lives would come together in this period of change… While fully aware of the poignancy and beautiful writing of Shell by Aussie author Kristina Olsson, I found myself struggling, putting the book down and going back to it days later. The author has indulged in my pet hate – no speech marks – with the dialogue in italics inside the paragraphs. Very off-putting for me I’m afraid. The cover is stunning, but I’m disappointed I didn’t love this book as I expected to. That said, I’ll still recommend it to others who are sure to enjoy it more than I did. With thanks to S&S Australia for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    “Writing about architecture is like dancing to music – a completely natural thing to do”. Wait, that’s not how that quote goes? Oh well. The building of the Sydney Opera House marks a watershed moment in Australia’s history: symbolic of a coming-of-age for the nation, of forging a cultural identity distinct from the Britishness that had characterised the preceding era. Just think: Australia in 1965, when the bulk of Shell takes place, had the same prime minister as in 1939. Difficult to move for “Writing about architecture is like dancing to music – a completely natural thing to do”. Wait, that’s not how that quote goes? Oh well. The building of the Sydney Opera House marks a watershed moment in Australia’s history: symbolic of a coming-of-age for the nation, of forging a cultural identity distinct from the Britishness that had characterised the preceding era. Just think: Australia in 1965, when the bulk of Shell takes place, had the same prime minister as in 1939. Difficult to move forward with one foot stuck in the past. This tension then, a state of flux, the awkward adolescence of a nation, is the stuff from which Shell is wrought. The construction of a singular architectural icon looms in the background as a perfect metaphor. In the foreground are two personal stories: Pearl, an Australian journalist sidelined by her newspaper into writing the ‘women’s section’ because of her opposition to the Vietnam war, is desperately trying to find her two brothers before they can be drafted; meanwhile Axel, a Swedish glassmaker commissioned to create a bespoke artwork for the Opera House foyer, obsesses about meeting ‘the architect’, Jørn Utzon, and traipses around Sydney seeking clarity for his artistic vision. Each has a past they are grappling with, while also questioning their own values in a shifting world. Utzon’s own fascinating story can be found elsewhere. In Shell he is a shadowy enigma, with the political interference forcing him off the project referenced only briefly. Shell is more concerned with digging deep into the national psyche that produced such animosity towards the man: ”But symbol and metaphor were lost down here beneath the heavy hand of heat and lethargy and a vastness of sky and ocean and air. Beneath a particular attitude, he saw suddenly, one the protesters with their placards might sense: a kind of huddling around sameness, a retreat from risk and – despite the openness of air and sky – from exposure. He saw it plainly in the derision of Utzon in the papers, the growing clamour of voices mocking his vision. As if they were ashamed of a building that might reveal them, the soaring shapes of their dreams, the true interior of their hearts. As if they were afraid of grandeur.” The dual perspectives of Axel, an artist and a foreigner, and Pearl, a local and a woman during major social upheaval, give a real depth to the story. Olsson’s prose is rich with metaphor, each sentence crafted with careful artistry, and distinctly unafraid of grandeur. It’s a slow burner, so patience is required. Slow-paced, lyrical novels are not usually my thing, but once I stopped resisting and let the book’s gentle current carry me along, I was completely captivated. It never lapses into easy nostalgia, neither does it condemn, but rather paints a complex picture of a tumultuous time. An elegant novel to be savoured.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anne ✨

    I was drawn to this book with its beautiful cover of the Sydney Opera House & Harbor. The muted colors and softly blurred image is really appropriate for this historical fiction story. Olsson writes a tender, poignant contemplation of the atmosphere and times of 1960s Sydney, with a backdrop of events of the building of the Opera House and the Vietnam War lottery draft of young men. The story features two characters whose paths cross: Axel, a glassmaker from Sweden contracted to create sculp I was drawn to this book with its beautiful cover of the Sydney Opera House & Harbor. The muted colors and softly blurred image is really appropriate for this historical fiction story. Olsson writes a tender, poignant contemplation of the atmosphere and times of 1960s Sydney, with a backdrop of events of the building of the Opera House and the Vietnam War lottery draft of young men. The story features two characters whose paths cross: Axel, a glassmaker from Sweden contracted to create sculptures for the Opera House, and Pearl, a Sydney journalist on a mission to find the younger brothers she hasn’t seen for ten years. The pace of the story is slow and contemplative. It’s less about plot, and more about immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, and feel of the time and place. What I liked the most was the connection of the Opera House to its surroundings and getting a feel for how strongly the architectural elements communicated that connection. The characters of Pearl and Axel and their relationship were less interesting to me, it felt a bit odd that they even crossed paths to begin with, and I never really felt the connection there. With the slow pacing and lyrical writing of this book, I found myself only able to read a handful of pages at a time, and then putting the book down for breaks of ever-increasing amounts of time. As others have commented on, I too found the dialogue all in italics vs. quotation marks to be odd to read that way. While I didn’t love the book, I appreciated the insight into this period of time in Australia when the Opera House was being built. I enjoyed learning about the design and construction challenges and public perceptions of the project at the time. With thanks to Atria Books via NetGalley for providing me an ebook version to read in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    SueLucie

