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The mountain by Drusilla Modjeska

The mountain (2012)

by Drusilla Modjeska

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385298,882 (3.64)5



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Before reading this book, I must admit that I’d never heard of Drusilla Modjeska so I thought I would look her up and find out a bit about this book before starting The Mountain. I would never have picked up this book if it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to read this book for my local bookclub. Yes, this was the same book club that made me read A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale and The Hanging Garden by Patrick White so I was prepared not to enjoy, or even hate, this book. Modjeska is an award winning Australian author known for blurring the lines between Non-Fiction and Fiction. She has written three books in the past; Poppy (1990), The Orchard (1997) and Stravinsky’s Lunch (1999); all three books won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

The Mountain I believe was her first attempt at a purely fiction novel, but even this book has a lot of elements that might be considered non-fiction. I do like a book that uses real events and builds a story around them and I think Drusilla Modjeska did a decent job at doing just that. The first part of this book is a real coming of age story in Papua New Guinea during a time of colonialism. While there seemed to be a handful of characters this story covers (including Rika, Leonard, Jacob, Martha and Laedi) the books does a nice job of introducing each of the characters in this part of the book. The second part of the novel deals with a new generation who are dealing with the effects of everything that has happened. This generation is questioning their identity and the fallout of independence.

I really enjoyed learning more about Papua New Guinea’s history, featuring Whitlam government granting them independence and his dismissal. It was also nice to see the book revolving around other aspects of Papua New Guinea other than the Kokoda Track; which does feature but not in a huge way. Drusilla Modjeska took an interesting approach of making The Mountain the centre of this novel and almost took it to a point where she was making The Mountain a central character. This tactic helped drive the story a little for me; it was almost like the mountain has some secrets it didn’t want to tell.

I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did but I felt the book ended up being too nice. While there are a lot of bad things happening during this book, the story itself felt too cutesy for me to enjoy properly. I think the characters were decent but I never felt like I knew them well enough to care about the struggles that they faced. I read this book right after reading another character driven book, The Red House by Mark Haddon, and I think Modjeska’s story was nice, but Haddon’s The Red House seemed to outshine The Mountain in terms of characters and exploring their personal struggles. ( )
  knowledge_lost | Apr 27, 2015 |
I did want to like this one so much more than I managed to.

Set in Papua New Guinea in the lead up to independence in 1973, this should have had me gripped. Drusilla Modjeska has crafted some great characters, she's set her book in a fascinating and little known (to me) period and place, and it's beautifully written.

But for some reason I cannot fathom, I found this a struggle to read. I kept on picking up other books to read instead, and finally gave up after a fortnight when I wasn't even halfway through.

But don't take my word for it, do give it a try yourself. I think this is clearly a case of "it's not you, it's me" regarding my inability to finish it.

Did not finish, no rating.
  wookiebender | Mar 27, 2013 |
I have published two lengthy reviews of this book based on my personal experience of living in Papua New Guinea. The risk with this book is that people with no prior experience will think it is a fully-accurate historical representation of quite a recent time in PNG's "life". I disagree. It may be typical of a tiny minority of people but I don't believe Modjeska was speaking for the wider population, certainly not her disliked Australian colonists, and quite possibly not for the local people. You can see my reviews here. And yes, at times it was a bit like a Russian novel with the cast of characters..if you read it focus on the key ones. I gave the book four stars precisely because it produced such a reaction in me and got me fired up and thinking.
http://bewitchedbybooks.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/my-thoughts-on-the-mountain-by-... ( )
  cassmob | Jan 20, 2013 |
It was refreshing to read a book with a location so different from most of the novels in recent years. The first book I have read about Papua/New Guinea.
It tells of the time of independence in the 1970's and the effect that this had on the people who worked for the Australian government there at the time. It also shows how over the next thirty years the native people were exploited and have lost most of their culture.
The mountain people in the book are struggling to maintain their tribal customs but it seems inevitable that they will all be lost in time.
The other part of the story is about integration.There were several mixed race marriages among the leading characters. These marriages failed and the reasons lay as much with the disapproval of the native people as with that of the white people. The effect on the half-caste offspring of these marriages who were torn between two cultures was great.
A book which left me with a lot to think about. ( )
  lesleynicol | Jan 7, 2013 |
A challenging, difficult book with a few too many characters. Interesting to read something about and set in Papua New Guinea
  PaulaCheg | Oct 7, 2012 |
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In 1968 Papua New Guinea is on the brink of independence, and everything is about to change. Amidst the turmoil filmmaker Leonard arrives from England with his Dutch wife, Rika, to study and film an isolated village high in the mountains. Drusilla Modjeska's sweeping novel takes us deep into this fascinating, complex country, whose culture and people cannot escape the march of modernity that threatens to overwhelm them. It is a riveting story of love, loss, grief and betrayal.… (more)

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