Whatever Happened to Ishtar?
by Anne Frandi-Coory
This book is a memoir of the life of Anne Frandi-Coory the daughter of an Italian mother and a Lebanese father.
Having spent a childhood, peppered with abuse and harassment, between a Dunedin orphanage for the poor and her father’s Lebanese family Anne was regarded as a backward child. She describes the panic she felt as a toddler as her father departed after one of his visits, and goes on to relate episodes from her strict upbringing in the orphanage where she was segregated from her two brothers once the boys turned five years old. Memory of the order of happenings in her early life is sketchy and this is aptly conveyed in her narrative.
She was not well received by her father’s family though she lived with her father at his family’s house intermittently, but never feeling at ease there and alleging various kinds of abuse.
Married in her teens Anne gave birth to four children and devoted herself to nurturing them during which time her marriage failed and she struggled to avoid a mental breakdown.
Later in life Anne devoted herself to researching the Lebanese history of her father’s family and the Italian forebears on her mother’s side, hoping to understand her relationship with her Italian mother who was shunned by Anne’s father’s family and who couldn’t look after her children except for very short periods.
The account of the arrival of the Frandi family as assisted immigrants to New Zealand in 1876, as opposed to those arriving in a self funding capacity, makes interesting reading.
The poems and quotations at the beginning of each chapter have obviously been chosen with care and sensitivity and give an added dimension to the book. The same can be said for the inclusion of family photographs mostly lent by other family members. There is a certain poignancy here as Anne had few, if any, family photos while she was growing up; thus emphasising what she refers to as ‘her paper-thin sense of identity’
There is a freshness about the author’s style and she succeeds in conveying emotion about the lack of emotion and caring shown to her in her formative years.
Having, as a child, lived in fear of dire consequences if she didn’t follow strict rules and try to emulate the saints she may have developed the discipline to achieve a good education which, no doubt, helped in her later endeavours to track her forebears and learn the history of their migration to New Zealand.
The bibliography includes useful references and illuminates the paths she travelled.
With regard to the publication the title is apt and the cover is eye-catching. The paper edition is perfect bound but the biggest drawback is the lack of an adequate gutter making the book difficult to hold open for any length of time. There are three very minor identical grammatical inconsistencies plus an odd discrepancy about two rivers.
The author is to be congratulated on her enterprise in producing a valuable resource for her family and an interesting and instructive read for the rest of us.
It seems Ishtar has risen from the ashes!
Author: Anne Frandi-Coory
Publisher: Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd. 23 Stirling Crescent, Glen Waverley, Victoria 3150 Australia
Obtainable via Amazon Books Worldwide, and website frandi.wordpress.com