    An incredibly interesting book on many levels and served to highlight a big gap in my knowledge - Australia in the 1960s, its involvement in the Vietnam War and, especially, the controversy surrounding the building of the Sydney Opera House. I found it all fascinating. The book is so much more than this, though. It features two equally sympathetic main characters, from very different cultural backgrounds. Axel, a glassmaker from Sweden contracted to create an artwork for the Opera House, and Pear An incredibly interesting book on many levels and served to highlight a big gap in my knowledge - Australia in the 1960s, its involvement in the Vietnam War and, especially, the controversy surrounding the building of the Sydney Opera House. I found it all fascinating. The book is so much more than this, though. It features two equally sympathetic main characters, from very different cultural backgrounds. Axel, a glassmaker from Sweden contracted to create an artwork for the Opera House, and Pearl, a Sydney journalist on a mission to find the younger brothers she hasn’t seen for ten years. They conduct a touching, tentative relationship - absorbing and reflecting each other’s preoccupations with missing family and trying to come to terms with their past. Not a book to rush through, the pace is slow and contemplative, comparing Pearl’s view of her Australian home with the Scandinavian Axel’s impressions of it. These people had absorbed sea water and the drift of desert at their backs. Felt the weight of it on their shoulders. The weight of history, of all they had come to and all they had inflicted on this place. Perhaps, he thought suddenly, that weight stopped them welcoming others here. They themselves had been the newcomers once; at a cellular level, they knew what they were capable of. But no. They were blinded by the sun; it meant they didn’t have to look. Where Axel came from, you had to look hard. Work for your visions, your insights. Set free in the immense southern ocean, this country sprawled like a sunbather. Without borders, it imagined its enemies, was free to create them. Looked only at themselves rather than over their shoulders. Found it too easy to be right. The writing is sublime. So many images of the beauty to be seen in Scandinavian and Australian landscape and seascape and, soaring above, the art involved in creating the Opera House and its accompanying glasswork. I can’t recommend this highly enough. With thanks to Simon & Schuster via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Denice Barker

    I don’t think there is an iconic image that identifies a place more than the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. It wasn’t always so, it wasn’t always accepted. There was a time when was just being built and public opinion wasn’t so positive. In the mid 1960’s everything was changing. There was a war in Vietnam and Australia was adopting a draft system that, understandably so, was not well received. Pearl was a reporter embracing the change and protesting in the streets to defend her right t I don’t think there is an iconic image that identifies a place more than the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. It wasn’t always so, it wasn’t always accepted. There was a time when was just being built and public opinion wasn’t so positive. In the mid 1960’s everything was changing. There was a war in Vietnam and Australia was adopting a draft system that, understandably so, was not well received. Pearl was a reporter embracing the change and protesting in the streets to defend her right to do that, putting her career at risk. She had a vested interest in not wanting the draft. Her younger brothers were just the age that would be sent to war. She hasn’t seen either of them in many years because they ran away from the boarding school they were sent to when their mother died. Pearl’s guilt in not trying harder for them is making her desperate to do this one thing she feels she CAN do. Axel Lindquist is newly arrived from Sweden and specifically charged with the artistic glass work for the Sydney Opera House. He is under the charge of the architect Jorn Utzon but Utzon hasn’t been seen in awhile. Axel left Sweden and the shadow of World War II’s effect on the country and Axel and his mother. He is hoping this new country will renew him and his art. Casting off the shadow of the old giving way to the new, the changing times, the war just ended and the new one gaining strength and a foothold, the new and ultra modern opera house, it can be hard to find your place. The author says that she didn’t write because she knows something, she writes because she doesn’t know and with Shell, she taught me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    As I wrote when I posted a Sensational Snippet from Kristina Olsson’s new novel Shell, (https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/10/24/s...) I have fallen in love with this book so it’s not going to be easy to write an objective review. I have mulled over the book for two days since I finished reading it, and I still feel a frisson of pleasure when I set eyes on it. It’s my Book of the Year, and it might even be the Book of the Decade, in the same way that Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance turned out to be a As I wrote when I posted a Sensational Snippet from Kristina Olsson’s new novel Shell, (https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/10/24/s...) I have fallen in love with this book so it’s not going to be easy to write an objective review. I have mulled over the book for two days since I finished reading it, and I still feel a frisson of pleasure when I set eyes on it. It’s my Book of the Year, and it might even be the Book of the Decade, in the same way that Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance turned out to be a Book of the Decade, for me. For starters, it is beautifully published. Designed by Christabella Designs to mark the first book published by Scribner Australia (an imprint of Simon and Schuster), the hardback edition has creamy pale-pink textured boards imprinted with the same glorious image as the dustcover—it’s a photograph called Red Storm Day by Jean-Pierre Bratanoff-Firgoff. The endpaper images are a sketch and a site plan from the Red Book of Jørn Utzon, the architect of the Sydney Opera House. This is a book which heralds its status as a masterpiece even as the reader holds it in the hand. I am not the only one utterly captivated by Shell: it has had glowing reviews in the print media, and its impressive list of blurbers includes this comment from Ashley Hay, author of The Railwayman’s Wife and A Hundred Little Lessons: Shell sanctifies the greatest of our ideas and being, from love, courage and betrayal to creation and dissent… It’s the kind of book that opens out its readers, making them think and feel. It’s the kind of book I’ll carry with me for all time. What Ashley Hay says is true. On almost every page, there’s something to make the reader pause to think, because the book explores fundamental truths and issues that still resonate now in the 21st century. Although it’s set in an historical period, it’s not historical fiction of the genre variety. It’s a book that explores history in a new and reflective way. To see the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/10/27/s...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Win

