An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Reviews - Life Song

Billie Broadfoot-Wilde
Singer and performer

Having read both In And Out Of Step and Life Song, I have to say that I am not only impressed with these beautifully rounded, believable characters, but also with Christine Knight’s thorough and tenacious pursuit of authentic detail.  In Life Song, Christine shows so well has the mix of personalities, egos, fears and aspirations that make up the complex collective that is a “band”.  From the performers, agents, and management all the way through to the roadies, Life Song takes me straight back to my performing days in the 80’s and 90’s. 

As a singer who began to perform professionally after having two children, subsequently leaving my first husband, and making a life for my children without any support from him, I completely relate to Mavis’s struggle.  Following your heart is very difficult when there is an undertone of guilt [particularly relating to children].  These constant struggles between the need for individuality and the need to belong in the family unit can be confusing and occasionally heartbreaking.  I have loved watching how Mavis deals with all of this.

Christine has a rare ability to “tell it like it is”, and yet, leave you with a sense of moving forward with hope.

This beautifully descriptive book with its consistency of characters and even of geographic place, leaves one with an intimate relationship that I, for one, wouldn't want to lose.  In fact, I can’t wait to see what happens next!? way

Clare Allan-Kamil
Victorian Writers' Centre; The Wheeler Centre Victoria

'Christine M Knight's second novel Life Song is a joyfully triumphant confection that resonates with layers of interest. It is the sort of story that one reads again, by turns it is both comforting and a road story. It displays a marked use of dialogue to frame up the comedy of manners and shifts in perception that characters portray. The plot is compelling in its evocation of a particular period in the history of the Australian music industry and band life and applies a collection of songs deserving of its own accompanying CD.

Christine's novels (especially this one) deliver positive and reassuring messages about give and take, listening, taking responsibility, and acceptance of differing lifestyles. 

The author again demonstrates her ability to frame the core of her novel's conflict in imagery - for example, the tug-of-war at the opening of this novel - and she also has the ability to plunge the reader into the microcosm of place. Who would not want to return to Mavis' home town?

Set in the rural town of Keimera, in the coastline that runs like a ribbon between Melbourne (Victoria) and Sydney (NSW), the underlying vista supporting Life Song emerges as bright as a Rupert Bunny painting. The long march of the youth of rural townships to bigger cities has only just begun in this coastal community. It is a rural town going through a stage of rejuvenation with Tree Changers as well as the rebuilding and shifting further in that occurs after bush fires. Into this totally beguiling, wryly humorous, quiet community comes Mavis Mills.

Mavis' struggle is not the plight of being a single mother but centres on her wish to be in charge of her life, captain of her creativity, and create a better life for her son and herself. Mavis’ situation as a single mother breadwinner in a challenging and not well-paid job will resonate with many women as will her ambition and work to achieve a better life. The novel explores the assumptions that families and social groups of all ages hold about the legitimacy that women claim when pursuing a career path in their chosen field once they have become mothers. Mavis’ story is about reinvention and triumphing against the odds. It is a celebration of the power of belief in one’s self and of friends and of supporters.

In Life Song, the male characters are as diverse and complex as the females. The narrative explores the need of many women and men to enter into a fully functional dialogue. The connection between Gary (as a lead character) and Mavis is complex, far truer to the realities of friendships between thinking people. The author displays this layering of feeling and connection subtly.

In terms of its chick-lit appeal, Life Song ticks all the boxes. It is a blend of wry humour and vivid storytelling. The outcome is satisfying without being cloying. It has sizzle but no awkward sex scenes to navigate. The story can be read as an adventure with a wonderfully, funny, visual narrating style.  It can also be reflected on as a snapshot of a period in the recent past, a time when life was undergoing significant change for women and men. 

The story is bound to become a discussion and debate catalyst. Simply by placing the choices of creativity in tandem with child rearing will place it in a similar field to Tsiolkas' 'The Slap'. In this reader's opinion, the deeper aspects of the story combined with the backdrop of the community would provide a solid basis as a treatment for a TV series. 

This is the sort of novel that delights on a day when the sofa calls. If it had food (apart from the party foods at the Mills’ Christmas ‘do’), Life Song would be perfect.

In the words of Ian Molly Meldrum, 'Do yourself a favour and go out and buy it.’

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    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    An era, a show and a legendary album

    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    John Shortis and Moya Simpson’s playful sense of humour was evident from the moment I entered their Bungendore property. Their next-door neighbour’s gates featured a sign that read 'Ironing done here'. The wall plaque near Shortis and Simpson’s front door read 'Irony done here'.

