A Different Shade of Seeing, a memoir by my friend, Elizabeth Brennan, delighted me. As Shane McCauley says:
‘We are privileged guests of the author as she shares her thoughts, observations and aspirations. History and folklore are discovered and retold through many incredible anecdotes.’
The book recounts a journey that the author made to uncover her Irish Catholic heritage, something for which she longed for many years.
Elizabeth’s friend, Catholic priest Tom Gaine, met her at the Cork Airport. Elizabeth worked with him as a pastoral assistant in a northern Perth suburb for twenty years. When he retired in 1999, he returned to his home country, Ireland.
For the three months, Tom accompanied Elizabeth on many of her travels.They shared a comfortable friendship. Tom obviously delighted in showing his visitor the country that he knew and loved.
Someone planning a trip to Ireland would find much of interest within these chapters. Elizabeth covered a lot of ground, often on foot. She combines her keen eye for detail with her writing skills to encourage a reader to explore the country further.
More than a travel memoir
But A Different Shade of Seeing is far more than a travel book. History, geography, myth, conversations and anecdotes tumble together. The author intersperses poetry from a variety of sources with personal meditations.
We read about her meetings with friends and strangers, exquisite scenery and places of historic and modern interest. The traveller takes many walks up the road with Tom and others. In these she explored the intimate countryside in different locations.
Above all, the inward, spiritual journey of the traveller unfolds. She makes connections between Ireland, her country of origin, and Australia, the land of her birth. She talks about her childhood and upbringing in a Catholic family. She writes of her awareness of a benevolent Presence in her life.
In one especially touching section, Elizabeth tells of the tears, laughter and the joy (and whisky) shared with her Brennan cousins when they met.
A house in Coolrus in Co. Tipperary, birthplace of her great-grandmother, forms the backdrop for the photo on the page. She connects this experience with a poem written by her uncle, the poet Christopher Brennan.
This book can be read from cover to cover as story. It also lends itself to a more leisurely, meditative reading. It makes a good bedside book, to be dipped into and savoured.
It was my privilege to read some of the early draft of the first edition of A Different Shade of Seeing.
Details about A Different Shade of Seeing
You can buy A Different Shade of Seeing through Amazon Books and Booktopia.
Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020
The AWW challenge was set up nine years ago to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. Last year I committed to reading too many books, and fell far short of my target. You can read about it here. This year, I hope to reach a more modest number.