    I rated this book 5 stars not because it’s perfect but because it captures the atmosphere & the times perfectly. You become immersed in the streets, suburbs & beaches of Sydney. The Opera House going up piece by piece & the problems associated with the build are tangible. The characters are also very relatable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Smith Writes

    ‘There was no Swedish word to describe this, no English word that he knew; it wasn’t as simple as ‘awe’ or even ‘love’. It was the clutch at his heart as he lifted his eyes to its curves and lines. Its reach for beauty, a connection between the human and the sublime.’ Since its release last month, in my capacity as editor for historical fiction with the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I have read quite a few reviews on Shell, with no one reviewer saying the same thing. This in itself was reas ‘There was no Swedish word to describe this, no English word that he knew; it wasn’t as simple as ‘awe’ or even ‘love’. It was the clutch at his heart as he lifted his eyes to its curves and lines. Its reach for beauty, a connection between the human and the sublime.’ Since its release last month, in my capacity as editor for historical fiction with the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I have read quite a few reviews on Shell, with no one reviewer saying the same thing. This in itself was reason enough for me to want to check it out and form my own opinion, but in the end, it was Lisa from ANZ LitLovers LitBlog who really persuaded me to read this novel post haste (do check out her review here). But it wasn’t all love at the first chapter for me, I will admit this and for the first seventy odd pages, I really felt as though I just couldn’t put my finger on the pulse of what was happening. There was a vagueness to the narrative which, to me, evaded full disclosure. It was almost as though I had to read between the lines of what was being alluded. However, in hindsight, I can note that these initial impressions can probably be attributed to the way in which I was reading the novel, more than the novel itself. I was picking it up in short bursts on Saturday, in between hanging out copious amounts of washing and acting as a taxi for my children all day long. Anyway, it wasn’t until I was able to really settle down with Shell in the evening that this dawned on me. Because all of a sudden, without distraction, I realised that this novel was actually quite exceptional. ‘Her own rollies had never tasted as sweet as she’d imagined. She’d thought they’d be just like those mornings, which held the deep flinty smell of her father’s breath and skin, like the embers of old kindling. She’d searched for years for precisely the right tobacco, settling recently for a blend of plum and spice she found consoling, if not sweet. Those hours with her father re-enacted in the rhythm of the match striking, the tobacco catching, the shape of thumb and forefinger around the smoke.’ There are so many moments of introspection from both of the main characters, Pearl and Axel, that gave me pause for reflection. Passages I read two, and even three times, just enjoying the beauty of the words and the way Kristina Olsson strings them together. This is why I needed to sink into the novel, rather than just pick it up and put it down over and over. While the narrative is engaging, it’s the beauty of the unsaid that takes this novel to the next level, and in order to appreciate the unsaid, you need time and no distractions. ‘She looked up, and between half-heard words and phrases, in the shifting space between earth and sky, she saw it: the boys had been abandoned by them all. Mother, father, sister. Through death, grief, selfishness – in one way or another, they’d each disappeared, left them. Leaving was what her brothers knew. What they expected.’ I have never actually been to the Opera House. The most I’ve seen of it is from the window of an airplane as we cruised into Sydney on an international connection flight. I have no physical context for which to place this story, no visual memories to draw on, yet while reading about it in Shell, I could picture the intricacies perfectly, her descriptions so precise and detailed that visiting the Opera House was not a prerequisite for enjoying this novel – to my relief, because some reviews I have read were from people who have visited the Opera House and they all mentioned how this helped them with the visualisation of its creation as it was described within the novel. Rest assured, if you are like me and haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting, it’s not going to impact on your appreciation of this aspect of the novel. I never knew that there was so much controversy surrounding its construction. Seeing this all unfold through Axel’s eyes provided an insightful perspective, particularly his thoughts on Australians and the way we consider beauty and culture. In particular: ‘It wasn’t that they didn’t understand beauty. But there was a sense of being embarrassed by it, that it was an indulgence. The practical was held in such esteem. It made them too polite.’ And: ‘Australians appeared to have no myths of their own, no stories to pass down. He’d read about the myths of indigenous people, the notion of a Dreaming and the intricate stories it comprised. He wondered if Utzon knew these legends, their history in this place. Had he known anything of Aboriginal people when he designed his building? As he sat down and drew shapes that could turn a place sacred? Turn its people poetic: their eyes to a harbour newly revealed by the building, its depths and colours new to them, and surprising. Perhaps that was what the architect was doing here: creating a kind of Dreaming, a shape and structure that would explain these people to themselves. Perhaps the building was just that: a secular bible, a Rosetta stone, a treaty. A story to be handed down. If people would bother to look. If they’d bother to see.’ One more: ‘But in this country, he saw, it was a kind of sport to belittle those with vision, to treat art with disdain. He wasn’t sure what benefit it brought, but it was something to do with this flattening out, this shuffle towards sameness, to a life lived on the surface, without any depth. Was that why people clung so hard to the edges of the country, their backs to its beating red heart? Were they afraid to look in, to hear the old stories, to see what was inscribed on their own hearts and land?’ You see what I mean though? There are so many passages that just reach out to you with their intent. The other topic of prominence within this novel is the introduction of conscription for the Vietnam War, and the way this divided people. I found this particularly interesting and it’s kind of changed my view to a certain extent on the way the Vietnam War was being protested against by the Australian public. I can’t help but consider the weight that conscription must have added to the ill-sentiment that was already prevalent. Would the absence of conscription have led to a more respectful return for our troops that had served in this war? I love it when a novel can get my mind working like this. ‘They were 18 and 19 then, not old enough to vote. To get a passport, buy a house or a beer. But they could be forced into army fatigues, she thought now, biting her lip. Given a gun to kill boys just like them, boys they didn’t know, had never seen.’ I have no doubt that Shell is one of those novels we will see a lot of next year as it pops up on longlists and (hopefully) shortlists for awards. It is a literary work of fiction, I only point this out because some readers prefer not to dive into these, but if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to read Shell, I urge you to just go for it. If you love a novel that gives you beautiful prose threaded with thought provoking content set against a background of real historical events, then Shell just might be the perfect read for you. ‘The passage of time, of life, from one realm to another, the traces left for others.’