    Over a steaming mug of coffee, we discussed the inspiration behind their current cabaret show Fifty Years Ago Today.

    Cobargo Folk Festival commissioned the cabaret after Shortis and Simpson’s acclaimed festival performance about Eurovision and the context out of which it evolved.

    John said, ‘That show was really an entertaining look at the history of Europe post World War 2 linked by bad songs.’

    Fifty Years Ago Today
    marks the anniversary of the launch of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in June 1967 in the northern hemisphere.

    Apparently, the album’s release date in Australia was delayed until July 1967 because the British producers did not trust Australian printers to faithfully reproduce the elaborate artwork of the Sgt Peppers album cover. The covers were produced and printed in England and shipped here via the Suez Canal. Regrettably, the six-day Arab Israeli war broke out and so the shipment was detoured around the South African cape. The album was launched in Australia at the end of July.

    The cabaret’s story line positions the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the context of what was happening globally at the time. It also provides fascinating insights into the backstory of the album’s creation, dating back to the early 1960s when the Beatles were mop tops, in the heyday of swinging London.

    John said, ‘You can’t tell the story of the Sgt Peppers album without showing the Beatles’ evolution from catchy pop rock songs to complex artful experiments in music.’

    Sgt Peppers
    is the first Beatles’ album after they gave up touring.  The album marks The Beatles’ arrival as recording artists instead or touring musicians. For instance, ‘Ringo’s drumming is more orchestral in its approach. McCartney’s bass work transitioned from simple bass lines that filled out the pop rock sound to complex, intricate bass countermelodies that actually featured on the Sgt Peppers album rather than being fill.’

    Shortis and Simpson’s Fifty Years Ago Today incorporates humour and poignant stories as well as songs of different tempos and styles from that Beatles’ milestone album as well as songs by other famous musicians from that era.

    I was fascinated to learn that the Beatles’ celebrated producer, George Martin, used his background in producing Peter Sellers’ Indian characters on comedy records to bring together Indian and orchestral musicians to produce George Harrison’s Within You Without You.

    John said, ‘While the lyrics are hippy trippy, the music is quite extraordinary because it follows the traditional rhythms and scales of Indian music.’ 

    Moya said, ‘It was a nightmare to learn!’

    John admits to scoring the music into a computer software program and practicing to it every day for ages so that he could synchronize his keyboard part with the rhythms.

    Another interesting aside is that, in celebration of the link between the Beatles and Peter Sellers, Moya sings the Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers’ hit Goodness Gracious Me in the cabaret as part of the side story to the Sgt Peppers album.

    Fifty Years Ago Today was not designed as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, although people who lived through that era may relish the show as such. It provides insight into a seminal moment in music and world history when world music influenced the Beatles music not only in composition but also in performance.

    As we talked, it struck me that the show was very much like a great meal: lavish, prepared with great care, nutritious and good for the soul, and an experience not easily forgotten. The cabaret utilises the rich harmonies of a large choir, the vocal skills of its musicians, and the rocking talent of a hot backing band. It has appeal for all ages.  I also realised that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album prepared audiences for the emergence of another musical phenomenon, Queen, masters of pomp-rock with its diverse rock styles and intricate vocal harmonies.

    This cabaret should not be missed when the show comes to  your part of the country.

    © Christine M Knight

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    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Acknowledging Indigenous Heritage in the Palerang region

    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Recently, I wrote a blog about the restoration of The Carrington Inn. My article about the inn also appears in the District Bulletin's December issue. The District Bulletin reports on country living in the Palerang region. I feel it would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the importance of Indigenous heritage as a side bar to the Carrington article.

    Heritage places are a visible reminder of Australia’s history and identity. If they are neglected or demolished, then part of our history and identity is lost. When they are protected and restored, they add value and dimension to our community. This applies equally to the heritage represented by the traditional owners of the land. It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous heritage when promoting awareness of colonial heritage as it shows respect for Indigenous culture.

    Before European settlement, Indigenous people represented an unbroken culture that was inextricably linked to the land and history of the continent. That relationship and life as Indigenous people knew it changed drastically as a consequence of Dr Charles Throsby and Hamilton Hume's exploration of the region in 1820.

    By the end of 1821, Europeans had settled the region. The provision of a mail service in 1837 formally made the settlement a town while the arrival of train services in 1885 resulted in the town becoming the hub of the region. Cobb and Co coaches transported travellers to far flung settlements. 

