Carrie Tiffany wins the inaugural Stella Prize for women writers.

Carrie Tiffany, author of the acclaimed Mateship With Birds, has been awarded the inaugural Stella Prize for women writers.

Named after one of Australia’s most important female authors, Stella Maria Miles Franklin, the Stella Prize is worth $50,000, and both fiction and non-fiction books are eligible.

The Melbourne based writer said after her win she would share part of her prizemoney with the five other shortlisted writers.

The Stella Prize was established to raise the profile of women authors.

“I don’t write particularly for women, I don’t write for any particular reader in mind,” Tiffany said.  “I write for myself, I think.”

But she welcomed the co-operative spirit of the Stella Prize, saying that women writers were supportive of each other.

She will share $10,000 of her prizemoney with Courtney Collins (The Burial), Michelle de Kretser (Questions of Travel), Lisa Jacobson (The Sunlit Zone), Cate Kennedy (Like a House on Fire) and Margo Lanagan (Sea Hearts).

Judging panel chairwoman Kerryn Goldsworthy said Tiffany had told an “original, tender, frank and funny version of the oldest story in the world: how a man and a woman get together.”

You can see our complete wrap of all the authors longlisted for The Stella Prize here.

You can also see our exclusive interview with Carrie Tiffany here.

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Mateship With Birds

by Carrie Tiffany

On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.

About The Author

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.

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The 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist announced

The longlist for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced, and with Australia’s M.L. Stedman and Carrie Tiffany being joined by New Zealand’s Emily Perkins, the diversity of the list has been applauded the world over.

Formerly The Orange Prize for Fiction, the longlist for The Women’s Prize for Fiction will be cut down to a shortlist at the London Book Fair on April 16, ahead of the winner’s announcement on June 5. This year’s winner will receive a cash prize of £30,000 (A$43,355).

Familiar names like Hilary Mantel and past winners Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver are joined by bright up and comers like Shani Boianjiu,  Bonnie Nadzam and debut novelist Francesca Segal.

Booktopia has profiled the books up for the award, as well as each author nominated, so you don’t skip a beat in the follow up to the winner being announced in June. Don’t miss out on reading these wonderful books with Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore.


The Light Between Oceans

by M.L. Stedman

A bestseller around the world reaching no.4 on the New York Times fiction list.

They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.

Then one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

About the Author

M. L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia, and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel published by Random House Australia, and has so far been translated into nearly thirty languages. It has been a bestselling book around the world, including Australia, Italy, Denmark and America. It was recently voted Best Historical Novel of 2012 by members of Goodreads.

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Mateship with Birds

by Carrie Tiffany

On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.

About the Author

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.

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The Forrests

by Emily Perkins

Evelyn and Dorothy – the twins – are seven when the Forrests move from New York City, the hub of the world, to Westmere, New Zealand. The Forrest Trust Fund now cut out of their lives, the family live under a cloudless sky, in the dust and the heat, outdoors and running wild. Their father – who they would only call Frank – works for a cab company over the weekends but is really an actor. Michael, the eldest, has a friend called Daniel whose father lives in a half-way house. He starts to live with them, punches Dorothy on the shoulder to stop her crying when she starts school, and becomes family.

Lee, their mother, takes them to a commune when she needs to get away from Frank. The memory of that place – the freedom, the dirty richness of the landscape, the stolen kisses – their chaotic childhood, undulates beneath the surface of all their lives, and brings them together in flickering moments when they grow far apart.

The passing of time happens quickly. Evelyn and Dorothee grow older, discover sex, love, have babies, and watch as they too grow old. Their youngest sister moves away and their parents decrease in importance in their lives. Daniel, like a shadow, is always in the back of their minds. Death changes everything, but somehow life remains the same.

In a narrative that shifts and moves, growing as wild as the characters, The Forrests is an extraordinary literary achievement. A novel that sings with color and memory, it speaks of family and time, dysfunction, aging and loneliness, about lethargy, heat, youth, and how there is always something inaccessible and secretive, lying just out of reach.

About the Author

Emily Perkins is a writer of contemporary fiction, and the success of her first collection of stories, not her real name and other stories, established her early on as an important writer of her generation. Perkins has written novels, as well as short fiction, and her writing has won and been shortlisted for a number of significant awards and prizes. She was the 2006 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow, and she used the fellowship to work on her book, Novel About My Wife, published in 2008. She is an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award winner (2011).

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A Trick I Learned From Dead Men

by Kitty Aldridge

What’s it like then, a dead body? I always hesitate, but if I were forced to describe it, at gunpoint so to speak, a dead person is like a newborn, weird, other-worldly, but. Familiar as your own face in the mirror. After the disappearance of their father and the sudden death of their mother, Lee Hart and his deaf brother, Ned, imagine all is lost until Lee lands a traineeship at their local funeral home and discovers there is life after death. Here, in the company of a crooning ex-publican, a closet pole vaulter, a terminally-ill hearse driver, and the dead of their local town, old wounds begin to heal and love arrives as a beautiful florist aboard a ‘Fleurtations’ delivery van.

