Details of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel ‘Purity’ revealed

Jonathan Franzen fans will get to sink their teeth into another serving from the acclaimed author later this year, with his fifth novel, Purity, to be released in September.

purityFew details about the novel have emerged until now, although Franzen has previously hinted at its length (496 pages) in interviews, saying:

“I’ve let go of any illusion that I’m a writer of 150-page novels. I need room to let things turn around over time and see them from the whole lives of other characters, not just the single character. For better or worse, one point of view never seems to do it for me”.

Here’s the blurb:

Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother – her only family – is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother has always concealed her own real name, or how she can ever have a normal life.Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organisation that traffics in all the secrets of the world – including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn’t understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.

Purity is a dark-hued comedy of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of Freedom and The Corrections has created yet another cast of vividly original characters, Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers, and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Jonathan Franzen is a major author of our time, and Purity is his edgiest and most searching book yet.

Franzen has always been an intriguing figure, oscillating between academic everyman and literary snob at different times since the release of his acclaimed third novel The Corrections in 2001. Does he still have what it takes to write another Great American Novel?

Will Purity live up to the hype? We loved Freedom, so fingers crossed!

Love Franzen? Pre-order your copy of Purity here

The 2015 Stella Prize Shortlist announced!

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The shortlist for the 2015 Stella Prize has just been announced, and what an exciting list of Australian authors it is!

Named after one of Australia’s most important female authors, Stella Maria Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature, awarded last year to Clare Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

Don’t miss the chance to grab a copy of these fantastic books and judge them for yourself with the help of Booktopia.

Executive Director of the Stella Prize, Aviva Tuffield, says:
‘We are thrilled with the strength and diversity of the 2015 Stella Prize shortlist. These six remarkable books explore themes of identity, family, displacement and belonging, with distinctly Australian resonances. Two of the books are debut works, which speaks to the talent of Australian women writers, even those just beginning their careers as authors. We are immensely  grateful for the determination and rigour of our judging panel, who selected these six excellent, original and engaging books.’

stella picThe 2015 Stella Prize will be awarded in Melbourne on the evening of Tuesday 21 April.


THE 2015 STELLA PRIZE SHORTLIST: JUDGES’ REPORT

The Golden Age

by Joan London

The time is the early 1950s, the place Perth. The Gold family, survivors and refugees from wartime Europe, have been blasted by the fates once more: their only child, Frank, has been caught up in the polio epidemic and is now recovering in a halfway house for convalescent children, a converted pub called The Golden Age.

Through the Gold family and their various acquaintances, London explores the social and emotional implications of her story with quiet power and precision, using the tale of one family at one moment in the social history of Australia to illustrate more abstract and general themes. It’s a story of exile, transition, and resilience; it shows the power of vocation and the fragility of love. And in its account of how it feels to belong to a displaced, marginalised and vulnerable race recently threatened with genocide, it has some delicate reverberations for the oldest Australians as well
as for the newest.

About the Author

Joan London is the author of two prize-winning collections of stories, Sister Ships, which won the Age Book of the Year in 1986, and Letter to Constantine, which won the Steele Rudd Award in 1994 and the West Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. These stories have been published in one volume as The New Dark Age. Her first novel, Gilgamesh, was published in 2001, won the Age Book of the Year for Fiction in 2002 and was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, The Good Parents, was published in April 2008 and won the 2009 Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary awards. Joan London’s books have all been published internationally to critical acclaim. The Golden Age (2014) is her third novel.

Grab a copy of The Golden Age here


The Strays

by Emily Bitto

Lily is an only child, and when she befriends the exotic Eva – daughter of artists and ‘old money’ – at school, it’s the beginning of the kind of love affair that solitary
children often have with large exuberant families. But this is bohemian Melbourne in the 1930s, and in many ways it’s not a good place for any child to be. As the girls
grow up their world gets darker and more complex, eventually imploding into scandal.

While it’s partly inspired by the real-life 1930s artists’ colony at Heide in Melbourne, this novel’s characters and plot are wholly fictional and the result is a satisfyingly cohesive vision and story. With its reflective tone, rhythmic style, and vivid scenes, Bitto’s novel illuminates the history of a particular time, place and way of living, but it also draws out the more abstract themes, common to all times and places, of friendship, memory, ambition, and family life.

