My world is colder and emptier today. There is no better way to describe it. Yesterday I learned of the passing of Bernadette, of Reactions to Reading, and co-host of Fair Dinkum Crime. She was not just a friend to crime fiction, but was also, I’m privileged to say, a personal friend.
Anyone who ever read her blog will know that her reviews were thoughtful, candid, and intelligent. I learned every single time I visited. And part of the reason I did is that she didn’t confine herself to just bestsellers or ‘the book everyone’s talking about.’ She read books from ‘no-names,’ too, and if they were well-written, she said so, and encouraged other people to read them, too. Her blog was a rich resource of reviews, opinions, rants, charts, and really helpful information about crime fiction.
Bernadette was a champion of Australian and New Zealand crime fiction, and she introduced me to a number of authors from that part of the world that I would never have tried otherwise. You might not know this, but she also did a lot behind the scenes to promote crime fiction by Australians (especially Australian women) and New Zealanders. She was on award panels (not an easy job) and committees, and never missed an opportunity to be a voice for the genre.
I am also proud to say that Bernadette was a personal friend. In fact, if I may, let me share a memory. It was a chilly June evening. I’d gone to Australia for a conference, and Bernadette was kind enough to host me for the few days I was in that part of the country. We got to chatting that evening over a glass of good wine. We talked about books, about culture, and about a lot of other things. The conversation was fun, but it was also fascinating, and I learned a lot. At one point, we got into a really interesting debate about language. I don’t know that either of us convinced the other. I do know that I cherish the memory of laughing, joking, and taking apart ideas with her.
I will miss Bernadette sorely as a friend and fellow book lover. She was generous, funny, smart, incisive, and insightful. She welcomed me when I first joined the online crime fiction community and was supportive of both my blogging and my writing. I am a better person and writer because of her.
And the world is a better place because she was in it. Bernadette was a passionate advocate for reading, for literacy, and for speaking up against injustice. Far from being complacent, she did what she could to support libraries, independent bookshops, and easy access to books for everyone, regardless of income.
It’s in that spirit that I’d like to extend an invitation. Bernadette wasn’t one to spend a lot of time wringing her hands. She rolled up her sleeves and did what needed to be done. So, let’s do something to commemorate that.
One of her top causes was Books in Homes Australia, which is dedicated to providing books of choice to all children, including those who live remotely and/or can’t afford to pay. As a way of remembering Bernadette and paying tribute to her passion for reading and for volunteering, I invite you to consider donating to Books in Homes Australia. I’d like to think that Bernadette would be pleased to know that we were doing some good.
I know I’m going to donate. As soon as I dry my tears. We’ll miss you more than you could know, Bernadette.