Monster Fair draws novel sleuths

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By Luke Voogt

Like thousands of Geelong bookworms, Freda Wright loves to open a thriller novel and pursue mysterious villains through the streets of Victorian England.

“If I start reading a book I can’t put it down or do anything else!” the maths teacher of 50 years said.

“I love the problem-solving – I have to solve it before (the detective does).”

The Whittington local urged fellow bibliophiles to indulge their passion and score a bargain at Geelong West Rotary’s Monster Book Fair, beginning today.

Funds raised go to a library list of Rotary causes, from local patient transport and supporting bushfire victims, to mentoring students or sending an at-risk teen to walk the Kokoda Trail, Freda said.

“It’s amazing to think that by simply buying and reading some $1 and $2 books you’re helping to change lives – just a small contribution but such a big result.”

Dozens of club members were busily sorting through thousands of titles for the fair, Freda said.

“It’s a huge community effort and the libraries are very kind to us, when they’re clearing things out because they’re old.”

Freda’s love of 19th Century detective novels began when she was growing up in Birmingham, England.

“They take you into a world you might not know about,” she said of the novels.

“ I don’t have a huge amount of time to read [but] I’m looking forward to retirement when I’ve got time to read them.”

Freda has taught at Matthew Flinders for 43 years, after moving to Geelong with husband Graham, who died five years ago.

Her golf-loving and kind husband enjoyed gardening, but was never a big reader before succumbing to early-onset dementia 13 years ago, Freda remembered.

“He would read a magazine if it had pictures,” she laughed.

“He used to joke, ‘I never planned to marry a teacher’.”

She cared for her husband for eight years while working full-time.

“That was a hard journey. I look back and I don’t really know how I made it through, but I did,” she said

”It made him feel extremely unsafe and isolated because people didn’t understand the effect it had on him.

“He used to get very angry if he couldn’t get out what he wanted to say.“

She credits students and staff at her school for helping her through that “tragic” period.

“They’re all beautiful young people, they just need someone to care for them – that’s all.”

After Graham’s death Freda joined Geelong West Rotary Club to help others, alongside “like-minded people”.

“That’s what Rotary is all about,” she said.

She also joined Geelong Welsh Ladies Choir, started going to local theatre and, more recently, hoped to begin supporting a refugee in their education.

As president of Geelong West Rotary Club Freda is focusing on the Monster Book Fair.

The club’s two annual book fairs raised more than $50,000 combined each year, she said.

This month’s fair runs 9am-8pm today, 9am-5pm on Saturday and 9am-2pm on Sunday at Geelong West Town Hall.

Geelong readers could find the missing piece to their libraries amid mountains of books, Freda said.

“A lot of people come and they’ll find the one book they need to make a set.”

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