#aww2018 · 2018 Reviews · Australian · book bingo · Goodreads giveaway · memoir · true stories

#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book by an author you’ve never read before’ – A Certain Light by Cynthia Banham

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#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith WritesHow does it work?  We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.

My sixth #Book Bingo 2018 entry is ‘A book by an author you’ve never read before’. I recently won A Certain Light by Cynthia Banham via a Goodreads giveaway. Book Bingo has provided me with the perfect opportunity to explore the life of this admirable Australian woman. A Certain Light is the first book penned by the decorated journalist and my introduction to the writing of Cynthia Banham.

Synopsis:a certain light small

Written for her young son so that he would know what had happened to his mother, Cynthia Banham’s inspiring family memoir uncovers a true picture of what survival means:

This book tells a story that I tried to write many times before, but couldn’t. For a long time, it was too painful to tell. It is also one I hadn’t known how to tell. It had to be more than a story about surviving a plane crash, a random event without intrinsic meaning.

Unable until now to write her own story, Cynthia found that the lives of her Italian grandfather, Alfredo, and his intriguing older sister, Amelia, resonated with her own. Discovering their sacrifice, joy, fear and love, from Trieste to Germany and America, and finally to Australia, their stories mirror and illuminate Cynthia’s own determination and courage in the face of overwhelming adversity.

From a remarkable writer, and told with unflinching honesty and compassion, A Certain Light speaks to the heart of what really matters in life.

My review:

A Certain Light, a memoir written by Australian lawyer turned journalist Cynthia Banham for her young son to understand the tragic past of his mother, is one very moving piece of literature. This is a story that reminds us of the power of the human spirit and it is a true example of one woman’s fight for survival, against incredible odds.

Cynthia Banham is one amazing woman. When she turned her back on a career as a solicitor and became a successful journalist, she never would have imagined that this new line of work would have put her in such danger. Covering a story in Indonesia in 2007, Cynthia was the passenger on a flight that crashed in a paddy field, after her plane misjudged the runaway. Despite suffering from horrific burns and a broken back, Cynthia survived. Her recovery in a Perth burns unit was touch and go, while infections set in, she eventually made it to a rehabilitation hospital. After three months in rehabilitation, Cynthia returned home, but the road ahead was a difficult journey. Life would never be the same again for Cynthia, but in trying to move on from such a huge life event, Cynthia was drawn into investigating her family history. In her own healing process and gathering the courage to speak candidly about her experiences of her the crash that altered her life so significantly, her family’s past became the ultimate guidance to her future.

The cover quote that features on the front of my uncorrected proof copy of A Certain Light seemed to resonate with me immediately. The author of A Certain Light, Cynthia Banham says ‘ Life is not defined the bad things that happen to us. It certainly wasn’t for me’. There was something about this quote that seemed to sing to me and I feel it delivers a powerful message on our very existence. I feel there is much me can take away from Cynthia Banham’s reflections on the events that changed her. We cannot let the hard times in our lives define us or direct our way in life. There is so much we can glean from one woman, the inspiring Cynthia Banham.

Memoirs are notoriously difficult for me to read and review. They are just so personal and I always feel the author puts in their life and soul into the creation of a memoir. I will say from the outset this was not an easy read for me, but in the same breath, I will say it is important to read memoirs such as A Certain Light. It serves to remind us of the power of the human soul to live and provides us with an example of the determined figures in our society that set the tone for others to aspire to. Cynthia Banham’s battle to overcome the odds, shows us just how strong her spirit is and what a pillar of Australian society Cynthia represents.

I warmed to this memoir very early on. The prologue was able to draw me into Cynthia’s story with ease. Cynthia has chosen to finally share her moving story, ten years on after the event that turned her life upside down. As I have a son the exact same age as Cynthia’s, so I was able to draw comparisons to myself and Cynthia. It is hard to contemplate how I would have dealt with the blow Cynthia received a decade ago and the years following after. Banham gives us a good idea of the innermost thoughts, feelings and experiences of someone who has survived such an ordeal. She also provides us with an insight into life as an amputee and a burns survivor. It is a tough read, but life often deals out tough blows that we must work to overcome and Cynthia Banham shows us how it is done.

Coinciding with Cynthia’s recollections of her life before the plane crash, the crash itself and her life afterwards, is a detailed family history. Unable to put pen to paper for many years after the crash, sifting through her own Grandfather’s past gave Cynthia the impetus to finally compile her own story. In doing so, the story that emerges from A Certain Light is a convergence of a survival story and a detailed family history, all in one. Banham’s background as a decorated journalist shines through the areas in the book about her grandfather’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Italy, at the hands of the Germans in World War II. I found these passages to be factual and straight laced, presenting the vital details to her grandfather’s colourful background. Linked to this are the experiences of Cynthia’s mother who also struggled to adjust to life as a migrant to Australia as a young girl. These areas of the memoir were balanced carefully with fact and personal commentary.

Through taking the time to read this stirring memoir, many important qualities that we should strive for as members of Australian society emerges. Honesty, pure grit, determination, love, family, belief and compassion define A Certain Light. A heartfelt story that should not be overlooked but shared with all.

A Certain Light by Cynthia Banham was published on March 21st 2018 by Allen and Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

*I wish to thank Allen and Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

A Certain Light is book #28 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge



9 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book by an author you’ve never read before’ – A Certain Light by Cynthia Banham

  1. Thanks for sharing this touching review. Cynthia’s story is one I must read now. We hear of such tragedies – you feel shocked and horrified, and move on. It’s a bit of a wake up call to imagine the years of struggle and the amount of courage and determination Cynthia has. Yet there it is – her shining compassion for the experiences others, she focuses on the struggles of her family through the generations. That’s gold. Not only that – then she managed to write what sounds like a fascinating memoir – and get published. That’s difficult enough! I wish her every possible good thing, sealed with a hug. X Jay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jay that is great feedback and it means so much to me as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before about my difficulties in reviewing memoirs.
      Cynthia is an amazing woman and I’m so glad to have gleaned a little about her difficult life journey through reading this memoir. Along with you I wish her health and happiness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. #Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book with themes of culture’ – A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

    I’ve been sitting at my laptop for some time trying to write a review and I’m just not succeeding, I have deleted every paragraph up until this point as I find my words too personal and emotional and for now I won’t air my opinions of Afghanistan and Muslims here, suffice it to say I would have enjoyed this book much more had I read it ten years ago.

    But I will say this Khaled Hosseini is an excellent storyteller. I’ll also leave my favourite passage and one I completely agree with.

    “Khala Rangmaal did not wear makeup or jewellery. She did not cover and forbade the female students from doing it. She said women and men were equal in every way and there was no reason women should cover if men didn’t.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for playing along with book bingo and for filling in the extra bingo entry for the month of March. This is another square I am yet to fill and haven’t even decided yet what book I will use!
      I’m sorry to hear this review caused you so much angst but I think the final result is perfect. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. You’re welcome, Amanda. I’m glad I’m ahead so it was easy to fit in the extra entry. I bet you’ll come up with the perfect book for this category, I’ll be anxiously awaiting to see what it is, hehehe.
    It was a little distressing as I didn’t want to write anything that would make me look like a b*tch. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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