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I knew within the first few pages that I was going to love this book. I knew that I would hate to come to the end of these words which were only matched by the elegance of the Sydney Opera House. I read slowly, in order that I not miss even one small nuance, one exquisite thought. Some novels are read for plot, some for character, and some, like Shell, for the beauty of the written word. Axel Lindquist is a glass man from Sweden, brought to Australia by Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect of the Sidn I knew within the first few pages that I was going to love this book. I knew that I would hate to come to the end of these words which were only matched by the elegance of the Sydney Opera House. I read slowly, in order that I not miss even one small nuance, one exquisite thought. Some novels are read for plot, some for character, and some, like Shell, for the beauty of the written word. Axel Lindquist is a glass man from Sweden, brought to Australia by Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect of the Sidney Opera House, to design the glass in the structure. "His glasswork had flowered into complexity, a way of shaping his yearning, of what he saw -- the lakes, the shore and its paths, rain, snow. His liquid world. The terrible strength of water and of glass. Their fragility and beauty." Pearl Keogh works for the Telegraph newspaper, for "from the beginning, she was obsessed by the process: the notion of a story, what it was, what it could do, the risk and potential of it." Threaded through their lives are the Vietnam conflict and the construction of the Sydney Opera House, always under the watchful eye of the Southern Cross. This deeply enchanting and alluring novel will not disappoint. I read this EARC courtesy of Atria Books and Edelweiss. pub date 10/09/18

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sam Still Reading

    A book like Shell doesn’t come around every day, nor every year. This book is beautifully, tenderly written with every word crafted with an eye for detail. It is as admirable as the Sydney Opera House (the building of which is a major plot device) and as breathtaking as the glass sculptures crafted by Axel, one of the main characters. I can’t think of a better story to launch the Scribner Australia imprint. This is going to be an imprint to devour if Shell is any indication of the beauty and qua A book like Shell doesn’t come around every day, nor every year. This book is beautifully, tenderly written with every word crafted with an eye for detail. It is as admirable as the Sydney Opera House (the building of which is a major plot device) and as breathtaking as the glass sculptures crafted by Axel, one of the main characters. I can’t think of a better story to launch the Scribner Australia imprint. This is going to be an imprint to devour if Shell is any indication of the beauty and quality of the storytelling. Shell describes two major occasions in Australian history, neither of which have been deeply explored in fiction to date. The first is the building of the Sydney Opera House, which for many Australians has just been there forever (myself included). It’s amazing to think that in the 1960s that it wasn’t finished with both the media and government attacking the project daily (and that was before social media). The second is the anti-war movement as Australia sends troops to Vietnam with protesters organising large scale disruption. Through the eyes of the two main characters, Pearl and Axel, both become personal. Pearl is involved in the anti-war campaigns, but has had to take a backseat after being photographed during a protest has moved her career backwards from news journalists to the women’s pages. She’s still secretly involved, with a link on ‘the inside’ but her main motivation is much more personal. Her two brothers, who she feels she failed after they were placed in an orphanage, are of drafting age. Pearl doesn’t know where they are, but she wants to protect them at all costs. Axel has come from Sweden to work of glass sculptures for the Opera House. His hero is the architect, Jørn Utzon. He is desperate to meet Utzon and explain how his design for the Opera House makes him feel. Axel can’t understand the controversy and resistance against the project. This extends to the way some Australians act – it’s foreign to him. When he meets Pearl, little do either of them realise they have a lot in common. Missing, broken families and a desire for change. Kristina Olsson’s writing is exquisite. Like how Axel sees the Opera House, it is art. Every detail of this novel is planned and executed to the finest detail. You will want to savour every single word, picture every scene and reflect on the conversations between characters. Although it’s not a long book, Shell should not be skimmed over quickly. This is a novel that reminds us of why we read – for the beauty and creation of worlds in our mind. Simply put, I loved this novel. I hungered for every detail about Pearl’s family and Axel’s sculptures. I loved the glimpses into a Sydney that is so different – slower and simpler - than today’s speedy metropolis. Shell will not disappoint. I’ve overjoyed that this beautiful, Australian story will be shared with the world. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the copy of this book. My review is honest. http://samstillreading.wordpress.com