About the Author

Emily Bitto lives in Melbourne. She has a Masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne, where she is also a sessional teacher and supervisor in the creative writing program. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including Meanjin, Heat, Harvest, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Literary Review. The manuscript of her debut novel, The Strays, was shortlisted for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.

Grab a copy of The Strays here


Foreign Soil

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a performance poet, acutely aware of the accents, idioms and cadences of the spoken word, and her gift with voices – their origins, their meanings, their struggles and triumphs with alien English – is at the heart of this collection of stories. All ten stories deal with displacement in some form, and some of that displacement has been violent: there are stories of racial conflict in Brixton, of asylum seekers in flight from the Tamil Tigers, of psychological and physical violence between a naïve white-Australian wife in a strange land and her twice-displaced African husband.

Although these are stories about inequalities of power in the intersections of class and race, Beneba Clarke also uses narrative voices and the effects of dialogue to show characters attempting to create and assert a coherent self through the power of speech. Her work is profoundly political, but it is also more than that.

About the Author

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent and the author of the poetry collections Gil Scott Heron Is On Parole (Picaro Press, 2009) and Nothing Here Needs Fixing (Picaro Press, forthcoming). As a spoken word performer, Maxine’s work has been delivered on stages and airways, and in festivals across the country. Her short fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, The Age, Big Issue, Cordite Poetry Review, Harvest, Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, Unusual Work and Peril. Maxine lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here


The Invisible History of the Human Race

by Christine Kenneally

The sciences and the humanities are traditionally thought of as separate, or even as opposite, fields of study and endeavour, but Christine Kenneally moves on from this kind of thinking in her fascinating exploration of DNA and what it tells us about our individual, social, and anthropological pasts, bringing genetics and history together via the concepts of ancestry and inheritance. At every stage of this book, the data, the facts and the ideas are illustrated and enlivened by personal stories of individual lives and discoveries.

Kenneally uses the contemporary enthusiasm for genealogy and family history as an accessible entry point for the general reader, giving us a wonderful assortment of insights into the meaning and value of the past. To read this book is to be in the company of a dynamic, ardent mind, talking in a friendly authorial voice and never talking down.

About the Author

Christine Kenneally is Australian and received her Ph.D. in linguistics at Cambridge. She has written about language, science, and culture for publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, Scientific American, Discover, and Slate..

Grab a copy of Invisible History of the Human Race here


The Eye of the Sheep

by Sofie Laguna

Jimmy Flick isn’t an ordinary child, and as his story progresses we quickly realise that he has some unspecified condition, probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. He can’t slow down, he can’t calm down, and he can’t respond appropriately in difficult or even dangerous situations, but his world view is unique and full of unexpected insights. His father, defeated by the difficulties of living with such a child, takes to drink and domestic violence. And then things get worse.

Sofie Laguna faultlessly maintains the storytelling voice of Jimmy, who is oblivious in some ways and hauntingly knowing and observant in others. There are many places in which such a story could tip over into sentimentality or melodrama, but Laguna’s authorial control and intelligence keep the story on track and the reader engaged and empathetic, and she manages both the humour and the darkness of this story with great sensitivity and control.

About the Author

Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer, but after deciding law was not for her, she trained as an actor. Sofie is now an author, actor and playwright. Her books for young people have been named Honour Books and Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and have been shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Awards. She has been published in the US and the UK and in translation in Europe and Asia. Sofie’s first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, was also published throughout Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. Sofie has written the screenplay for the film of One Foot Wrong, scheduled for pre-production in 2014.

Grab a copy of The Eye of the Sheep here


Heat and Light

by Ellen Van Neerven

This unusually structured collection of stories is divided into three sections, each named for some elemental quality in nature: Heat, Water, Light. They are environmental metaphors that serve as rich touchstones for the layered meanings of individual stories. ‘Heat’ is a sequence of closely interlinked family stories; ‘Water’, a futuristic novella, is kind of ecological speculative fiction and a very unusual love story; ‘Light’ is a collection of stand-alone stories, though certain themes and subjects recur here as they do throughout the book.