But death is closer than Lee Hart thinks. Somewhere among the quiet lanes and sleepy farms something else is waiting. And it is closing in. Don’t bring your work home with you, that’s what they say. Too late.

Sometimes sad, often hilarious and ultimately tragic and deeply moving, A Trick I Learned From Dead Men is a pitch perfect small masterpiece from a writer described by Richard Ford as having ‘a moral grasp upon life that is grave, knowing, melancholy, often extremely funny and ultimately optimistic’.

About the Author

After training as an actress at the Drama Centre London, Aldridge worked in film, theatre and television as an actress. Her first novel Pop was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002 and shortlisted for the Pendleton May First Novel Award 2002.

Aldridge’s short story, Arrivederci Les, won the Bridport Short Story Prize 2011.

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Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

In 1910, Ursula Todd is born during a snowstorm in England, but two parallel scenarios occur – in one, she dies immediately. In the other, she lives to tell the tale. As the possibility of having a second chance at life opens up, the novel unfolds, following Ursula as she lives through the events of the twentieth century again and again. What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

About the Author

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Kate was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2011 Birthday Honours, for services to literature.

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The Marlowe Papers

by Ros Barber

On May 30th, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now let Christopher Marlowe tell you the truth: that his ‘death’ was an elaborate ruse to avoid his being hanged for heresy; that he was spirited across the channel to live on in lonely exile, longing for his true love and pining for the damp streets of London; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colourless man from Stratford – one William Shakespeare.

With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this extraordinary novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, mercurial and not altogether trustworthy. The son of a cobbler who rose so far in Elizabethan society that he counted nobles among his friends and patrons, a spy in the Queen’s service, a fickle lover and a declared religious sceptic, he was always courting trouble. When it caught up with him, he was lucky to have connections powerful enough to help him escape.

Memoir, love letter, settling of accounts and a cry for recognition as the creator of some of the most sublime works in the English language, this is Christopher Marlowe’s testament – and a tour de force by an award-winning poet: provocative, persuasive and enthralling.

About the Author

Ros Barber was born in Washington DC and raised in England. She is the author of three collections of poetry, the latest of which (Material, Anvil 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her short fiction, which won prizes in the Asham and Independent on Sunday short story competitions, has been published by Bloomsbury and Serpents Tail. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry London, London Magazine, The Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and many other publications; it also features in anthologies published by Faber, Virago, Anvil and Seren. Dr. Barber has also published academic papers on Christopher Marlowe. She lives in Brighton and has four children.

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The People of Forever are Not Afraid

by Shani Boianjiu

Lea, Navishag and Yael are school friends in a nondescript town in Israel. During dull lessons they play their invented game Exquisite Corpse and fantasise about the boys they fancy. When they hit eighteen they are conscripted into the army. Marooned on checkpoint duty with a bunch of morons, Lea relieves her boredom by creating an invented family life for a dishevelled Palestinian man she sees everyday at the border; Yael takes to sleeping with the men she is training, in between breaking up and getting back together with her wimpish boyfriend at home; and Navishag’s days are dogged by memories of her brother, Dan, who committed suicide after leaving the army. They wait in the dust for something to happen. Energetic, relentless, and with a sharp caustic humour, The People of Forever are Not Afraid captures that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

About the Author

Shani Boianjiu was born in 1987 in a small town on the Israel/Lebanon border, and she served in the Israeli Defense Forces for two years. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Vice magazine, and Zoetrope: All Story. Shani is the youngest recipient ever of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award, for which she was chosen by Nicole Krauss. She lives in Israel.

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Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

‘What are you thinking, Amy?’ The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: ‘What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?’

Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war. . .

About the Author

Gillian Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects was the winner of two CWA Daggers, and was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger, and also for an Edgar. She lives in Chicago with her husband.

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How Should A Person Be?

by Sheila Heti

Reeling from a failed marriage, Sheila, a twenty something playwright, finds herself unsure of how to live and create. When Margaux, a talented painter and free spirit, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, enter her life, Sheila hopes that through close – sometimes too close – observation of her new friend, her new lover, and herself, she might regain her footing in art and life.

Using transcribed conversations, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, the brilliant and always innovative Sheila Heti crafts a work that is part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part bawdy confessional. It’s a totally shameless and dynamic exploration into the way we live now, which breathes fresh wisdom into the eternal questions: What is the sincerest way to love? What kind of person should you be?

About the Author

Sheila Heti is the author of five books; three books of fiction, a children’s book, and a work of non-fiction with Misha Glouberman. She is Interviews Editor at The Believer and is known for her long interviews. She lives in Toronto.