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lesley Moseley

    3 3/4 rounded up as I felt it wrapped up to quickly. LOVELY read, Sydney is the most dominant 'character', I felt. Wonderful realisation of place. and set in it's time. I felt a bit distant from the main people characters except I actually cried during a very poignant 'meeting', scene. Would definately recomend it, especially to Scandinavian readers as their countries portrayals match my memories.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Thanks to netgalley for a free copy of this book. I thought Kristina Olsson's book would be right up my alley: historical fiction, Sydney in the mid 1960s, the construction of the Sydney Opera House. Unfortunately, I did not like this book at all. Olsson utilized one of biggest pet peeves: no quotation marks. Instead, all dialogue was in italics and within the paragraphs instead of separated out. In addition, I did not like the structure, which continually switched back and forth between the two Thanks to netgalley for a free copy of this book. I thought Kristina Olsson's book would be right up my alley: historical fiction, Sydney in the mid 1960s, the construction of the Sydney Opera House. Unfortunately, I did not like this book at all. Olsson utilized one of biggest pet peeves: no quotation marks. Instead, all dialogue was in italics and within the paragraphs instead of separated out. In addition, I did not like the structure, which continually switched back and forth between the two main characters (and time periods), Pearl and Axel, within the same chapter. Finally, I did not like Olsson's writing style, which seemed to me like she was trying too hard to be lyrical and artistic.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I just loved this book. It resonated for me in so many ways. It took me back to Sydney of my childhood, the Opera House being built, the anti-Vietnam protests, my experiences of growing up in Balmain and that weird inferiority complex we had in Australia that fed into a real cultural cringe and fear of the new. I even have a memory of Jorn Utzen getting the sack. This is how deep it’s building settled into our consciousness. I loved the way Olsson used light and water as a vehicle to tell the sto I just loved this book. It resonated for me in so many ways. It took me back to Sydney of my childhood, the Opera House being built, the anti-Vietnam protests, my experiences of growing up in Balmain and that weird inferiority complex we had in Australia that fed into a real cultural cringe and fear of the new. I even have a memory of Jorn Utzen getting the sack. This is how deep it’s building settled into our consciousness. I loved the way Olsson used light and water as a vehicle to tell the story. The cultural differences in the book were underpinned by Pearl and Axel’s relationship. I guess in some ways the book is a statement of optimism - Pearl and Axel do end up understanding each other and the Opera House is built. A wonderful book to read, it’s just sad that I got to the end of it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rosalie

    ‘Shell’ is a surreal story set in Sydney during the 1960’s. It is one of those books that connects several topics within a setting and these are linked loosely by the tenuous relationship between the two main characters. I was deceived by the dreamlike story-telling as it meandered along with so many gaps for the reader to fill in; but Olsson is describing the Sydney I knew when I was about 11 years old and I was completely engrossed and am still contemplating its impact on me. The 1960’s was a ‘Shell’ is a surreal story set in Sydney during the 1960’s. It is one of those books that connects several topics within a setting and these are linked loosely by the tenuous relationship between the two main characters. I was deceived by the dreamlike story-telling as it meandered along with so many gaps for the reader to fill in; but Olsson is describing the Sydney I knew when I was about 11 years old and I was completely engrossed and am still contemplating its impact on me. The 1960’s was a decade of social upheaval around the western world. Countries like Australia were slanted politically by the Cold War and shifted their allegiance from Britain to the US. At that time there was almost full employment and an increasing reliance on immigration to satisfy the needs of the post war infrastructure developments such as the Snowy Hydro-electric Scheme and other amazing constructions befitting a ‘new’ country such as the Sydney Opera House. Nevertheless, the migrant labourers were expected to work and assimilate but not to outshine the local white Australians - to not do too well. The Vietnam War showed the strength of the new US / Australian alliance when the government of the day introduced conscription and sent troops to fight against the communists at the request of the Americans. Yet there was a growing dissatisfaction with the conservative politics which culminated with the idea of fighting a war that was not an Australian war. The use of secret service agencies to gather information about anti-government Australia also became more apparent. Into this scenario the stories of Pearl and Axel collide. Axel is a Swedish master glassmaker who is lured to Sydney to work on the Opera House under the Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who had won the design competition. His presence introduces other minor themes such as the divergent viewpoints of Europeans and Australians, the idea of neutrality during wartime, the undermining of the integrity of Utzon and the indescribable essence of light in art glass. Pearl’s world is centred on her work as a journalist and her search for her missing brothers. She has been relegated to the ‘woman’s pages’ but her phone is tapped after she is spotted attending an anti-war rally. Her personal backstory introduces the minor themes of ‘lost’ women writers, left-wing clandestine meetings and control taken over by the men, illegal abortions and horrific orphanages run by charitable organisations (many of whom allowed the physical and sexual abuse of their charges). Kristina Olsson is an expert storyteller and wordsmith. She conjures up images and plays with words to complete her pictures. For example, Pearl discovers a tawny frogmouth when she steps outside while her tea draws in her blue enamel tea pot. She remembers her mother once saying “an owl in the garden is like a blessing” and extends this analogy to “she let the fledgling hope rise in her, feathering up and over her limbs. A rare optimism, and it warmed her…” (p145) The author examines the power of words used to diminish people for example Pearl’s editor describes the 60-year-old author he suggests she interview as ‘elderly’ but suggests it “a strong, successful, single (woman), a public figure who called her own tune. Brought to heel by one word – elderly – a suitable punishment for breaking the rules. For being the one who got away”. (p174) Olsson also examines the cultural darkness that existed in Australia right up to and beyond the 1960’s when Australian culture was overshadowed by everything from overseas. P 236 “it was a kind of sport to belittle those with a vision, to treat art with disdain…The locals had no myths and therefore could not understand (Utzon) or his building...When they needed a symbol, a narrative that explained them…they would look to the Opera House and see themselves.” This is a rich but complex book that captures the impressions of the sixties without nostalgia.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Dee