Van Neerven moves with ease between realism and fantasy, using elements of myth and mysticism in her storytelling. From one story to the next, the content is always rich and suggestive and the writing is always beautiful and clever. Each of these stories is told with passion and conviction; van Neerven writes with the confidence, maturity, and subtlety of someone twice her age, and with startling originality.

About the Author

Ellen van Neerven is a writer of Mununjali and Dutch heritage. She belongs to the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim. She won the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards for Heat and Light.

Grab a copy of Heat and Light here

How spruce! A new book from Dr Seuss!

But we have to pick ONE pet

And pick it out soon.

You know mother told us

To get back by noon!

SeussKnow the phrasing but can’t pick where it’s from? That’s because it’s a passage from a Dr Seuss story, a story that nobody knew existed until now!

More than 20 years after his death in 1991, a box filled with text and sketches will come to life in the latest creation by Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss: What Pet Should I Get?

The story “captures the excitement of a classic childhood moment — choosing a pet,” US publisher Random House Children’s Books said in a release.

Geisel’s widow, Audrey Geisel, found the manuscripts and illustrations in their home soon after her husband died. She set the materials aside, only to rediscover them recently while cleaning out his office.

“While undeniably special, it is not surprising to me that we found this because Ted always worked on multiple projects and started new things all the time,” Audrey Geisel said in the release.

one-fish-two-fish-red-fish-blue-fishCathy Goldsmith, Dr. Seuss’ former art director, said she believes Geisel wrote What Pet Should I Get? between 1958 and 1962. The publisher estimates Dr. Seuss wrote What Pet Should I Get? between 1958 and 1962.

“The brother and sister in the book are the same as those in his bestselling Beginner Book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, which was published in 1960,” Goldsmith said.

The book is due to be published in July.

We’ll keep you posted as news comes to hand, we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Click here for more books from Dr. Seuss

The 2015 Stella Prize Longlist announced!

The longlist for the 2015 Stella Prize has just been announced, and what an exciting list of Australian authors!

Named after one of Australia’s most important female authors, Stella Maria Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature, awarded last year to Clare Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

Don’t miss the chance to grab a copy of these fantastic books and judge them for yourself with the help of Booktopia.


The Golden Age

by Joan London

This is a story of resilience, the irrepressible, enduring nature of love, and the fragility of life. From one of Australia’s most loved novelists.

He felt like a pirate landing on an island of little maimed animals. A great wave had swept them up and dumped them here. All of them, like him, stranded, wanting to go home.

It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At The Golden Age Children’s Polio Convalescent Hospital in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow-patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond.

The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs, love and desire, music, death, and poetry. Where children must learn that they are alone, even within their families.

Written in Joan London’s customary clear-eyed prose, The Golden Age evokes a time past and a yearning for deep connection. It is a rare and precious gem of a book from one of Australia’s finest novelists.

About the Author

Joan London is the author of two prize-winning collections of stories, Sister Ships, which won the Age Book of the Year in 1986, and Letter to Constantine, which won the Steele Rudd Award in 1994 and the West Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. These stories have been published in one volume as The New Dark Age. Her first novel, Gilgamesh, was published in 2001, won the Age Book of the Year for Fiction in 2002 and was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, The Good Parents, was published in April 2008 and won the 2009 Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary awards. Joan London’s books have all been published internationally to critical acclaim. The Golden Age (2014) is her third novel.

Grab a copy of The Golden Age here


The Strays

by Emily Bitto

In The Strays, Evan Trentham is the wild child of the Melbourne art world of the 1930s. He and his captivating wife, Helena, attempt to carve out their own small niche, to escape the stifling conservatism they see around them, by gathering together other like-minded artists. They create a utopian circle within their family home, offering these young artists a place to live and work, and the mixed benefits of being associated with the infamous Evan. At the periphery of this circle is Lily Struthers, the best friend of Evan and Helena’s daughter Eva.