    During this period and into the twentieth century, Indigenous people experienced a history of exclusion, denial, and were silenced. Many Indigenous people many died as a result of white settlement (disease and conflict). Indigenous heritage is in the land, in sacred places, lore and values. By contrast, colonial heritage is in buildings and property and its laws.

    To better appreciate the impact of the European arrival in Australia and related issues, click on  The Dispossessed.


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    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    The Restoration of the Carrington Inn, Bungendore

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Late October, I met Innkeeper, Richard Graham in the motel carpark of The Carrington Inn a few weeks after it had reopened.

    Originally known as The Lord Carrington Hotel, the property was built between 1884-85. It was named after the newly appointed governor of NSW. When the governor retired, the inn became The Carrington Hotel.

    In the 20th century, descendants of the Winters sold the property to Toni Dale who reverted the property to its original function from a domestic residence. It later changed hands until Richard bought it eight years ago.

    As we walked through the half acre of man-made gardens' entrance to the Wintergarden complex, I was struck by their intrinsic naturalness and the patterns of dappled light. Richard said they are ‘one of the largest publicly accessible private gardens in the region.’ He credits the illusion of a much larger space to the use of meandering sinuous paths.

    There are three distinct themed locations within the Wintergarden complex: The Tom Wills Tavern, The Empire Hall and Salons – fine dining, and Myee’s Tearoom. Myee is pronounced my. The tavern’s namesake and a local, Tom Wills was a leading Australian cricketer from 1856 and is said to be the founder of Australian Rules football. Heavy drinking was apparently part of the sport's culture at that time and purportedly played a role in his tragic death in 1880.


    Maria Myee Gallagher, 1889-1967, was the granddaughter of the original owner, William Daniel Winter. ‘An educated woman of many talents, Maria Myee never married and lived in the hotel throughout her life.’ She was a skilled pianist and taught the piano as well as the sewing arts and painting to locals. She was also well-known for her charitable work in the town.

    The interview and tour began in Myee’s tearoom. Its décor, like the rest of the complex, ‘pays deference to the 19th century colonial Victorian nature of the Carrington Inn.’ An airy and serene space, the tearoom’s authentic hand-painted stencilled wallpaper, pale green wainscoting, slate floor, furnishings, and hanging baskets suggest a Victorian garden conservatory.

    When I asked about the ideas underpinning the renovation process, Richard explained the choice before him. Restore the inn to look like the property as it had been in 1885 or restore it to reflect the Victorian era from 1885 but have modern restaurant equipment. For commercial reasons, he opted for the latter.

    After much research, Richard and his team distilled the Victorian period to a single restoration intention: ‘allow modern-day patrons to appreciate the aspirational nature of the Victorian era’ and witness a different lifestyle.

    The aspirational mood of the period is clearly visible in the style of ceilings in the tavern and the Empire Hall and Salons. The tavern’s patterned copper ceiling is reminiscent of Tudor ceilings and represents the revival of British styles during the Victorian era. The decorative tin ceiling in one of the salons is another popular architectural element from that period as are the subtly lit, rounded vaulted plaster ceilings in the Empire Hall.


    The Victorian theme is evident in the use of decoratively etched glass mirrors, beautiful period-styled drapery, luxurious furnishings, dining settings, and décor accents. Thirty-three hand-painted artwork reproductions tell the colonial story, including artwork by Tom Roberts. In the tradition of the time, a picture of Queen Victoria dominates the Empire Hall.

    The attention to authentic detail is also seen in the use of deeply embossed wall covering (Lincrusta) in  the Empire Hall. Lincrusta was invented in Britain in 1877 by the same man who invented linoleum floor covering some years before.


     Having visited many famous historic sites, I found The Carrington Inn as striking as places like Chatsworth House and Hampton Court in UK. Of course, The Carrington's pristine interior décor  and the inn are much smaller in scale than those other historic UK properties.

    As Richard told the stories behind each room’s décor, I realised that he is more than the owner and operator of an enterprise that happens to exist in a heritage property. He is keenly aware of his custodial role in restoring, documenting, and protecting heritage.

    As I left that afternoon, I realised that heritage places not only add dimension to the character of a community and its diversity but to its unique features of streetscapes as well.


    Left to right: Mark Summers, General Manager; Edwina Fitzgerald, Accommodation Manager; Me, Innkeeper; Merili Pihlamäe, Venues Manager; and Andrew Stansbie, Executive Chef.


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