    My feelings about this book are very divided. On one hand, I was fascinated by Olsson’s evocation of the setting; Sydney in the mid-60’s was a culture deeply divided between its past and its future. On the brink of the Vietnam war draft, with the iconic Opera House in mid-construction, Australia was a country of immigrants unsure how to deal with its diversity. Ultimately, though, the plot moved too languidly to keep me fully engaged. I was interested by Pearl and Axel, and their back-stories, bu My feelings about this book are very divided. On one hand, I was fascinated by Olsson’s evocation of the setting; Sydney in the mid-60’s was a culture deeply divided between its past and its future. On the brink of the Vietnam war draft, with the iconic Opera House in mid-construction, Australia was a country of immigrants unsure how to deal with its diversity. Ultimately, though, the plot moved too languidly to keep me fully engaged. I was interested by Pearl and Axel, and their back-stories, but not enough to continue to plow through the adjectives and beautifully written turns of phrase.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Figgy

    The cover of this one is just stunning in person! It's all pearlescent and stuff, but I'm also kinda in love with the fact that the title has a shadow on the water...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    Strangely written & couldn't get ijnto it. Too many books to read so I gave up.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dirk

    Having recently completed a 1000-page novel that seemed less than the sum of its parts, I was quite pleasantly surprised by just how much Kristina Olsson's Shell exceeded my expectation that it would be a comforting, light read. A wonderful story of two strangers discovering each other, rediscovering parts of their personal histories from which they had become estranged, and a great deal more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    El

    Review at Historical Novel Society. But first, from the Author's Note...I write, always, compulsively, because I don't know something. It is always about a question. Or several. Ideas and notions and doubts coalesce into a long and intricate conversation with myself, or with an invisible other. In this case the conversation lasted five years. At the end of that process I find I have no solid answers, no certainties. Only possibilities, a whole new set of questions. The more I write, and read, and Review at Historical Novel Society. But first, from the Author's Note...I write, always, compulsively, because I don't know something. It is always about a question. Or several. Ideas and notions and doubts coalesce into a long and intricate conversation with myself, or with an invisible other. In this case the conversation lasted five years. At the end of that process I find I have no solid answers, no certainties. Only possibilities, a whole new set of questions. The more I write, and read, and the older I get, the more comfortable I am with uncertainty. With being the humble servant of the questions, the story.YES.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kayte Nunn

    Adored this beautifully written book - it is as exquisite as the glass that it describes.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne Fenn

    This is a marvellous book, a novel full of marvels. First one that strikes you is Kristina Olsson's language - some of her best work deals with the world of glass. Sydney Opera House, that haphazard array of sails, they all have windows, not ordinary ones either. Her language here moves from the technical, a little, to the aesthetic, a lot. It makes me want to go and see those windows today! There's a lot of yearning in this drawn-out drama about building a national edifice in the face of politi This is a marvellous book, a novel full of marvels. First one that strikes you is Kristina Olsson's language - some of her best work deals with the world of glass. Sydney Opera House, that haphazard array of sails, they all have windows, not ordinary ones either. Her language here moves from the technical, a little, to the aesthetic, a lot. It makes me want to go and see those windows today! There's a lot of yearning in this drawn-out drama about building a national edifice in the face of political intrigue. Poor Utzon remains a shadowy figure while smaller characters become the main players. This is the next great aspect of the novel - the breadth and depth of the plot, which has so many threads. Historical, cultural, social, technical, you don't really notice this as they blend so smoothly in ways you wouldn't predict. It's the 1960s, Vietnam war, conscription protests, these are important . Main character Pearl is a journalist with a politically aware upbringing, she brings this perspective to her work but can't write about it. Her story brings more - Irish activism, family breakup, orphanages, mistreatment of women, children, the elderly. The story takes a brief but fascinating glimpse at the lives of migrants and their efforts during the post-war years on schemes like the Snowy Mountains project. Pearl's relationship with glassmaker Axel links us to Sweden's role in WW2, and the effects of war such as levels of participation, loss, separation, and change. Cultural differences between 1960s Sweden and Australia are powerfully developed; the author produces a thoughtful but bruising scrutiny of our national characteristics. Flat, is a key word. Olsson's language and ideas make the complexities of life during these years, 1940-1960, here and abroad, come to vivid life. It helps keep the past alive, and provides other ways of seeing how we can deal more positively with the here and now. I confess I started it earlier and put it down, too tired to appreciate it. A couple of reviews made me return to it, I'm very glad I did.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate Downey

