Countdown to Australia’s Favourite Novelist: 20-11 as voted by you

What a journey it’s been. From the hundreds of nominations, to the tens of thousands of votes, and here we are at the second last day of the countdown to Australia’s Favourite Novelist.

For those that are coming to the party a little late, here’s the story so far:

We hope you’re all looking forward to tomorrow when we unveil  Australia’s top 10 Favourite Novelists, as well as the launch of our Australian Stories Initiative. Booktopia is proudly Australian Owned and Operated and we all love Australian books. So we thought, well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what we’ve got in store for you. Let’s just say buying Australian Books has never been easier.

Plus there will be loads of discounts and freebies on offer from tomorrow through to Monday.

But what a list we have for you today. 20-11 in the voting. Sit back and enjoy.


Our Pick

20. Helen Garner

Helen Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip, was published in 1977, and immediately established her as an original voice on the Australian literary scene. She is known for incorporating and adapting her personal experiences in her fiction, something that has brought her both praise and criticism, particularly with her novels, Monkey Grip and The Spare Room.

Throughout her career, Garner has written both fiction and non-fiction. She attracted controversy with her book The First Stone about a sexual harassment scandal in a university college. She has also written for film and theatre, and has consistently won awards for her work.

Our Pick

In subsequent books, she has continued to adapt her personal experiences. Her later novels include The Children’s Bach and Cosmo Cosmolino. In 2008 she returned to fiction writing with the publication of The Spare Room, a fictional treatment of caring for a dying cancer patient, based on the illness and death of Garner’s friend Jenya Osborne. She has also published several short story collections: Honour & Other People’s Children: two stories, Postcards from Surfers and My Hard Heart: Selected Fictions.

Click here to go to Helen Garner’s author page


19. Fiona McIntosh

Fiona McIntosh is a fantasy author originally born in Brighton, England. At the age of nineteen, she travelled first to Paris and later to Australia, where she has lived ever since.

She worked for many years in the travel industry but after her shift to full-time writing she roams the world researching and drawing inspiration for her novels.

Our Pick

Adelaide is her home base, which she shares with her husband and twin sons, but Fiona does most of her writing from the peace of southern Tasmania.

To date she has written 24 adult novels across various genres and seven novels for children.

Click here to go to Fiona McIntosh’s author page


18. Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur first started writing when she was twelve years old, and to date, she’s finished fifteen novels.

Her books have received many nominations and prizes, including making the final five in the Random House Australia George Turner Prize.

Our Pick

She has also been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards, received a ‘perfect 10′ from Romance Reviews Today, as well as being nominated for Best Shapeshifter in PNR’s PEARL Awards.

She’s a dessert and function cook by trade, and married to a man who not only supports her writing, but who also does the majority of the housework. They have one daughter, and live in Melbourne,

Click here to go to Keri Arthur’s author page


17. Dianne Blacklock

Dianne Blacklock was born in Sydney and grew up in the St George area, completed a bachelor of arts degree at the University of NSW, then married, raising four children. She has been a teacher, trainer, counsellor and market researchers.

Dianne was 39 and a part-time TAFE communications teacher when her first novel was chosen from the “slush pile” of unsolicited manuscripts at Pan Macmillan in 2000.

Our Pick

She has since had eight novels published, Call Waiting, Wife for Hire, Almost Perfect, False Advertising, Crossing Paths, Three’s a Crowd, The Right Time and The Secret Ingredient.

When she’s not writing she goes on rampages through the house, cleaning and emptying out cupboards and making everyone do extra chores. Needless to say, the family prefers it when she’s writing.

Click here to go to Dianne Blacklock’s author page


16. Geraldine Brooks

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

Our Pick

She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her first novel, Year of Wonders, is an international bestseller, and People of the Book is a New York Times bestseller translated into 20 languages. She is also the author of the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

Click here to go to Geraldine Brooks’ author page


15. Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s best-known authors. She’s published  eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works include the international best-seller The Secret River,  The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian’s Story.

The Secret River has won many prizes, including the Commonwealth Prize for Literature and the Christina Stead Prize. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award.