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May We Be Forgiven

by A.M. Homes

Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper.They have been uneasy rivals since childhood.Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life. In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life – at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.

The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer – the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants’ desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia.

At the novel’s heart are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

About the Author

A.M. Homes has been the recipient of numerous awards including Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, NYFA, and The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library, along with the Benjamin Franklin Award.

She is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the best selling memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter along with a travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist’s book Appendix A:

A.M. Homes was born in Washington D.C., she now lives in New York City and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton

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Flight Behaviour

by Barbara Kingsolver

Discontented with her life of poverty on a failing farm in the Eastern United States, Dellarobia, a young mother, impulsively seeks out an affair. Instead, on the Appalachian mountains above her farm, she discovers something much more profoundly life-changing – a beautiful and terrible marvel of nature. As the world around her is suddenly transformed by a seeming miracle, can the old certainties they have lived by for centuries remain unchallenged?

Flight Behaviour is a captivating, topical and deeply human novel touching on class, poverty and climate change. It is Barbara Kingsolver’s most accessible novel yet, and explores the truths we live by, and the complexities that lie behind them.

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver’s thirteen books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction include the novels The Bean Trees and the international bestseller The Poisonwood Bible which, amongst other accolades, won the 2005 Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year award. Her most recent novel The Lacuna, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

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The Red Book

by Deborah Copaken Kogan

A college reunion, 20 years after graduation. Can one weekend of nostalgia change some people’s lives forever?

Clover, Addison, Mia and Jane were college roommates until their graduation in 1989. Now, twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker with Lehman Brothers, living the Manhattan dream, is out of a job, newly married and fretting about her chances of having a baby. Addison’s marriage to a novelist with writers’ block is as stale as her artistic ‘career’. Mia’s acting ambitions never got off the ground and she now stays home with her four children, renovating and acquiring faster than her Hollywood director husband can pay the bills. Jane, once the Paris bureau chief for a newspaper, now the victim of budget cuts, has been blindsided by different sorts of loss.

The four friends have kept up with one another via the red book, a class report published every five years, in which alumni write brief updates about their lives. But there’s the story we tell the world and then there’s the real story, as the classmates arriving at their twentieth reunion with their families, their histories, their dashed dreams and secret longings, will discover over the course of an epoch-ending, score-settling, unforgettable weekend.

About the Author

Deborah Copaken Kogan is the author of Between Here and April, a novel and Shutterbabe, the bestselling memoir about her years as a war photographer. Her photographs have been published in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, L’Express, Liberation and GEO. She has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Elle, O: the Oprah Magazine, More, Slate and Paris Match, among others. She lives in Harlem, New York, with her husband and three children.

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Bring Up the Bodies

by Hilary Mantel

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In Bring up the Bodies, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This new novel is a speaking picture, an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is one of our most important living writers. She is the author of twelve books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Giving Up the Ghost, Beyond Black, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Orange Prize, and Wolf Hall, which won the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

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Lamb

by Bonnie Nadzam

Lamb traces the self-discovery of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man with a tendency toward dishonesty, in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and even comes to believe that his devotion to Tommie is in her best interest. But when Lamb decides to abduct a willing Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness, they are both shaken in ways neither of them expects.
Lamb is a masterful exploration of the dynamics of love and dependency that challenges the boundaries between adolescence and adulthood, confronts preconceived notions about conventional morality, and exposes mankind’s eroded relationship with nature.

About the Author

Bonnie Nadzam was born in Cleveland, went school in Chicago and has moved continually westward ever since. She holds a BA in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Carleton College; a Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University; and an MA and PhD from The University of Southern California and has taught creative writing at Colorado College. Her short stories have been published in Granta Magazine, Orion Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review Daily, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Coffin Factory, and several other magazines.

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Ignorance

by Michèle Roberts

After every war there are stories that are locked away like bluebottles in drawers and kept silent. But sometimes the past can return: in the smell of carbolic soap, in whispers darting through a village after mass, in the colour of an undelivered letter. Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angele Baudry grow up, side by side yet apart, in the village of Ste Madeleine. Marie-Angele is the daughter of the grocer, inflated with ideas of her own piety and rightful place in society. Jeanne’s mother washes clothes for a living. She used to be a Jew until this became too dangerous. Jeanne does not think twice about grasping the slender chances life throws at her. Marie-Angele does not grasp; she aspires to a future of comfort and influence.

When war falls out of the sky, along with it tumbles a new, grown-up world. The village must think on its feet, play its part in a game for which no one knows the rules. Not even the dubious hero with ‘business contacts’ who sweeps Marie-Angele off her feet. Not even the reclusive artist living alone with his sensual, red canvases. In these uncertain times, the enemy may be hiding in your garden shed and the truth is all too easily buried under a pyramid of recriminations.

