MAF members warmed this month with our long awaited visit with Sulari Gentill, Zooming us from Australia! This was a determined effort by both Sulari and members to overcome schedule cancellation due to COVID. And we absorbed by proxy, the warm, winter afternoon Sulari was enjoying.
The warm weather was had nothing on the warmth Sulari showed during the discussion. We were in awe of the various, challenging accomplishments she has achieved in addition to her career as an outstanding mystery author. These included (but are not limited to) her career as a lawyer, her interest and in astrophysics and her parenting of “two strapping young men”. The interest in astrophysics and mythology led to her fantasy trilogy: Chasing Odysseus, Trying War, and The Blood of Wolves.
After which, she began her rightly acclaimed Roland Sinclair series with our discussion book A Few Right Thinking Men. It was fascinating to hear about Sulari’s approach to writing using a natural structure where each event and character leads to the next. Members asked about her tone and tension and how she captures the feelings of her characters and time period. She incorporates real events and people from the post-WWI war era of Australian history using her family history as well as period newspapers, interviews – and her public library!! We enjoyed the fact that the tense scene at the opening of the Sydney Harbor Bridge actually did have the incident with the ribbon to be cut. We observed that this seemingly insignificant ceremony, was evidence of a large hidden threat from the New Guard group.
MAF readers found the four artistic friends to be complex and interesting. We weren’t aware of the impact the war had on Australia both politically and culturally. We liked the way she personalizes these aspects of Australian life between the wars. These helped us to a true appreciation of what a few “right thinking men” could do to polarize the population around them. We talked about how restrictive “right-thinking” can be, and how it offends people who have a differing “right thinking”. This was skillfully shown in the relationships Rowley has with both his brother, and the New Guard group Eric Campbell is recruiting. Her balanced perspective with each group –the bohemian artists, the Communists, and both the Old and New Guard – increases reader understanding of how difficult it was to decide what and who to support. It is not an easy decision. Tying the groups directly into Rowley’s family history and issues also personalizes the situation.