Our Pick

Several of her novels have been made into major feature films, and all have been translated into European and Asian languages.

In March 2010 Kate Grenville was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of New South Wales and in November 2012 she was awarded the same honour by the University of Sydney.

Click here to go to Kate Grenville’s author page


14. Mandy Magro

Mandy Magro lives in the picturesque country township of Mossman, North Queensland, with her husband and daughter.

Our Pick

She loves writing about the Australian outback and all the wonderful characters that live there, and her own adventures on the land have made her the passionate country woman she is today.

Her previous novels include Rosalee Station and Jacaranda.

Click here to go to Mandy Magro’s author page


13. Matthew Reilly

Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of ten novels: Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, Hover Car Racer, Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors and Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves.

In 2005, Matthew was the first author to participate in the Australian Government’s ‘Books Alive’ initiative, for which he wrote the short novel Hell Island, featuring Shane Schofield. Over 200,000 copies of that work were given away for free in August of 2005.

Our Pick

Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages and he has sold over 3.5 million books worldwide: over 1 million in Australia alone; over a million in the US; and over a million in the UK.

Walt Disney Pictures have optioned the movie rights to his children’s book, Hover Car Racer, while Ice Station was optioned by Paramount Pictures.

Click here to go to Matthew Reilly’s author page


12. Nick Earls

Nick Earls writes long, short and medium-sized fiction, so far including twelve novels and numerous shorter works. With the publication of the first installment of the Word Hunters series in September 2012, he is now officially also a writer for children.

Reputable reviewers have compared his work with that of Nick Hornby, Raymond Carver, Martin Amis, VS Naipaul, JD Salinger, Woody Allen and Jeffrey Eugenides, which just goes to show that, if you write enough and publish enough, anything can come your way.

Our Pick

He is the winner of a Betty Trask Award (UK) and Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. Perfect Skin was the only novel to be a finalist in the Australian Comedy Awards in 2003, and was adapted into a feature film in Italy (Solo un Padre, Warner Brothers/Cattleya). 48 Shades of Brown was a Kirkus Reviews (US) book of the year selection, and was adapted into a feature film in Australia (Buena Vista/Prima). Five of his novels have been adapted into stage plays.

He has also written for newspapers, including the New York Times, the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He was born in Northern Ireland, but has spent most of his life in Australia, where many of his books have been bestsellers.

Click here to go to Nick Earls’ author page


11. Mem Fox

Mem Fox was born in Australia, grew up in Africa, studied drama in England, and returned to Adelaide, Australia in 1970. She is Australia’s best loved picture-book author.  Her first book, Possum Magic, has sold over four million copies and is still the best selling children’s book in Australia, 29 years after its publication.

She has written over 40 books for children among which are the perennial favourites: Possum Magic, Time for Bed and Where Is The Green Sheep?; and several books for adults also, including her best selling book for parents: Reading Magic: how your child can learn to read before school and other read aloud miracles. Her book: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes was on the New York Times best-seller list for 18 weeks in 2008—2009 and also won best book for young children at the 2010 Turin International Book Festival in its Italian edition. Her books have been translated into 19 languages.

Our Pick

Mem Fox was an Associate Professor of Education at Flinders University in Adelaide where she taught teachers for 24 years until her early retirement in 1996. She has received many honors and awards from various Australian governments and other organisations for services to literature, as well as three honorary doctorates for her work in literacy. She has visited the USA over 100 times as both a consultant in literacy and as an author. She keeps threatening to retire but never quite gets around to it as she is always finding something new to write about or shout about.

Click here to go to Mem Fox’s author page


Don’t forget to come back tomorrow at midday as we announce the Top 10 votes for Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

10 Australian books to read before you die – First Tuesday Book Club

banner_10_aussie_booksThe First Tuesday Bookclub on the ABC recently held a popular vote for the 10 Australian books to read before you die. We watched with bated breath as the list was released, and thought we’d share it with you it case you missed it.

While there will be as much talk about the books not on the list as on it, it really is a great place to start with Australia novels. If there’s anything on this list you haven’t read, we strongly recommend checking them out.