    This is one of the most intriguing reads I have had in a long time. Set in 1967 Sydney while the Opera House is being constructed and the Vietnam War demands the drafting of Australian soldiers, we meet our main protagonists: Pearl, a young reporter, and Axel, a Swedish glass artist. Olsson covers a lot of ground in this luminous and intricate novel aside from the political environment of the era, the anti-war protests, the obstacles and opinions regarding the architect of Sydney's iconic buildi This is one of the most intriguing reads I have had in a long time. Set in 1967 Sydney while the Opera House is being constructed and the Vietnam War demands the drafting of Australian soldiers, we meet our main protagonists: Pearl, a young reporter, and Axel, a Swedish glass artist. Olsson covers a lot of ground in this luminous and intricate novel aside from the political environment of the era, the anti-war protests, the obstacles and opinions regarding the architect of Sydney's iconic building, both person and vision. The prose is unselfconscious, at times ornate but the text is buoyant, light-filled. I felt at times I was experiencing Sydney through the refracted light of one of Axel's sculptures, feeling the glow of sun and fire. The counter to the dazzle comes in the form of the protagonists's bleaker family histories, loss, personal failures and, for Pearl, guilt at having failed the ones she loves. The narrative is earthed through the real and complex relationships that Olson so effortlessly paints. Light is hard to master, Olssson infuses her novel with very particular luminescence.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)

    Shell is a special book. As soon as I opened the pages I was taken back in time to '60's Sydney.  I followed journalist Pearl Keogh and Swedish glass artist Axel Lindquist as their lives weave themselves into the fabric of Sydney harbour and witness the construction of the modern wonder of the world. The Sydney Opera House. The prose ebbs and flows, just like the waves which lap against the Sydney Opera House as ferries busily take commuters across the harbour and out to the lower north shore tod Shell is a special book. As soon as I opened the pages I was taken back in time to '60's Sydney.  I followed journalist Pearl Keogh and Swedish glass artist Axel Lindquist as their lives weave themselves into the fabric of Sydney harbour and witness the construction of the modern wonder of the world. The Sydney Opera House. The prose ebbs and flows, just like the waves which lap against the Sydney Opera House as ferries busily take commuters across the harbour and out to the lower north shore today.  The detail is incredible and I loved reading about places in Sydney where I live, work and walk past every day. Names such as Menzies, Fairfax and Chifley piqued my interest and had my mind wandering what Sydney was like at such a fascinating time in Australian History. The controversial Vietnam war, the journalists of the time, the infrastructure and social codes, all with this strange, unusual and beautiful building in the background being constructed for all the world to see. A gentle, carefully written novel and a must read for any Sydney-sider.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bree T

    This is a beautiful looking book – my copy was is a hardback with this gorgeous dust jacket in soft pinks and out of focus shot of Sydney Harbour with the Opera House. The Opera House is such an iconic landmark – there are probably few who wouldn't recognise it, it’s synonymous with Sydney and that harbour and it’s played a huge role in how Sydney is marketed to the rest of the world. And this book comes at an interesting publication time because of late, the Sydney Opera House has been very muc This is a beautiful looking book – my copy was is a hardback with this gorgeous dust jacket in soft pinks and out of focus shot of Sydney Harbour with the Opera House. The Opera House is such an iconic landmark – there are probably few who wouldn't recognise it, it’s synonymous with Sydney and that harbour and it’s played a huge role in how Sydney is marketed to the rest of the world. And this book comes at an interesting publication time because of late, the Sydney Opera House has been very much in the news because there was quite a public spat between Racing NSW who wanted to use it to promote a horse race, and the Opera House Trust, who did not want to use it as the world’s most expensive billboard. There was a very ugly radio interview, the NSW Premier intervened and overruled the Trust and a petition circulated gained 250,000+ signatures of the public who didn’t approve of it advertising a horse race either. Now the Opera House has been used before – it’s regularly coloured with lights to promote what are usually charitable causes or social messages (eg lit up pink for Breast Cancer Foundation, lit up red, white and blue after the French terrorist attack) and occasionally the government has stepped in for sporting reasons – the Wallabies, Australia’s Rugby Union team is one such instance. But this was different, given it was directly promoting an industry that some people regard as inhumane and responsible for gambling issues across the country. Even some who were horse racing fans weren’t into the idea of using the Opera House as a display for the highest bidder to promote whatever. And there were others who were tired of the Opera House being “for hoity toity snobs” and why shouldn’t they do something like this. In my time, the Opera House has always been a beloved icon, even if people don’t use it for practical reasons. This book explores the construction of the Opera House, the change of government that shaped the fallout with architect and designer Jørn Utzon and the public opinions of the building that blew out in budget and time. Interestingly when I discussed this with my mother, I found that a bit of that resentment was obvious from her, as well as the perception that the Opera House was built and designed for rich people to do rich people things in. I’ve been to the Opera House quite a few times but I’ve never actually seen a performance there. I went as a child for school and I’ve delivered various interstate and overseas friends to Sydney Harbour to point it out and show them up close (because it really looks quite different when you are right up close to it, especially the tiling, etc). To me it’s something beautiful that I don’t actually really consider the practical application of. It is just…..there. Whether or not I actually use it for its intended purpose is irrelevant. It was built coming off the back of WWII though so perhaps people born in the generation after that have a very different opinion about things being useful and worth the money. This book has its ups and downs for me. It was really interesting reading about the construction of the Opera House and the evolving feelings and public opinion at the time. As I said, it came in the 20yrs post WWII but Australia was already being dragged into another war – Vietnam. The conscription law plays a large role in this book. Main character Pearl is a journalist, a strong woman with a painful background. She’s been searching for her two brothers after the family was split up following the death of her mother when Pearl was 14 and her father was unable to cope with so many children. She wants to find them before the draft does. Pearl is an activist, a feminist and she’s being shoehorned because of her job where you’re supposed to remain neutral. She finds herself bumped from news to women’s and it’s stifling her. Pearl meets Alex Lindquist, a Swedish glassmaker in Sydney to work on the Opera House who is baffled by Australian attitudes to many things. Lindquist longs to meet Utzon, to connect with him and tell him he understand him. It took me almost a week to read this book which is almost unheard of for me. I have to admit that I did struggle with it quite a bit. It’s a very slow burn, a methodical book. The writing is beautiful, it seems like each word and sentence is chosen with exquisite care but I often found my attention wandering away. It takes quite a while for Pearl and Alex to cross paths and then when they do I’m honestly not sure why they do? It wasn’t until probably the last 100-150 pages that I really felt like I was ‘getting’ what others were in praising this book so strongly. There were glimpses of brilliance – the way Olsson writes Pearl’s family is remarkable, the depth of her grief and guilt, the depiction of her father. And even though Pearl’s mother is deceased, she’s a strong presence in the book, she’s constantly in Pearl’s thoughts with her opinions. But the book did limp along a little and perhaps I’m just too impatient to appreciate the quietness of this storytelling, I can fully admit that. I wanted to love it, it’s such a beautiful cover and I’d heard lots of praise about it….but ultimately I just don’t think it was for me. I can see the beauty and merit in it and at times I felt myself almost being pulled right in, but it just never completely happened. ***A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review***