Lily is infatuated by the world she bears witness to, and longs to be part of this enthralling makeshift family. As Lily observes years later, looking back on events that she still carries painfully within her, the story of this groundbreaking circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham’s art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.

About the Author

Emily Bitto lives in Melbourne. She has a Masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne, where she is also a sessional teacher and supervisor in the creative writing program. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including Meanjin, Heat, Harvest, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Literary Review. The manuscript of her debut novel, The Strays, was shortlisted for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.

Grab a copy of The Strays here


This House of Grief

by Helen Garner

Anyone can see the place where the children died. You take the Princes Highway past Geelong, and keep going west in the direction of Colac. Late in August 2006, soon after I had watched a magistrate commit Robert Farquharson to stand trial before a jury on three charges of murder, I headed out that way on a Sunday morning, across the great volcanic plain.

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Father’s Day, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. She presents the theatre of the courtroom with its actors and audience, all gathered for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth, players in the extraordinary and unpredictable drama of the quest for justice.

This House of Grief is a heartbreaking and unputdownable book by one of Australia’s most admired writers.

About the Author

Helen Garner was born in Geelong in 1942. She has published many works of fiction including Monkey Grip, Cosmo Cosmolino and The Children’s Bach. Her fiction has won numerous awards. She is also one of Australia’s most respected non-fiction writers, and received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993. In 2006 she won the Melbourne Prize for Literature.

Grab a copy of This House of Grief here


Foreign Soil

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

In this collection of award-winning stories, Melbourne writer Maxine Beneba Clarke has given a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, the downtrodden and the mistreated. It will challenge you, it will have you by the heartstrings. This is contemporary fiction at its finest.

Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award 2013.

In Melbourne’s western suburbs, in a dilapidated block of flats overhanging the rattling Footscray train lines, a young black mother is working on a collection of stories.

The book is called Foreign Soil. Inside its covers, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant is on the warpath through the rebel squats of 1960s Brixton, a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny, and a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way.

The young mother keeps writing, the rejection letters keep arriving…

About the Author

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent and the author of the poetry collections Gil Scott Heron Is On Parole (Picaro Press, 2009) and Nothing Here Needs Fixing (Picaro Press, forthcoming). As a spoken word performer, Maxine’s work has been delivered on stages and airways, and in festivals across the country. Her short fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, The Age, Big Issue, Cordite Poetry Review, Harvest, Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, Unusual Work and Peril. Maxine lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here


Heat and Light

by Ellen Van Neerven

In this award-winning work of fiction, Ellen van Neerven takes her readers on a journey that is mythical, mystical and still achingly real.

Over three parts, she takes traditional storytelling and gives it a unique, contemporary twist. In ‘Heat’, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family and the legacy left by the mysterious Pearl. In ‘Water’, van Neerven offers a futuristic imagining of a people whose existence is under threat. While in ‘Light’, familial ties are challenged and characters are caught between a desire for freedom and a sense of belonging.

Heat and Light presents a surprising and unexpected narrative journey while heralding the arrival of an exciting new talent in Australian writing.

About the Author

Ellen van Neerven is a writer of Mununjali and Dutch heritage. She belongs to the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim. She won the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards for Heat and Light.

Grab a copy of Heat and Light here


Laurinda

by Alice Pung

When my dad dropped us off at the front gate, the first things I saw were the rose garden spreading out on either side of the main driveway and the enormous sign in iron cursive letters spelling out LAURINDA. No ‘Ladies College’ after it, of course; the name was meant to speak for itself.

Laurinda is an exclusive school for girls. At its secret core is the Cabinet, a trio of girls who wield power over their classmates – and some of their teachers.

Entering this world of wealth and secrets is Lucy Lam, a scholarship girl with sharp eyes and a shaky sense of self. As she watches the Cabinet at work, and is courted by them, Lucy finds herself in a battle for her identity and integrity.

Funny, feisty and moving, Laurinda explores Lucy’s struggle to stay true to herself as she finds her way in a new world of privilege and opportunity.