Here we go…


cloudstreet

1. Cloudstreet

By Tim Winton

From separate catastrophes two rural families flee to the city and find themselves sharing a great, breathing, shuddering joint called Cloudstreet, where they begin their lives again from scratch. For twenty years they roister and rankle, laugh and curse until the roof over their heads becomes a home for their hearts. Tim Winton’s funny, sprawling saga is an epic novel of love and acceptance. Winner of the Miles Franklin and NBC awards in Australia, Cloudstreet is a celebration of people, places and rhythms which has fuelled imaginations world-wide.

About The Author
Tim Winton grew up on the coast of Western Australia, where he continues to live. He is the author of eighteen books. His epic novel Cloudstreet was adapted for the theater and has been performed around the world. His two most recent novels, Dirt Music and The Riders, were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award three times, and in 1998 the Australian National Trust declared Winton a national living treasure. The Turning has already won the 2005 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.

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

(Editors note: Cloudstreet also topped the Booktopia 50 Must Read Australian Novels vote some time back. See the full results by clicking here)


2. The Book Thiefthe-book-thief

by Markus Zusak

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger and her younger brother are being taken by their mother to live with a foster family outside Munich. Liesel’s father was taken away on the breath of a single, unfamiliar word – Kommunist – and Liesel sees the fear of a similar fate in her mother’s eyes. On the journey, Death visits the young boy, and notices Liesel. It will be the first of many near encounters. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

The Book Thief is a story about the power of words to make worlds. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

About the Author
Markus Zusak lives in Sydney with his wife. He has written four novels for young adults: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry and The Messenger. The Boof Thief is his first adult novel.

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


3. A Fortunate Lifea-fortunate-life

by A.B. Facey

A Fortunate Life is an autobiographical novel written by Albert Facey and was written in 1981 (nine months before his death) and tells the complete story of his life. It chronicles his early life in Western Australia, his experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I and his return to civilian life after the war. It also documents his extraordinary life of hardship, loss, friendship and love. During the initial days of its publication, Albert Facey became a nationwide celebrity.

The autobiography begins at his birth. He was born in Maidstone, Victoria, Australia. His father died on the Goldfields of Western Australia in 1896 of typhoid fever and Albert’s mother left her children to the care of their grandmother shortly afterwards. In 1899 he moved from Victoria to Western Australia with his grandmother and three of his six older siblings. Most of his childhood was spent in the Wickepin area.

He started working on farms at the age of eight and had little education and therefore could not read or write. As a child he taught himself to read and write. By the age of 14 he was an experienced bushman, and at 18 a professional boxer. He was badly injured at Gallipoli in August 1915 during the First World War, in which two of his brothers were killed. While recuperating he met his future wife Evelyn Gibson and they were married in Bunbury in August 1916. The Faceys lived in East Perth before returning to Wickepin six years later with their children, where they lived until 1934. The couple had seven children – the eldest, Barney, was killed during the Second World War – and twenty-eight grandchildren.

About the Author
Despite his renowned life, Facey considered his life to be simple and “had no idea what all the fuss was about”. He received many letters and appeared on many talk shows. He notably became one of Australia’s most famous heroes. When asked on an interview, where the name of the book originated. He replied, “I called it ‘A Fortunate Life’ because I truly believe that is what I had”.

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


4. The Power of Onethe-power-of-one

by Bryce Courtenay

First with your head and then with your heart . . .So says Hoppie Groenwald, boxing champion, to a seven-year-old boy who dreams of being the welterweight champion of the world. For the young Peekay, it is a piece of advice that he will carry with him throughout his life.Born in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred, this one small boy will come to lead all the tribes of Africa. Through enduring friendships with Hymie and Gideon, Peekay gains the strength he needs to win out. And in a final conflict with his childhood enemy, the Judge, Peekay will fight to the death for justice.Bryce Courtenay’s classic bestseller is a story of the triumph of the human spirit – a spellbinding tale for all ages.

