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Stead’s London is the London of the 1930s, where Teresa finds work with the American radical, James Quick, a man who finally wins her affection and returns it. The title, For Love Alone, I have always read as ironic. It is not ‘for love alone’ that Teresa triumphs and learns to forge her own path; it is certainly not for romantic love, and she turns her back on the duties that might have kept her in Australia as a consequence of loving her immediate family.

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In 1848 Dostoyevsky joined a group of young intellectuals, led by Mikhail Petrashevsky, which met to discuss literary and political issues. In the reactionary political climate of mid-nineteenth-century Russia, such groups were illegal, and in 1849 the members of the so-called Petrashevsky Circle were arrested and charged with subversion. Dostoyevsky and several of his associates were imprisoned and sentenced to death. As they were facing the firing squad, an imperial messenger arrived with the announcement that the Czar had commuted the death sentences to hard labor in Siberia. This scene was to haunt the novelist the rest of his life. Dostoyevsky described his life as a prisoner in (1862; ), a novel demonstrating both an insight into the criminal mind and an understanding of the Russian lower classes. While in prison the writer underwent a profound spiritual and philosophical transformation. His intense study of the the only book the prisoners were allowed to read, contributed to his rejection of his earlier liberal political views and led him to the conviction that redemption is possible only through suffering and faith, a belief which informed his later work.


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When Zipporah is taken to a plantation at Petah Tivkah she’s thrilled.

Dostoyevsky returned to Russia in 1871 and began his final decade of prodigious literary activity. In sympathy with the conservative political party, he accepted the editorship of a reactionary weekly, (). In his (1873-1877; ), initially a column in the but later an independent periodical, Dostoyevsky published a variety of prose works, including some of his outstanding short stories. Dostoyevski's last work was (1880; ), a family tragedy of epic proportions, which is viewed as one of the great novels of world literature. The novel recounts the murder of a father by one of his four sons. Initially, his son Dmitri is arrested for the crime, but as the story unfolds it is revealed that the illegitimate son Smerdyakov has killed the old man at what he believes to be the instigation of his half-brother Ivan. Ivan's philosophical essay, The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, is a work now famous in its own right. Presented as a debate in which the Inquisitor condemns Christ for promoting the belief that mankind has the freedom of choice between good and evil, the piece explores the conflict between intellect and faith, and between the forces of evil and the redemptive power of Christianity. Dostoyevsky envisioned this novel as the first of a series of works depicting The Life of a Great Sinner, but early in 1881, a few months after completing the writer died at his home in St. Petersburg.


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‘..I believe there are much worse things than death – being kidnapped by Boko Haram, having your business put into general administration, sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one, or living in Tony Abbott’s (Australian Prime Minister at the time of writing) electorate. Hang on, I do live in his electorate –what the FEC?’

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McDonald’s humour is like a dance with a quick, flicking two-step at the end. It is insouciant, irreverent, compassionate and warm. As readers would expect, anger and sadness, nausea and crushing fatigue are part of the story. They are acknowledged and dealt with. Jokes don’t take the dark side away; they make it into something more.

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When discussing the importance of active acceptance, the author refers to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and on the next page quotes a poem by an ancient Sufi mystic. Quotations and references abound, but they never feel intrusive in the text, or stuck on for effect. They don’t detract from the central story; they enrich it.

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McDonald makes the point that, while, she has striven for accuracy in describing her treatment and its effects, both physical and emotional, My Big Breast Adventure is not a therapy manual. Though she refers throughout to aspects of traditional and complementary medicine, she stresses that her approach is personal; she is not setting out to tell others what to do when they receive a cancer diagnosis, or where to look for help and guidance. Yet I’m sure her book will be a help and guide to many, not least because of her unfailing sense of humour.