About the Author

Alice Pung is the author of Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter and the editor of the anthology Growing Up Asian in Australia. Alice’s work has appeared in the Monthly, Good Weekend, The Age, The Best Australian Stories and Meanjin.

Grab a copy of Laurinda here


Golden Boys

by Sonya Hartnett

Sonya Hartnett’s third novel for adults is perfectly formed and utterly compelling, an unflinching and disquieting work from one of Australia’s finest writers.

Colt Jenson and his younger brother Bastian live in a world of shiny, new things – skateboards, slot cars, train sets and even the latest BMX. Their affluent father, Rex, has made sure that they’ll be the envy of the new, working-class suburb they’ve moved to. But underneath the surface of the perfect family, is there something unsettling about the Jensons? To the local kids, Rex becomes a kind of hero, but Colt senses there’s something in his father that could destroy their fragile new lives.

About the Author

Sonya Hartnett’s work has won numerous Australian and international literary prizes and has been published around the world. Uniquely, she is acclaimed for her stories for adults, young adults and children. Her accolades include the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Of A Boy), The Age Book of the Year (Of A Boy), the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (Thursday’s Child), the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for both Older and Younger Readers (Forest, The Silver Donkey, The Ghost’s Child, The Midnight Zoo and The Children of the King), the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (Surrender), shortlistings for the Miles Franklin Award (for both Of a Boy and Butterfly) and the CILP Carnegie Medal (The Midnight Zoo). Hartnett is also the first Australian recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (2008).

Grab a copy of Golden Boys here


Nest

by Inga Simpson

Once an artist and teacher, Jen now spends her time watching the birds around her house and tending her lush sub-tropical garden near the small town where she grew up. The only person she sees regularly is Henry, who comes after school for drawing lessons. When a girl in Henry’s class goes missing, Jen is pulled back into the depths of her own past.

When she was Henry’s age she lost her father and her best friend Michael – both within a week. The whole town talked about it then, and now, nearly forty years later, they’re talking about it again. Everyone is waiting – for the girl to be found and the summer rain to arrive. At last, when the answers do come, like the wet, it is in a drenching, revitalising downpour.

About the Author

Inga Simpson is a fresh new voice in Australian writing. She is inspired by regular people and the changing seasons of their lives. Inga began her career as a professional writer for government before gaining a PhD in creative writing. In 2011, she took part in the Queensland Writer’s Centre Manuscript Development Program and as a result, Hachette published her first novel, the acclaimed Mr Wigg, in 2013.

Grab a copy of Nest here


The Invisible History of the Human Race

by Christine Kenneally

We are doomed to repeat history if we fail to learn from it, but how are we affected by the forces that are invisible to us?

In The Invisible History of the Human Race Christine Kenneally draws on cutting-edge research to reveal how both historical artifacts and DNA tell us where we come from and where we may be going. While some books explore our genetic inheritance and popular television shows celebrate ancestry, this is the first book to explore how everything from DNA to emotions to names and the stories that form our lives are all part of our human legacy. Kenneally shows how trust is inherited in Africa, silence is passed down in Tasmania, and how the history of nations is written in our DNA. From fateful, ancient encounters to modern mass migrations and medical diagnoses, Kenneally explains how the forces that shaped the history of the world ultimately shape each human who inhabits it.

About the Author

Christine Kenneally is Australian and received her Ph.D. in linguistics at Cambridge. She has written about language, science, and culture for publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, Scientific American, Discover, and Slate..

Grab a copy of Invisible History of the Human Race here


In My Mother’s Hands

by Biff Ward

Poignant and moving memoir of Elizabeth Ward, known to one and all as Biff, who grew up in the 1950s in a household that tiptoed around her mother’s demons and her father’s fame.

There are secrets in this family. Before Biff and her younger brother, Mark, there was baby Alison, who drowned in her bath because, it was said, her mother was distracted. Biff too, lives in fear of her mother’s irrational behaviour and paranoia, and she is always on guard and fears for the safety of her brother. As Biff grows into teenage hood, there develops a conspiratorial relationship between her and her father, who is a famous and gregarious man, trying to keep his wife’s problems a family secret. This was a time when the insane were committed and locked up in Dickensian institutions; whatever his problems her father was desperate to save his wife from that fate. But also to protect his children from the effects of living with a tragically disturbed mother.

