Summer reading

Summer has arrived, its been quite hot around here (excluding today which is quite cold).

Not a lot can be done in hot weather - well, that is what I tell myself!!!

For me, summer is a time for reading - and I have a pile to get through.

I have just started to read Blue Ribbons Bitter Bread by Susanna De Vries about the life of Joice Nankivell Loch, a remarkable Australian woman that I doubt most have ever heard of.

Joice Loch was an extraordinary Australian. She had the inspired courage that saved many hundreds of Jews and Poles in World War II, the compassion that made her a self-trained doctor to tens of thousands of refugees, the incredible grit that took her close to death in several theatres of war, and the dedication to truth and justice that shone forth in her own books and a lifetime of astonishing heroism.

Born in a cyclone in 1887 on a Queensland sugar plantation, she grew up in grinding poverty in Gippsland and emerged from years of unpaid drudgery by writing a children's book and freelance journalism. In 1918 she married Sydney Loch, Gallipoli veteran and writer, with whom she was commissioned to produce a book on Ireland. After a dangerous time in Dublin during the Troubles, they escaped from possible IRA vengeance to work with the Quakers in Poland. There they rescued countless dispossessed people from disease and starvation and risked death themselves.

In 1922, Joice and Sydney went to Greece to aid the 1,500,000 refugees fleeing Turkish persecution. Greece was to become their home. They lied in an ancient tower by the sea in the shadows of Athos, the Holy Mountain, and worked selflessly for decades to save victims of war, famine and disease.

During World War II, Joice Loch was an agent for the Allies in Eastern Europe and pulled off a spectacular escape to snatch over 1,000 Jews and Poles from death just before the Nazis invaded Bucharest, escorting them via Constantinople to Palestine. By the time she died in 1982, she had written ten books, saved many thouands of lives, and was one of the world's most decorated women. At her funeral, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Oxford named her 'one of the most significant women of the twentieth centry'. (source)

So far it has been a remarkable read.  Susanna De Vries is a writer I enjoy reading, she makes those she is writing about come alive and turn history into something fascinating.  Her book Heroic Australian Women at War (collection of short essays) is an excellent read and her latest book Royal Mistresses of the House of Hanover-Windsor is one I will include on my wish list. 


  1. I think reading is an excellent summer's day occupation. Lately after lunch I've gotten the children to lie down on their beds and read aloud to them - we're all enjoying this new routine; I think I might try to make it a habit! :) At the moment we're reading a book about a young girl who was falsely accused/convicted and transported to Sydney with the First Fleet and her life here in the first settlements. It's not a biography, but based on factual events of the period.

    I had never heard of Joice - what an amazing work and service she did for all those refugees! She must have been a very brave woman. It was really interesting reading a summary about her.

    1. I think it is a great idea to read books to children and it sounds like a wonderful thing to do after lunch. My teacher at primary school use to read to us in the afternoon - books like "I can jump puddles", "Storm boy" and "Sun on the Stubble" and I have very fond memories of these books.

    2. I have 'Sun on the Stubble' (got it when I was a child) which I hope to read to the children when they're a little older. I'm not sure if I already own 'Storm Boy'. But yes, I have good memories of books being read aloud when I was little.
      At the moment I've been trying to read books that relate to something they're studying in their school work so that our reading time has added benefits. The last book we read was "Breaking Stalin's Nose" which was a really interesting book because it was based in Communist Russia when it was the "Soviet Union". Dolly was learning a little about Communism in eastern Europe in her school work, but they'd never really read about the details of what that meant, so the book was really good to help them understand (a little bit of) what that time was really like.

  2. Jo- this sounds like a fascinating book to read-- I love books about that era in history.,I hope your summer is lovely! Beautiful and warm for your holiday!!


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