Ignorance is a mesmerising exploration of guilt, faith, desire and judgment, bringing to life a people at war in a way that is at once lyrical and shocking.

About the Author

Michèle Roberts is the author of twelve highly acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House which won the W.H. Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her memoir Paper Houses was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in June 2007. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud- stories of sex and love (2010). Half-English and half-French, Roberts lives in London and in the Mayenne, France. She is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

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The Innocents

by Francesca Segal

Adam has just proposed to his childhood sweetheart. Rachel is everything he has ever wanted – pretty, kind, thoughtful, safe and sure of her place in the world. Her family loves him, they share the same friends, in fact they are a perfect young couple set for a life of married bliss and comfort in north-west London. But on to the scene comes Ellie, Rachel’s younger, sexier but vulnerable and mysterious cousin from New York.

Despite his contentment, Adam finds himself uncontrollably drawn to Ellie – her beauty is overwhelming, her history is compelling, and she comes to represent all that is missing from his life: excitement, curiosity, freedom. And so his struggle begins – should he turn towards a new life of adventure and discovery, risking all that he holds dear, or stay true to love, responsibility and the ties of his community, giving up the possibility of any alternative?

The Innocents is an age-old tale of love, temptation, confusion, commitment and coming to terms with the choices we’ve made, that – in a wry, humorous, affectionate voice – tells the story of one young man’s pre-wedding panic as he grapples with the conflicts between responsibility and passion, security and freedom, tradition and independence.

Francesca Segal’s triumphant debut invites us in to a close-knit community, where a universal drama unfolds, with assurance and grace.

About the Author

Francesca Segal was born in London in 1980. Brought up between the UK and America, she studied at Oxford University before becoming a journalist and writer. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Guardian, and The Jewish Chronicle, amongst others. She has been a features writer at Tatler, and for three years wrote the Debut Fiction column in The Observer.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

A wildly imaginative, laugh-out-loud but also very poignant novel.

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum.

Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s place in the world.

About the Author

Maria Semple worked in Los Angeles as a television writer for 15 years, working on hit shows including Ellen, Saturday Night Live, Mad About You and Arrested Development. She lives in Seattle.

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Honour

by Elif Shafak

From the award-winning author of “The Forty Rules of Love” and “The Bastard of Istanbul Elif Shafak”, “Honour” is a novel of love, betrayal and a clash of cultures. “My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten…” Leaving her twin sister behind, Pembe leaves Turkey for love – following her husband Adem to London. There the Topraks hope to make new lives for themselves and their children. Yet, no matter how far they travel, the traditions and beliefs the Topraks left behind stay with them – carried in the blood.

Their eldest is the boy Iskender, who remembers Turkey and feels betrayal deeper than most. His sister is Esma, who is loyal and true despite the pain and heartache. And, lastly, Yunus, who was born in London, and is shy and different. Trapped by the mistakes of the past, the Toprak children find their lives shattered and transformed by a brutal act of murder…A powerful novel set in Turkey and London in the 1970s, “Honour” explores pain and loss, loyalty and betrayal, the trials of the immigrant, the clash of tradition and modernity, as well as the love and heartbreak that too often tears families apart.

About The Author

Elif Shafak is the acclaimed author of “The Bastard of Istanbul” and “The Forty Rules of Love” and is the most widely read female novelist in Turkey. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is a contributor for “The Telegraph”, “Guardian” and the “New York Times” and her TED talk on the politics of fiction has received 500 000 views since July 2010. She is married with two children and divides her time between Istanbul and London.

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NW

by Zadie Smith

Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke and Russell.

Five identical blocks make up the Caldwell housing estate in North West London.

If you grew up in this relic of seventies urban design, the plan was to get out and get on, to something better, somewhere else. Thirty years later, Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan have all moved on, with varying degrees of success – whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they occupy separate worlds, and navigate an atomized city in which few care to be their neighbour’s keeper.

Then one April afternoon a stranger comes to Leah’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation . . .

From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, where the main streets hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end, NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters.

About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975, and continues to live in the area. White Teeth is her first novel and won awards for Best Book and Best Female Newcomer at the BT Emma Awards (Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards), the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread Prize for a first novel in 2000, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction 2000, the WH Smith Book Award for New Talent, the Frankfurt eBook Award for Best Fiction Work Originally Published in 2000 and both the Commonwealth Writers First Book Award and Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Her other novels are The Autograph Man and On Beauty, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2005 and won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. She also edited the collection of contemporary short fiction The Book of Other People, and wrote Changing My Mind, a collection of personal and cultural essays.

Click here to buy NW from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


Alif the Unseen

by G. Willow Wilson

Welcome to the Empty Quarter, the domain of Djinn, ghouls, demons and the effrit who take the shapes of beasts. You used to walk among us, and we among you. Now things are different. Now we are Unseen.