In My Mother’s Hands is a beautifully written and emotionally perplexing coming-of-age true story about growing up in an unusual family.

About the Author

Biff has worked in radical secondary education, equal opportunity, Indigenous adult education, human resource development and mental illness education. She has had a peripatetic writing career, including writing Father-Daughter Rape, a feminist analysis of the literature from Freud to the early 80s about child sexual abuse (csa) before that term was invented. It was published by The Women’s Press in London in 1984. Her poetry and essays appeared in anthologies in the 80s and 90s. Her memoir, In My Mother’s Hands, is about her family’s experience of her mother’s mental illness at the same time that her father, Russel Ward, was writing The Australian Legend. Biff has three children and four grandchildren. She lives on the Monaro, in Canberra.

Grab a copy of In My Mother’s Hands here


The Eye of the Sheep

by Sofie Laguna

Ned was beside me, his messages running easily through him, with space between each one, coming through him like water. He was the go-between, going between the animal kingdom and this one. I watched the waves as they rolled and crashed towards us, one after another, never stopping, always changing. I knew what was making them come, I had been there and I would always know.

Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids – he’s both too fast and too slow. He sees too much, and too little. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall asleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father’s way. But when Jimmy’s world falls apart, he has to navigate the unfathomable world on his own, and make things right.

Sofie Laguna’s first novel One Foot Wrong received rave reviews, sold all over the world and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award. In The Eye of the Sheep, her great originality and talent will again amaze and move readers. In the tradition of Room and The Lovely Bones, here is a surprising and brilliant novel from one of our finest writers.

About the Author

Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer, but after deciding law was not for her, she trained as an actor. Sofie is now an author, actor and playwright. Her books for young people have been named Honour Books and Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and have been shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Awards. She has been published in the US and the UK and in translation in Europe and Asia. Sofie’s first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, was also published throughout Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. Sofie has written the screenplay for the film of One Foot Wrong, scheduled for pre-production in 2014.

Grab a copy of The Eye of the Sheep here


Only the Animals

by Ceridwen Dovey

Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods?

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.

About the Author

Ceridwen Dovey was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and went to high school in Sydney. She did her undergraduate study at Harvard, and spent a year as research assistant for the current affairs program NOW with Bill Moyers. She wrote her novel Blood Kin as her thesis for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town, and has a PhD in anthropology from New York University. She now lives in Sydney.

Grab a copy of Only the Animals here

Darragh McManus, author of Shiver the Whole Night Through, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

shiver-the-whole-night-throughThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Darragh McManus
author of
Shiver The Whole Night Through

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and reared in Ireland. A little village in County Tipperary, which is in the South-Midwest, if you can follow that. School, hmm…loved primary, hated the first three years of secondary. It wasn’t the school’s fault, they were fine. I just hated pretty much all the kids! Including myself, probably. I grew up a bit and enjoyed the final two years though. Then I went to college in Cork for an Arts degree in English Lit and History. I’ve also done a certificate in Art & Design, and of course have learned some lasting lessons in both the School of Hard Knocks and the University of Life.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Twelve: either play soccer for Liverpool or be some kind of intergalactic bounty hunter with cool blue skin and bluer eyeballs, toting a crossbow that fired lasers. This was because I read a LOT of comics at the time, mostly Roy of the Rovers and Champ (hence the soccer) and Eagle (hence the daft sci-fi).

Eighteen: probably to have my own grunge band. I’d moved onto an obsession with grunge by that stage. I still love those bands, the image, the sarcasm, the plaid shirts, everything about them – good guys who rocked like all-get-out. Sadly, I was too lazy to bother learning guitar…the dream withered and died.