  26. 5 out of 5

    Raelene Govett

    Fabulous. Poetic, sad yet uplifting too. Really captures the essence of the creative spirit. But what I liked most about this book was the undercurrent. The story was good, but the undercurrent really snagged my thoughts. How it captured the spirit of Australia today, that youthful yearning for a cultural heritage and history that we struggle to acknowledge has been staring us smack right bang in the face all along. An ancient, proud and strong history that’s not ours, but one that we could and Fabulous. Poetic, sad yet uplifting too. Really captures the essence of the creative spirit. But what I liked most about this book was the undercurrent. The story was good, but the undercurrent really snagged my thoughts. How it captured the spirit of Australia today, that youthful yearning for a cultural heritage and history that we struggle to acknowledge has been staring us smack right bang in the face all along. An ancient, proud and strong history that’s not ours, but one that we could and should accept, embrace and honour. I loved that gentle slap on the wrist to white Australia’s relentless will to hold on to a myth. Loved it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    2.5*. I understand one reviewer saying have patience.... No kidding!! I spent half the time re-reading sentences trying to figure out what the author was trying to tell me. It was painful!!! I loved the storyline and the historical relevance aspect but the prose was too “flowery” and time consuming. The lack of quotation marks disguised in italics didn’t bother me but the prose was confusing and time robbing, hence 2.5 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    It is 1965 and Australia is on the brink of change. The Sydney Opera House is being built. Australia’s young men are being conscripted into the Vietnam War. Shell tells the story of Pearl, a journalist and Axel, a sculptor in Glass. Both are haunted by their past, and seek meaning to their lives through their work. Kristina Olsson writes beautifully about their lives and their passions. This is an optimistic book, of hope for the future.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Callum Macdonald

    “The drama of harbour and horizon, and at night, the star-clotted Sky. It held the shape of the possible, of a promise made and waiting to be kept.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Kristina Olsson’s Shell is a superb glimpse into 1960s Sydney. As Jørn Utzon’s stunning design comes to life on Sydney Harbour, two very different stories intertwine in the surrounding suburbs. Pearl Keogh, a journalist who defies Menzies’ Vietnam War conscription lottery, tries to protect her brothers from the catastrophe of war. Meanwhile, “The drama of harbour and horizon, and at night, the star-clotted Sky. It held the shape of the possible, of a promise made and waiting to be kept.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Kristina Olsson’s Shell is a superb glimpse into 1960s Sydney. As Jørn Utzon’s stunning design comes to life on Sydney Harbour, two very different stories intertwine in the surrounding suburbs. Pearl Keogh, a journalist who defies Menzies’ Vietnam War conscription lottery, tries to protect her brothers from the catastrophe of war. Meanwhile, Danish glass-blower works to contribute his own artistry into Utzon’s creation. This novel is at once quiet and bold; an immense meditation on art and life in a city on the brink of devastating change. A must-read! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    Skilful writing, and lots of historical interest surrounding the construction of the Sydney Opera House, the introduction of conscription during the Menzies government and an interesting sideline dealing with the Swedish Red Cross and the White Buses during WW2, but I couldn't seem to get inside the characters.

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