Alif is a 23-year-old Arab/Indian hacker working in the Arab Emirates. His job is to provide security to enemies of the Arab states, ranging from pornographers to militant Islamists. Alif has fallen in love with the beguiling Intisar, an aristocratic woman he meets online. But their budding love affair is cruelly ended when her father arranges a marriage for her with a man of her class… a man who turns out to be the state’s leading censor, a shadowy and powerful figure known only as ‘the Hand’. The state security forces come after Alif with guns drawn, and he must go underground, trying all the while to fight back against a piece of code he wrote to protect his lover but which the Hand is using to create the most sophisticated state surveillance the world has ever known.

As their final communication, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious old book. Bound in what looks like human skin, and titled The Thousand and One Days, Alif soon realizes that this token of affection is actually a dangerous source of old world magic. And as the keeper of this amulet – the secret book of the jinn – Alif is about to become a wanted fugitive from both the corporeal and the celestial worlds…A life and death struggle ensues as the might of heaven and earth is unleashed.

About the Author

G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982 and raised in Colorado. Shortly after graduating from Boston University, Willow moved to Cairo, where she converted to Islam. She divides her time between Cairo and Seattle. Wilson’s graphic novel, Cairo, was named a Best Graphic Novel of 2007 by Publishers Weekly, the Edmonton Journal/CanWest News, and Comics Worth Reading. Wilson is also the author of two comics series: Air, which was nominated for the 2009 Eisner Award for Best New Series; and Vixen, winner of the 2009 Glyph Comics Fan Award for Best Comic; she is the first Muslim writer to be recognised for either award.

Click here to buy Alif the Unseen from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


The 2013 Stella Prize Longlist announced

The longlist for the 2013 Stella Prize has just been announced, containing a great mix of exciting new talents and familiar faces.

Named after one of Australia’s most important female authors, Stella Maria Miles Franklin, the Stella Prize is worth $50,000, and both fiction and non-fiction books are eligible.

The 2013 Stella Prize shortlist will be announced on Wednesday 20 March. The inaugural Stella Prize will be awarded in Melbourne on the evening of Tuesday 16 April.

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


Floundering

by Romy Ash

Tom and Jordy have been living with their gran since the day their mother, Loretta, left them on her doorstep and disappeared.

Now Loretta’s returned, and she wants her boys back.

Tom and Jordy hit the road with Loretta in her beat-up car. The family of three journeys across the country, squabbling, bonding, searching and reconnecting.

But Loretta isn’t mother material. She’s broke, unreliable, lost. And there’s something else that’s not quite right with this reunion.

They reach the west coast and take refuge in a beachside caravan park. Their neighbour, a surly old man, warns the kids tostay away. But when Loretta disappears again the boys have no choice but to askthe old man for help, and now they face new threats and new fears.

This beautifully written and gripping debut is as moving as it is frightening, and as heartbreaking as it is tender.

About the Author

Romy Ash is a Melbourne-based writer. She has written for GriffithREVIEW, the Big Issue and frankie magazine. She has a regular cooking column in Yen magazine and writes for the blog Trotski & Ash. The forthcoming Voracious: New Australian Food Writing features one of her essays.

Floundering is her first novel.

Click here to buy Floundering from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Mazin Grace

by Dylan Coleman

Winner of the 2011 David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writing

Growing up on the Mission isn’t easy for clever Grace Oldman. When her classmates tease her for not having a father, she doesn’t know what to say. Pappa Neddy says her dad is the Lord God in Heaven, but that doesn’t help when the Mission kids call her a bastard. As Grace slowly pieces together clues that might lead to answers, she struggles to find a place in a community that rejects her for reasons she doesn’t understand.

In Mazin Grace, Dylan Coleman fictionalises her mother’s childhood at the Koonibba Lutheran Mission in South Australia in the 1940s and 50s. Woven through the narrative are the powerful, rhythmic sounds of Aboriginal English and Kokatha language.

Mazin Grace is the inspirational story of a feisty girl who refuses to be told who she is, determined to uncover the truth for herself.

About the Author

Dylan Coleman is a Kokatha-Greek woman who grew up in Thevenard, on the far west coast of South Australia. She has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Adelaide, where she teaches Indigenous health, and her short stories have been published in Southerly and various anthologies. For over twenty years Dylan has worked across Aboriginal education, health, land rights, and the Arts, with a focus on Aboriginal community engagement and social justice. Dylan lives on the outskirts of Adelaide with her partner and son.

Click here to buy Mazin Grace from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Burial

by Courtney Collins

A breathtakingly brilliant debut novel in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy – inspired by Australia’s last bushranger, young woman Jessie Hickman.

It is the dawn of the twentieth century in Australia and a woman has done an unspeakable thing.