Thirty: a writer! I’d decided in my late twenties that, yes, I definitively wanted to be an author; I finished my first novel at 29 and the future seemed – potentially? – bright. Didn’t quite go according to plan. That book and my next one (collection of stories) failed to sell. Finally, I was published in non-fiction at 34. And in 2012, a lifetime ambition was realised when AT LAST I had a novel released. Shiver the Whole Night Through is my third published work of fiction (though first Young Adult).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That communism was both possible and desirable. I think most people, as they get older, move to a more meritocratic philosophy i.e. you should get out pretty much what you put in. (Obviously, this doesn’t mean not looking after those who need it – that’s just basic decency and kindness.) But my desire for a totally evened-out society is gone; I don’t think it’s remotely feasible anyway, even if it was a good idea. Maybe after another 10,000 years of human evolution. Funnily enough, not every youthful passion fades away; for instance, I’m probably more and more of an ardent feminist with each passing year.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc. – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

It’s not a work of art, as such, more a movement – but the aforementioned grunge music has been a seminal influence on me personally and my writing. I did a crime novel, Even Flow, which was basically the grunge ethos in vigilante form. Shiver the Whole Night Through takes its title and much of its tone from Nirvana (and Kurt is mentioned in the first paragraph). Another book, unpublished, called Pretend We’re Dead, is about a bunch of slackers whose lives and thoughts were profoundly shaped by grunge. As I said, I love everything about it: artistically, intellectually, emotionally, socially…maybe even metaphysically, who knows.

FEA_2014-01-29_LIF_044_30297410_I1Twin Peaks was also huge. In fact Shiver was, to some extent, my attempt at writing an Irish version of the great David Lynch drama. Murder mystery, small-town weirdness, supernatural elements, love story…and of course, the forest. It’s a character in its own right, in the show and book. Just that sustained mood of dread and reverie that Lynch evokes…man, it’s stayed with me for decades.

Finally, I’d like to pick a book but there are just so many… I’ll go for Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, one of my very-favourite novels. (Incidentally, I consider it a great work of YA literature too: the core story is about a lad of 14 and his fraught journey to some kind of emotional maturity and adult responsibility.) I was blown away the first time I read it, especially by the language Burgess invented for his narrator: English-Russian-Cockney-Gypsy and who knew what else. It really showed me the limitless possibilities of fiction. Great, great book. Real horrorshow, oh my droogies…

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

God – good question! I should have been a musician or painter or movie director or one of those lunatics who mutilates their own body and videos the whole thing and runs the video in a gallery and… Probably I write because A) I’m reasonably good at it, B) I love reading anyway so why not read my own stuff, C) as I say, I was too lazy to learn an instrument, D) I’m colour-blind so visual art is out and E) films cost billions to make and I’m way too neurotic myself to be dealing with tantrums and egos of actors.

6. Please tell us about your novel, Shiver The Whole Night Through.

It’s a YA mystery – sort of a noir-style detective story, with paranormal/horror elements, set in a small Irish town. The basic plot is: after months of bullying and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels just about ready to end it all. But when he wakes up one morning to find that town sweetheart Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose, and becomes determined to find out what happened. One night Aidan gets a message, scratched in ice on his bedroom window: ‘I didn’t kill myself.’ Who is contacting him? And if Sláine didn’t end her own life…who did? Now Aidan must hunt down Sláine’s killers, and unravel the darker secrets surrounding the town. And he’s about to find out that in matters of life and death, salvation often comes in the unlikeliest of forms…

shiver-the-whole-night-throughNeedless to say, it’s great! Seriously, the reviews so far are very positive, and Shiver is on the (UK) Daily Telegraph’s Best YA 2014 list. Think Twin Peaks meets Twilight meets Let the Right One In meets the teen-detective movie Brick meets old Gothic horror stories. Or don’t think that at all, and just go into it blind.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

This one specifically, a feeling that they’ve been thrilled, chilled, moved and entertained. For all the things we may say about our books, first and foremost you want to entertain the reader. Beneath that, I hope they get a sense of empathy and sympathy for bullying victims; it’s the scourge of society and always has been. Nothing worse than a bully. I hope they debate some of the themes with their friends e.g. is revenge ever justified? And I hope they’d have become as fond of Aidan, Sláine and Podsy as I am.

