Books

To order any of the books – for $20 each, plus $4 postage for one book, or $7 for more than one – just email me at helenmenzies@bigpond.com

 The Survivors’ Affair

Reviews of Survivors’ Affair

“Tantalising insights and adventures which speak to us all, from the fascinating life of a very special woman, yet resonating with our own life and times in both personal and yet universal ways. With its beautiful spare prose so layered with images and meanings, is it an autobiography or a collection of exquisite short stories and evocative poems? Variously profound, moving, lyrical, insightful and serious, as well as entertaining, witty and ironic, and always a wonderful read – dip in one at a time, as with the world’s best chocolates, or devour it cover to cover, as with the world’s best bottle of red wine!” Professor Eleanor Ramsay

“Not only is it a beautifully written book but a very evocative read, allowing the reader to contemplate and relive moments in their own lives.” Bridget Cleaver

 

“Start reading and you won’t put it down. So many interesting things to find out, about famous people, about life through the 20th and early 21st centuries, about the author, about yourself. An amazing book.” Greta Francis

“It’s so to the point, the descriptive detail so lovely, it’s so shockingly real, skimming life with a needle – going so deep it penetrated and stung as it flew over the years. After a while it felt like my life was being described (though there must be almost no similarity in the events), voyeuristically thrilling, I couldn’t put it down.” Margie Kennard

“I so much enjoyed the book, which I read over Christmas. I thought it was cleverly put together with just the right mix of the author’s life and emotions, and historical events. I loved the word pictures, metaphors and similes.” Carole Buchan.

 

Ducks Crossing and the Secret Shadow

Reviews for Ducks Crossing and the Secret Shadow

If, like me, you were around in the early 1950s, and especially if you (like me) had recently emigrated to Australia, this book will really resonate for you.  It opens with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and the simultaneous announcement of the successful ascent of Mt. Everest by a New Zealand led British team, and the national excitement at both of those events.  There are also references to the deep personal scars left by the recently-concluded war, giving contrast to that euphoria.

The location of the story is the fictional village of Ducks Crossing, situated at the entrance to Brisbane Water (where the author happens to live).  This is a sea / beach / village environment which seems to me to be heaven-on-earth.

The central cast are five very active outdoors youngsters, supported in the background by loving adults.  Two of the children have recently arrived from a grey, grimy industrial city in England to this colourful, sunny corner of paradise.  Perhaps it is just the influence of my own experience, but I felt that the colour and sunshine just sort of subconsciously permeates Helen’s writing rather than being directly described.  Indeed, most of her writing is of the activities engaged in by the children and the narrative moves quickly because of that.  The central family came from Yorkshire, and the accents and idioms of that county are well-captured in the speech of the adults.  There are also many references to things which were common to our everyday lives at that time which are now consigned to history.  This contributes toward the book’s enjoyment by adults (especially seniors!), and I really enjoyed having memories re-kindled.

Travelling by boat is as natural to our young adventurers as walking or swimming, and boats share a good deal of the action.

All the best adventures contain adversaries, and this book has a couple of dark villains to give the children a mystery to solve which is worthy of their mettle.  Naturally, when the going gets to its most exciting climax, all the adults are elsewhere attending to other things, leaving it up to the children to thwart the villains’ intentions.

This is a cracking yarn, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading!

David Bamford, the Arthur Ransome Society

 

This is an entertaining children’s book that is a great read for adults!! Set in the 1950’s, in a small NSW Central Coast village, it is meticulously researched and completely absorbing.  It appeals on three levels: it’s an exciting adventure story along the lines of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five”, with spies, bush chases and national loyalties ; it’s a light hearted comedy of the times, with billy cart rivalries and local eccentrics;  and it’s an historical novel which could be set as a text for the 1950’s, dealing with key issues, from domestic life in the 50’s to the Coronation of Elizabeth II, from  post-war immigration to the Snowy Mountain Scheme, and all the social problems that arose from these.

The reader becomes increasingly involved in the families described, their lives and adventures, and the involvement of the children in the post war international  issues. The roads, the bush, the rocks and the beaches, not to mention the rivalries and the competitions, become  familiar settings for the adventures of the Australian children and their English cousins. If you are reading this book to your children, be prepared for a long sitting!

Alex Sharp

 

This is a terrific, plausible adventure story that also portrays life in a different era – and to most people, a different place –  in an interesting way.  As an adult I enjoyed the drama which unfolded revealing the development of character in each person, especially the children.

Meg Toon

 

Almost as good as Enid Blyton – maybe even on a par! I was expecting a story of kids having a great time playing around, so the mystery and the adventure and the danger were a real surprise and so exciting. I had no idea what was coming next so there was no way I could stop reading.

Deb Holloman

I love Ducks Crossing and the Secret Shadow so much. It is very descriptive and interesting and the illustrations are very good. If you have any more books I would love to read them. Please write another book. PS I love The Hawk.

Zalia (age 10)

This book was the big breakthrough for Jazzy. Before, she was a reluctant reader (“Oh, do I have to?”) but with Ducks Crossing she turned off the television and curled up on the settee to read. All I heard from her was little squeals of delight. Now I can’t get her head out of a book.   Kay Powlesland.

As soon as my friend Stella finishes reading the book, we’re going to do all the adventures. I loved the twins best. I wish I was a twin.  Jazzy (age 10).

 

As an older reader, my experience of Duck’s Crossing and the Secret Shadow returned me to my childhood, filled with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventure books. The vivid characters in Duck’s Crossing have remained in my imagination long after the story was over. I can still see Alison and The Hawk flying down hill in the billycarts! I’m hoping they will come back in a new set of adventures. Highly recommended for all ages!

Val Hazell

 

A fantastic read!

Ducks Crossing and the Secret Shadow took me back to my childhood enjoyment of great adventure stories, the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons!

I loved the detailed descriptive text and the beautiful illustrations which added to the story and captured the characters perfectly.

An excellent choice for readers age 8 – 80 and will no doubt spark some interesting conversations.

Can’t wait for the sequel!

Tricia Joyce

 

Packed with spine tingling action, rollicking adventures, intriguing mysteries, colorful, sinister and lovable characters, full of fun, excitement, danger and laughter – independent young readers (9-12) will find it hard not to race through this gripping tale and those reading it aloud to younger ones will have difficulty putting it down.  The gripping story line will intrigue and entertain readers of all ages, as it weaves effortlessly through layers of historically accurate complexity.  Its spare and beautifully written prose and charming illustrations bring to life the Australia of the post second world war era, with enticing details of the natural world, such a joyous part of the way of life of those growing up in an Australian coastal town. Ducks Crossing is certain to become known and loved as an Australian classic. Written in the genre of timeless adventure stories such as Arthur Ransom’s Treasure Island, this special book has with justification been favorably compared to the work of Enid Blyton.

Professor Eleanor Ramsay