Twenty-two-year-old Jessie has served a two-year sentence for horse rustling. As a condition of her release she is apprenticed to Fitzgerald ‘Fitz’ Henry, who wants a woman to allay his loneliness in a valley populated by embittered ex-soldiers. Fitz wastes no time in blackmailing Jessie and involving her in his business of horse rustling and cattle duffing.

When Fitz is wounded in an accident he hires Aboriginal stockman, Jack Brown, to steal horses with Jessie. Soon both Jack Brown and Jessie are struggling against the oppressive and deadening grip of Fitz.

One catastrophic night turns Jessie’s life on its head and she must flee for her life. From her lonely outpost, the mountains beckon as a place to escape. First she must bury the evidence. But how do you bury the evidence when the evidence is part of yourself?

Inspired by the life of Jessie Hickman, legendary twentieth-century bushranger, The Burial is a stunning debut novel, a work of haunting originality and power.

About the Author

The Burial is the debut novel of Courtney Collins. It has been optioned for a feature film by Pure Pictures. Courtney’s next work in progress, The Walkman Mix has already received attention through the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Award 2011. Courtney grew up in the Hunter Valley in NSW. She now lives on the Goulburn River in regional Victoria.

Click here to buy The Burial from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The People Smuggler

by Robin de Crespigny

Winner of the Queensland Literary Awards 2012 – Non-Fiction

The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi, the ‘Oskar Schlindler of Asia. At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, this is one man’s epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world.

When Ali Al Jenabi flees Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, he is forced to leave his family behind in Iraq. What follows is an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, living every day with excruciating uncertainty about what the next will bring.

Through betrayal, triumph, misfortune – even romance and heartbreak – Ali is sustained by his fierce love of freedom and family. Continually pushed to the limits of his endurance, eventually he must confront what he has been forced to become.

With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. It is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protections of civilisation, attempting to retain his dignity and humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible position.

‘An engrossing account of a figure seen by some as saviour and others as criminal. A significant book.’ Thomas Keneally

About the Author

Robin de Crespigny has spent three years working with Ali Al Jenabi to write his story. She is a film maker and lives in Sydney. This is her first book.

Click here to buy The People Smuggler from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Questions of Travel

by Michelle de Kretser

A dazzling, compassionate and deeply moving novel from one of world literature’s rising stars.

A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination – a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.

About the Author

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer.

She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize, and The Lost Dog, which was widely praised by writers such as AS Byatt, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd and won a swag of awards, including: the 2008 NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal.

The Lost Dog was also shortlisted for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, the Western Australian Premier’s Australia-Asia Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Asia-Pacific Region) and Orange Prize’s Shadow Youth Panel. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Click here to buy Questions of Travel from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Sufficient Grace

by Amy Espeseth

Ruth and her cousin Naomi live in rural Wisconsin, part of an isolated religious community. The girls’ lives are ruled by the rhythms of nature – the harsh winters, the hunting seasons, the harvesting of crops – and by their families’ beliefs. Beneath the surface of this closed, frozen world, hidden dangers lurk.

The Ruth learns that Naomi harbours a terrible secret. She searched for solace in the mysteries of the natural world: broken fawns, migrating birds, and the strange fish deep beneath the ice. Can the girls’ prayers for deliverance be answered?

Sufficient Grace is a story of lost of innocence and the unfailing bond between two young women. It is at once devastating and beautiful, and ultimately transcendent.

‘Simply brilliant. Haunting, gritty and emotionally dark.’ Jessica Au

‘A novel of heart-rending beauty. Seldom have grace and nature, spirit and flesh, spoken to each other so wonderfully.’ Michael McGirr

‘As disturbing as they are, there are stories that demand to be written. This is such a story, delivered by a writer of remarkable talent. Long after reading Sufficient Grace you will not forget it, and will be left with wanting more from Amy Espeseth.’
– Tony Birch

About the Author

Born in rural Wisconsin, Amy Espeseth lives in Melbourne, having immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. A writer, publisher and academic, she is the recipient of the 2007 Felix Meyer Scholarship in Literature, the 2009 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, the 2010 QUT Postgraduate Creative Writing Prize, and the 2012 CAL/Scribe Fiction Prize. Her fiction has appeared in various journals including Wet Ink, antithesis, and The Death Mook.

Click here to buy Sufficient Grace from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Sunlit Zone

by Lisa Jacobson

The Sunlit Zone is a moving elegy of love and loss, admirable for its narrative sweep and the family dynamic that drives it. A risk-taking work of rare, imaginative power.

