The English Roses
By Madonna. Publisher:
Puffin Books. RRP: $29.95
By Glynner Maclean.
Publisher: Penguin. RRP: $16.95
By Lesley Pearse.
Publisher: Penguin. RRP: $23.95
by Barbara Weil November 5, 2003
By Pat Barker.
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin). RRP: $34.95
The English Roses
the Duchess of York can do it with Budgie the Helicopter
and a host of other celebrities are doing it, it was
only a matter of time before Madonna Louise Veronica
Ciccone Ritchie turned her hand to writing a children’s
She has sold more than 200 million records and reinvented
herself so many times, why not?
The English Roses is a
48-page hardcover with sumptuous illustrations by Jeffrey
The ‘roses’ are four girls, Nicole, Amy, Charlotte
and Grace, who bear more than a passing resemblance
to the Spice Girls. They go to the same school, live
near each other and like the same things.
They particularly like to dance and we’re treated
to pictures of the girls doing the hullabaloo, monkey,
techno fox-trot, tickety boo and more, looking more
than ever like Posh and co.
The story is simple enough — the girls are jealous
of another in the neighbourhood.
Binah is beautiful, an excellent student, good at sport
and kind to people. A page shows the girls going green
Binah has no friends and Nicole and company aren’t
about to make any overtures — she’s too perfect.
They have a pyjama party and Nicole’s mother asks
why Binah isn’t invited. They say Binah is probably
too stuck-up. Mother gives a little sermon about not
The upshot is a fairy godmother shows them the error
of their ways and about Binah’s life with no mother
and many chores at home. It all ends happily with them
There’s a punch line at the end when neighbours
say: “Those English Roses are really special. What
“They’ll grow up to be incredible women one
Yeah right, and they’ll all marry metrosexual guys
Oh well, I guess it’s harmless enough stuff that
does try to take a moral stand.
This is described as teenage science fiction.
It is Book One of the A’nzarian Chronicle and follows
the life of Roivan, a humanoid of uncertain age, sent
to teleport the void between the arms of the galaxy
to find human space.
She is instructed to travel to human space and stay
“Do not return. Speak only your name.
“Do not take the Test. Do not speak of your world,
you life, or your species until you meet someone who
tells you first. If they are right, you then may speak.
Until that time, speak only your name. Protect your
Roivan is discovered stowed away on the Balliage, a
space survey ship. She is befriended by Constellation
Prime Joshua Carter and his charge engineer Stenway.
The stowaway is a telepath, is telekinetic and is amphibian.
She has eyes like a kaleidoscope, a photographic memory
and is a whiz at maths and engineering. But who is Roivan?
She is trapped aboard the spaceship — she can find
no others in the void and is in the centre of a web
of political instructions that give her the power to
make a difference in the adult world.
However before that happens there are many adventures
and much intrigue.
This book is quite riveting. Even adult readers will
be caught up this compelling story. For those with a
less scientific bent the author included a glossary
of the terms.
The characters are well drawn and Glynne Maclean paints
a picture of a future world that is quite unlike ours,
but has many similarities.
For instance, some species are suspicious of others,
not simply in racial ways but because of their mental
The Wellington writer worked in the travel industry
for many years before enrolling in Fiona Kidman’s
creative writing course.
Roivan is her first published novel.
Maclean supports her writing by building commercial
websites and writing a computer column for a Wellington
Buy this book for a science-keen teenager, but read
it yourself first.
After reading Lesley Pearse’s
book about English orphans in Australia, Trust Me, I
wanted more of this best selling author.
Mary Broad is only 18 when one day in 1786 she foolishly
steals a hat from a woman on the street. It’s highway
robbery and carries the death sentence.
However her execution is stayed and Mary joins several
hundred convicts to sail to Australia.
But this is preceded by prison and then time on a rusting
hulk in the harbour (there were too many prisoners in
Britain to be housed in jails.)
The conditions are horrifying. Remember Me is based
on a true story, but it is sometimes hard to accept
people treated their fellow human beings so brutally.
For a girl from Cornwall who has never ventured further
than Plymouth, the plight of Mary is almost as bad as
the death sentence. The one thing Mary has going for
her is courage and determination and she makes a promise
that she will survive whatever it takes.
Sometimes this means compromises that may appear strange,
but Mary is audacious and strong. “As long as I’m
still breathing, then I’ll still hope,” she
Life in Sydney is hard, but Mary takes it in her stride.
She then escapes in a cutter with her husband and two
children and a band of convicts. They nearly perish
on their journey to the Dutch East Indies. More privations
follow, along with the death of her children and husband
and Mary is recaptured and taken to England.
What happens next is extraordinary. Mary is sentenced
to death again, but her case is taken up by James Boswell,
the biographer of Samuel Johnson. She is saved, but
that’s almost the end of the story.
Lesley Pearse says in a footnote she would like to have
written a happy ending with Mary reunited with her family
and perhaps remarrying.
However in the true account Mary disappeared without
She may, says the writer, have returned to Australia,
but the last we see of this tragic but heroic woman
is on the deck of a ship going to Cornwall.
Remember Me is an absorbing,
if somewhat harrowing read.
This is a rather bleak novel,
with a ray of hope at the end.
Stephen Sharkey is a war correspondent whose career
has taken him to most of the world’s trouble spots
and brought him close to a breakdown. His marriage has
failed and his best friend, a war photographer was killed
In search of peace, Stephen leaves his newspaper job
with the aim of writing a book.
His brother lives in the same village as his friend’s
widow, a renowned sculptor. Stephen lives in a cottage
at the bottom of his brother’s garden and starts
to write and find a sort of solace. He is attracted
to a woman 20 years his junior and starts a relationship.
Sculptor Kate is working on a statue of Christ when
she is injured in a car crash. Unable to do hard physical
work, she hires a local gardener to help.
Peter causes uneasiness to may people, but that is another
Double Vision is about
the darker side of human nature. Pat Barker makes a
parallel with the violence of war with the violence
hidden in ‘peaceful’ society.
Although the story ends well enough, there were several
side issues that were not really satisfactorily concluded.
It was as if the writer created some characters and
incidents that she could not deal with effectively.
Nevertheless a good read from a prolific author who
won the 1995 Booker Prize and many other awards.