Of Chocolate and Freedom

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A book review | The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

This weekend, I’m in an imaginary Berlin, curled up with Kate Forsyth’s delicious novel, The Beast’s Garden. It’s my favourite of her fiction so far, but as she’s the prolific author of some 33 and counting works of fiction, I reserve the right to change my mind. As usual, Kate has blended her scholarly knowledge of myth, fairytale, music and poetry with a double helping of historical thriller and romance.

The Beast’s Garden has her trademark courageous female protagonist, sultry Ava, opera singer and resistance fighter. Then, a wide cast of memorable characters including, Rupert, the concentration camp poet writing condensed verse on secreted scraps, “My life a fire shut up in stone…just a glimmer”. The novel revisits Germany under the Third Reich, the populace blinded by propaganda or avarice, or silent and compliant. Kate’s focus is on the rare few resisting the regime with whatever their means- music, paint, sabotage, small acts of kindness, and great heroism.

A story of our times, as well. In Australia, we also have camps and razor wire with individuals imprisoned for years for no crime but their ethnicity and vulnerability. Men, women and even children suffering the horrors of confinement, loss of all dignity, chronic exposure to violence and human atrocity.

On this weekend of Easter, I remember an old story of a man treated as a criminal for no crime or cause. A poor man of Eastern origins like so many of those in detention on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island. How many Marys and their sons live in jeopardy and fear, held without hope, behind metal bars and wire in concentration camps in countries in which we vote and are free?

Good fiction reminds us of our deepest values and our best selves. Between chocolate eggs and good books on a blessed long weekend, I can definitely make time to write a letter to my MP, to send a holiday gift to Medecin sans Frontier or Amnesty International, or any of dozens of organisations with active voices for human compassion and an end to the unholy concentration camps in our democratic nations of migrants.

Handy resources and links:

https://kateforsyth.com.au/  (check out Kate’s newest release The Blue Rose)

https://www.givewell.org (compare charities worldwide)

https://www.msf.org/ (Medecin sans Frontier)

https://action.amnesty.org.au (Amnesty International)

https://www.refugeeswelcome.org.au/ (Australia welcomes refugees into their homes)

https://www.vinnies.org.au/page/Our_Impact/Asylum_Seekers_Migrants_Refugees/Asylum_seekers_and_refugees_on_Manus_Island_and_Nauru/ (a letter template to your MP)


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