“The Sunlit Zone combines the narrative drive of the novel with the perfect pitch of true poetry. A darkly futuristic vision shot through with bolts of light. Brilliant, poignant, disconcerting.” Adrian Hyland

“This novel in verse, at once magical and irresistible, draws us in to a vivid future. In Lisa Jacobson’s telling, the Australian fascination with salt water and sea change is made over anew. Romance holds hands with science and takes to the ocean.” 
Chris Wallace-Crabbe
About Lisa Jacobson

About the Author

Lisa Jacobson’s The Sunlit Zone was short-listed for the 2009 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. An earlier poetry collection, Hair & Skin & Teeth, was shortlisted for the National Book Council Awards. She has studied literature at Melbourne and La Trobe Universities, and remains an Honorary Research Fellow at La Trobe. She shares a bush block in Melbourne with her partner and daughter.

Click here to buy The Sunlit Zone from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Like A House On Fire

by Cate Kennedy

From prizewinning short-story writer Cate Kennedy comes a new collection to rival her highly acclaimed Dark Roots.

In Like a House on Fire, Kennedy once again takes ordinary lives and dissects their ironies and injustices and pleasures with her humane eye and wry sense of humour. In ‘Laminex and Mirrors’, a young woman working as a cleaner in a hospital helps an elderly patient defy doctor’s orders. In ‘Cross Country’, a jilted lover manages to misinterpret her ex’s new life. And in ‘Ashes’, a son accompanies his mother on a journey to scatter his father’s remains, while lifelong resentments simmer in the background. Cate Kennedy’s poignant short stories find the beauty and tragedy in illness and mortality, life and love.

About the Author

Cate Kennedy is the author of the highly acclaimed novel The World Beneath, which won the People’s Choice Award in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2010. She is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has been published widely. Her first collection, Dark Roots, was shortlisted for the Steele Rudd Award in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. She is also the author of a travel memoir, Sing, and Don’t Cry, and the poetry collections Joyflight, Signs of Other Fires and The Taste of River Water, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2011. She lives on a secluded bend of the Broken River in north-east Victoria.

Click here to buy Like A House On Fire from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Sea Hearts

by Margo Lanagan

A mesmerising selkie novel from multi-award winning, internationally acclaimed Australian author, Margo Lanagan – one of the most exciting voices in speculative fiction.

A HAUNTINGLY BEAUTIFUL NOVEL FROM THE WINNER OF FOUR WORLD FANTASY AWARDS.

‘Why would I? People are uneasy enough with me – if I start bringing up sea-wives, they’ll take against me good and proper.’
‘It could be secret.’
‘Could it?’

On remote Rollrock Island, the sea-witch Misskaella discovers she can draw a girl from the heart of a seal. So, for a price, any man might buy himself a bride; an irresistibly enchanting sea-wife. But what cost will be borne by the people of Rollrock – the men, the women, the children – once Misskaella sets her heart on doing such a thing?

Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire and revenge, of loyalty, heartache and human weakness, and of the unforeseen consequences of all-consuming love.
‘Lanagan is in a class of her own.’ The Weekend Australian

About the Author

Margo Lanagan is an internationally acclaimed writer of novels and short stories. Her collections of short stories have garnered many awards, nominations and shortlistings. Black Juice was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, won two World Fantasy Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction. Red Spikes won the CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Horn Book Fanfare title, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her novel Tender Morsels won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Margo lives in Sydney.

Click here to buy Sea Hearts from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Mind of a Thief

by Patti Miller

A superior memoir by an accomplished writer at the height of her powers

For 40,000 years the Central NSW area of Wellington was Aboriginal – Wiradjuri – land. Following the arrival of white men, it became a penal settlement, mission station, gold-mining town and farming centre with a history of white comfort and black marginalisation. In the late 20th century, it was also the subject of the first post-Mabo Native Title claim, bringing new hope – and new controversy – to the area and its people.

Wiradjuri land is also where author Patti Miller was born and, mid-life, it begins to exert a compelling emotional pull, demanding her return. Post-children, having lived a dream life in Paris, it is hard for her to understand, or ignore, and so she is drawn into the story at the heart of Australian identity – who are we in relation to our beloved but stolen country?

Wellington and the Wiradjuri people are the main characters – and in revealing their complex narratives, Patti uncovers her own. Are her connections to this place through her convict forefathers, or through another, secret history? She sets out on a journey of exploration and takes us with her. Black and white politics, the processes of colonisation, family mythologies, generational conflict and the power of place are evoked as Patti weaves a story that is very personal and, at the same time, a universal story of country and belonging.

The Mind of a Thief is about identity, history, place and belonging and, perhaps most of all, about how we create ourselves through our stories.

About the Author

Patti Miller was raised on a farm in central western NSW and has worked teaching writing for over twenty years. Her many books include Writing Your Life (Allen & Unwin, 1994, 2001), The Last One Who Remembers (Allen & Unwin, 1997), Child (Allen & Unwin, 1998), Whatever the Gods Do (Random House, 2003) and The Memoir Book (Allen & Unwin, 2007). In 2012 she will teach at the innovative Faber Academy in Sydney.

