Bibliophile: The Latest Books



bad behaviour

Bad Behaviour

by Rebecca Starford

Allen & Unwin

Fourteen year old Rebecca Starford is sent to a boarding school in the Victorian bush where there are no telephones, televisions, laptops or internet. Time is spent in the rugged outdoors with cross country running, hiking, camping and outdoor community service. Even punishments are gruelling runs along stony tracks. With only the occasional letter arriving from home, the rest of the world is forgotten. The aim is for students to connect with the natural world and to become strong and resilient.

As she struggles with the isolation and being away from her family, Rebecca tries to fit in with the 14 other girls in the boarding house. They are left largely unsupervised and the bullies target the socially vulnerable in a year that would leave its imprint on the adult Rebecca. At first she stood by before participating in attacks on the more despairing girls, and then she became the target as the more powerful girls trampled those beneath them.

Ten years later, Rebecca revisits her schoolgirl diary with a picture of Little Miss Naughty on the cover. Despite being successful in later schooling and at university, she finds herself fighting with her lesbian desire and carrying around the dead weight of shame. Finding no solutions in abusive relationships or alcoholic oblivion, she revisits her old boarding school in the hope of coming to terms with the past.

Rebecca Starford, who lives in Melbourne with her girlfriend, shows how toxic behaviour learnt in our formative years, although often necessary for our survival, is often repeated throughout our adult lives. Her memoir shows how she managed to forgive herself and move forward to being able to have healthy relationships.

 Lezly Herbert

michael leunigWhen I Talk To You

By Michael Leunig


‘Let us live in such a way

That when we die

Our love will survive

And continue to grow’

Long known for his satirical and humorous cartoons, Michael Leunig has turned to creating ‘public prayers’. Writing for Melbourne’s Sunday Age newspaper, his aim was to create prayers for those who abandoned or never considered prayer. He goes from the deadly serious – praying for the victims of war – to the frivolous – giving thanks the invention of the handle! Then there is the sublimely ridiculous – blessing the tunnellers, ‘those rare individuals whose joy and passion it is to dig mysterious tunnels beneath the surface of the earth’.

‘God help us

If our world should grow dark

And there is no way of seeing or knowing.

Grant us courage and trust

To touch and be touched

To find our way onwards

By feeling’

These inspirational prayers are of course accompanied by his simple poignant illustrations that we all know and love. Leunig hopes that these declarations will help people to be ‘fully alive to life’s spiritual possibilities’. In his search for a better world, Leunig uses the word ‘God’ as a stepping stone or makeshift handle to connect with a greater something … to connect to the wholeness of life. Some prayers rekindle joy while others allow a moment or two of reflection. Some prayers just bring a chuckle while others offer hope.

‘‘Love one another and you will be happy.’ It’s as simple and difficult as that. There is no other way.

Lezly Herbert