Bookseller and Publisher

An absorbing read, Art Life Chooks is the story of Annette Hughes and her partner Geoffrey who move from Sydney to a farm in Noosa. Both of them seem to know fairly well what they are getting themselves into, so we are spared the ridiculous tales of things going wrong which can make some ‘sea change’ books so absurd. Hughes does spend a considerable amount of time with her chooks while Geoffrey is doing other jobs around the farm, so they do become real characters. I think this book deserves to sell quite well, particularly to women about the same age as Hughes. It is an interesting, thought-provoking account of how difficult and how wonderful life can be for people living in the country. The chooks and the garden certainly are features of the book, but art is also a recurring theme. As well as theatre, other forms such as poetry, music, pictures and painting are included. Hughes takes up a part-time teaching offer and also resumes painting, turning to the chooks for
inspiration. I found myself absolutely caught up in Art Life Chooks, the subject matter and the writing are equally charming.

Jessica Broadbent is a former bookseller who continues to work in the publishing industry

This review from Australian Bookseller & Publisher magazine is reproduced by kind permission of Thorpe-Bowker, a division of R R Bowker LLC. © Copyright 2008, Thorpe-Bowker

On sense and sensibility Natalie V's review. 05/21/08

Live your life in a sensual world. Be still. Be present.  

I sat down to type a few words about Hughesy’s new book ‘Art Life Chooks’ and was immediately filled with self doubt. Fairly presumptuous don’t you think? What would an experienced literary agent glean from my perspective? Of course my interpretation would be influenced by a firm impression of Hughesy’s greatness before even starting, so I was completely unable to be impartial!

According to the clock it only took a day to read, but I didn’t notice the time passing. I was so drawn into my own senses, that not even the sounds of Fox Sports could puncture the kaleidoscope of colours. I can hear her voice in my mind’s ear. And it’s husky and rich.  

The best part of the book was how the author interweaved her artistic sensibilities into the story. This was obviously no afterthought on Hughesy’s behalf.  Her wonderful mind naturally filters each experience with the references to beauty in poetry, literature, painting and music. As a musician I was enthralled with her musical descriptions of bird song and other sounds in nature. In one section she mentions an orchestral work by Arvo Pärt: a 20th century composer of which I am very fond. It was at this point that I realized how cleverly she managed to create a rich ‘theatre of the mind’. Words and images always flash through your mind when reading, but Hughesy’s soundtrack of beauty took the reading experience to a new level. By the end of the book, she had made peace with her situation. The fact that art gave her a sense of clarity was powerful.  

As in any book, the intensity of the reading experience will heighten depending on the commonalities shared between reader and writer and this was no different for me. In myself I saw her commitment to the discipline of teaching. Her disparagement of media rhetoric. Her childhood fascination with the rituals of religion. Her deep and abiding love for feathered creatures. (my cockatiel sized the book up for chewing practice but thought the better of it) Her artistic endeavours being thwarted with self doubt despite her days being filled with domestic joys after a life of frantic work. Coming to terms with life and death.  

Every word and every sentence resonates with sense and quiet truth. I found myself responding with genuine emotion to her humble sentiments…and you know from reading my ‘Serotonin Deprived’ series how hard it is for me to swallow contrived expressions of the human condition. She believes in the beauty of this world with every inch of her being, despite all evidence to the contrary.  

The publishers have targeted mature women (like me…ha!) as the audience but I feel that men would be equally enthralled by the tale. Geoffrey’s heroic antics about the farm will surely appeal (loved the naked snake wrangling!) as will the chance to see inside the mind of an extremely warm and intelligent woman. The girls are a mysterious lot!

Review of the book by Chaz  20/10/08

Well I finally managed to get to read Hughseys classic last week and finished it yesterday.

Now 'Country Diary of an Edwardian lady" it is not, but i think you're faily safe in the knowledge that it only makes the book better!

Hughsey's misadventures out in the sticks near Noosa playing the Good Life ,could be seen as a great ideal, but in her usual way Hughsey paints it well and shows that making such a tree change is very hardwork. It was also interesting reading in more detail what Hughsey has put in her blog.

The work highlights what I love most about Hughsey.. her emotion, passion and humanity. Oh and her appreciation of the grape!

The use of language is wonderful and the poetry is just icing on a very well constructed cake.

Hughsey if you happen to read this, a suggestion. Write about the problems with education and health out your way in depth, I'm certain there will be a market for it.  Someone has to highlight the problems that face the kids and sick outside of the gleaming spires of our cities.

In short a nice little piece that helps build on the mythos surrounding the chicken lady of Noosa!