Click here to buy The Mind of a Thief from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


An Opening: Twelve Love Stories about Art

by Stephanie Radok

Artist and writer Stephanie Radok possesses a unique international perspective. For over twenty years she has written about and witnessed the emergence of contemporary Aboriginal art and the responses of Australian art to global diasporas.

In An opening: Twelve love stories about art, Stephanie Radok takes us on a walk with her dog and finds that it is possible to re-imagine the suburb as the site of epiphanies and attachments.

Reviews

‘Art wants to enter our lives, yet it is a rare art writer who lets it do that. Writing with full personal disclosure, Stephanie Radok lets us in on her secret. Art can inspire love, and a whole host of other unruly emotions. An Opening is a confession, a provocation, a celebration – a highly original, much-needed book in a field that too often prefers to be offputting and hermetic. A revelation, a gem.’ – Nicholas Jose

‘In An Opening Stephanie Radok engages sensuously and poetically with the art she has seen from her place in the suburbs of Adelaide and as a citizen of the world. Her contribution to Australian art is idiosyncratic and determinedly marginal. I once titled an essay on Australianness “The margins strike back”. Australian art needs more margins.’ – Daniel Thomas

‘Peppered with lovely anecdotes and a gentle wisdom, An Opening draws the reader into a wonderful discussion about art, culture, and identity. Radok’s style is so accessible that she makes thinking critically about art a less rarefied occupation it might otherwise seem.’ – Lucy Clark, Weekend Australian Review

‘A meditative and enriching read.’ – Sarah Braybrooke, Artshub

‘It has been a rare pleasure to review this book; the philosophy and spirituality Stephanie Radok expresses in relation to Aboriginal art are enlightening.’ – Paul Newbury, Bonzer

‘Stephanie’s engagement with art is sentimental, poignant, deeply reflective and a revelation for the uninitiated! – PS News

Click here to buy An Opening from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Mateship with Bird

by Carrie Tiffany

On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.

About the Author

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.

Click here to buy Mateship with Birds from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany: Review by Toni Whitmont

Warrumbungle ranges - The Breadknife

Many years back, when I was new to the bush, I was standing in the top paddock of a mixed grazing and cropping property backing onto to the Warrumbumble Mountains in north western New South Wales and waxing lyrical about the dramatic horizon all broken into vertical planes by weird ancient dry lava plugs.

The tart response from the farmer – an intimidatingly crusty and independent woman in her 70s – was sobering. “Good views don’t make a farm”, she said in her witheringly succinct crack of a voice.

I was reminded of that day over and over again while reading Carrie Tiffany’s luminous Mateship with Birds, which strips Australian rural life of pastiche and sentimentality, leaving us with something that is beautiful and raw with its own  living, breathing energy.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Mateship with Birds is the kind of book that you just don’t want to end. I was left with a feeling of great sadness and loss – not because of the way the story finished, but because I was suddenly cast out of the world into which she transported me. I simply didn’t want to be cut adrift from the gentle dairy farmer, Harry, the purposeful single woman next door Betty, with her two children Michael, on the brink of sexual awakening, and Little Hazel the younger sister dealing with her own initiation into the world of nature.

Tiffany sets her novel in the sexually repressed 1950s of Victoria but her story has a universality about it that transcends time and place. It is a story about love, lust, loneliness, family, animals and the rhythms of nature. She writes with lucid clarity, bringing as much beauty to descriptions of the daily ministrations to lactating cows, to those of Harry’s observations of the viciousness of the birds that patrol the boundaries of his paddock, to the surprising and unexpected yearnings of the human heart. And let’s not forget that despite the strictures of society at the time, growing up in the country meant be surrounded by fecundity and a lot of rutting – the cycle of sex, birth, decay, death is simply an observable fact.

This is a particularly sensual novel, and in that respect, it fits very well into that bush setting. The reader feels the ooze of the soil under hoof, smells the diesel of the red Fergy in the shed, hears the plop of the milk in the pail. And when it comes to longings of a more human kind, Tiffany’s sparse and unsentimental style is both deft and poetic.

Tiffany must have done an enormous amount of research about dairying and bird life, and considering her age and background, has done an incredible job of rendering so palpable a life that she herself could never have experienced and yet lives on the memories of a great many people.  She breathes air into this world with authenticity and sensitivity and I am certainly the richer for experiencing it through her imagination.

This is an exceptional novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Order Mateship with Birds here through Booktopia.

Read Carrie Tiffany’s responses to Booktopia’s Ten Terrifying Questions here.

Carrie Tiffany, author of Mateship with Birds, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Carrie Tiffany

author of Mateship with Birds and
Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living

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 in Halifax, England. My family migrated to Western Australia when I was six. At eighteen I went to the Northern Territory and worked as a park ranger for a few years. I now live in Victoria where I work as an agricultural Continue reading

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