In general, I’d like to think people will put down one of my books and – whether they loved it or liked it or were indifferent or worse – at least they’d think it was authentic, distinctive, made with care and sincerity. I hope they’d think, “This guy’s writing isn’t like anyone else’s.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Oh wow, so many. Anthony Burgess, again: the man was just the most incredible virtuoso. Could write anything, any style and any genre, better than virtually anyone else. Jorge Luis Borges, because his ideas and technique were so unusual that he was almost an art-form unto himself. Margaret Atwood for being so witty and clever and making it look so easy. George Orwell for writing 1984, probably the greatest book I’ve ever read. Don DeLillo, for having the most unique literary voice I’ve ever read, and for somehow expressing the inexpressible in our existence, and illuminating the deep mysteries of it all… I’d better stop now or I really will keep going and going, possibly forever.

 9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write and publish a sequel to Shiver the Whole Night Through. To write and publish the several other ideas for YA novels that I’ve begun sketching out, plotting, pottering about with. To have my first novel and short-story collection published. To have that slacker novel published (dude). To write lots of screenplays and get filthy rich in Hollywood. To win an Oscar for one of them…and then refuse the Oscar. Ha!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Everyone says this, but…read. Read, read, read. Not the internet or magazines; read books. All sorts of books, with a good smattering of classics. That can mean anything from Homer to Dickens to Graham Greene – whatever. Just something outside your comfort zone, outside your normal realm of thinking/reading (and they are, in a sense, two sides of the same coin). Something that stretches your mind. Read. Keep reading. Then start writing, but keep reading. Don’t ever stop reading! I cannot stress this enough!

Darragh, Thank you for playing.

NEWS: Harper Lee to publish sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird

go-set-a-watchmanIn perhaps the biggest literary news of the 21st century, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has announced she will be releasing a sequel to her seminal debut in 2015.

“It’s a pretty decent effort,” she said of her soon to be released second novel, 55 years in the making, entitled Go Set a Watchman.

According to Harper, Go Set a Watchman is set roughly 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird and follows the young heroine from that novel, Scout, as an adult.

When Scout travels to her small Southern town of Maycomb, from New York City, to visit her father Atticus she is, Harper explained, “forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

Stay tuned to The Booktopia Blog for all news as it comes to hand about this massive literary event. And while you’re waiting, why not flick through a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. It remains as relevant and enthralling as it ever was.

Grab a copy of Go Set a Watchman here

to-kill-a-mockingbird-50th-anniversary-editionTo Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man’s struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country (Library Journal). HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the book’s publication with this special hardcover edition.

Grab a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird here

VIDEO: Debra Oswald on Offspring fandom and her new novel Useful

Debra Oswald is the co-creator and head writer of the TV series Offspring which recently finished its fifth season. She chats to Caroline Baum about her transition to adult fiction with her darkly funny new novel Useful.

Grab a copy of Debra Oswald’s Useful here

useful-signed-copies-available-

Useful

by Debra Oswald

Once a charming underachiever, he’s now such a loser that he can’t even commit suicide properly. Waking up in hospital after falling the wrong way on a rooftop, he comes to a decision.

He shouldn’t waste perfectly good organs just because they’re attached to his head. After a life of regrets, Sully wants to do one useful thing: he wants to donate a kidney to a stranger.

As he scrambles over the hurdles to become a donor, Sully almost accidentally forges a new life for himself. Sober and employed, he makes new friends, not least radio producer Natalie and her son Louis, and begins to patch things up with old ones, like his ex-best mate Tim. Suddenly, everyone wants a piece of him.

But altruism is not as easy as it seems. Just when he thinks he’s got himself together, Sully discovers that he’s most at risk of falling apart.

From the creator of Offspring comes a smart, moving and wry portrait of one man’s desire to give something of himself.

Grab a copy of Debra Oswald’s Useful here

Congratulations to our Useful Facebook competition winners Amie Clarke, Edel Taylor, Hanadi Nasser, Jan Hartz and Elaine Smith. You’ve all won a copy of Useful! Please email your details to promos@booktopia.com.au and we’ll get your books out to you ASAP!

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