About the Author
Formally an advertising executive, Bryce Courtenay was one of Australia’s best loved writers. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1995 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra in October 2012. In September 2012, Courtenay announced that he was suffering from terminal gastric cancer. He died on 22 November at his Canberra home.

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


The Harp In The South

5. The Harp in the South

by Ruth Park

Ruth Park’s classic novel The Harp in the South is one of Australia’s greatest novels. Hugh and Margaret Darcy are raising their family in Sydney amid the brothels, grog shops and run-down boarding houses of Surry Hills, where money is scarce and life is not easy.

Filled with beautifully drawn characters that will make you laugh as much as cry, this Australian classic will take you straight back to the colourful slums of Sydney with convincing depth, careful detail and great heart.

About the Author
Born in New Zealand, Ruth Park came to Australia in 1942 to continue her career as a journalist. She married the writer D’Arcy Niland and travelled with him through the north-west of New South Wales before settling in Sydney where she became a full-time writer.

Ruth Park wrote over fifty books, and her many awards include the prestigious Miles Franklin Award for Swords and Crowns and Rings; the Australian Children’s Book of the Year Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (USA) for Playing Beatie Bow and The Age Book of the Year Award for A Fence Around the Cuckoo.

She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987 and in 1994 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letter from the University of New South Wales. She passed away at her home in Sydney in 2010, at the age of 93.

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


jasper-jones

6. Jasper Jones

by Craig Silvey

Late on a hot summer night at the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by a knock on his window. His visitor is Jasper Jones.

Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress. Jasper takes him to his secret glade in the bush, and it is here that Charlie bears witness to a horrible discovery.

In this simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth. By turns heartbreaking, hilarious, tender and wise, Jasper Jones is a novel to treasure.

About the Author
Craig Silvey grew up on an orchard in Dwellingup Western Australia. He now lives in Fremantle, where at the age of 19, he wrote his first novel, Rhubarb, which received the Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist Award. In 2007, Silvey released a picture book called The World According to Warren. Outside of literature, Silvey is the singer/songwriter for the band The Nancy Sikes.

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


the-magic-pudding-the-adventures-of-bunyip-bluegum

7. The Magic Pudding

by Norman Lindsay

Albert, the magic pudding, can be eaten again and again and will always reform into a new pudding, ready to be eaten again. His three companions must protect him from the pudding thieves who want to steal him for themselves.

First published in 1918, The Magic Pudding is said to have been written to settle an argument: a friend of Lindsay’s said that children like to read about fairies, while Lindsay asserted that they would rather read about food and fighting


About the Author

Norman Lindsay was an Australian artist, sculptor, writer, editorial cartoonist, and scale modeler. He was born in Creswick, Victoria in 1879. He is widely regarded as one of Australia′s greatest artists, producing a vast body of work in different media. He remains most famous for The Magic Pudding, but also published numerous other books for adults.

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


the-slap

8. The Slap

by Christos Tsiolkas

To smack or not to smack is the question that reverberates through the interconnected lives dissected in Christos Tsiolkas’ award-winning novel, now in paperback.

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.

It is a single act, but the slap reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it. Told through the eyes of eight of those present at the barbecue, this acclaimed bestseller is an unflinching interrogation of the life of the modern family. Poignant and provocative, THE SLAP makes us question the nature of commitment and happiness, compromise and truth. Whose side are you on?

About the Author
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of four novels: Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-On, The Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award. He won Overall Best Book the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award and won the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal for his latest novel, The Slap. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne.

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


the-secret-river

9. The Secret River

by Kate Grenville

In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand.

But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.

Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals—Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring—are finding their own ways to respond to them.

Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a brilliantly written book, a ground-breaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.

About the Author
Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s best-known authors. She has published nine novels, a collection of short stories, and four books about the writing process. Her books have been awarded many prizes in Australia, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Britain’s Orange Prize. In 2006 The Secret River was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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


picnic-at-hanging-rock

10. Picnic At Hanging Rock

by Joan Lindsay

While Joan Lindsay’s haunting Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock is a work of fiction, the story is often considered one of Australia’s greatest mysteries.

In 1900, a class of young women from an exclusive private school go on an excursion to the isolated Hanging Rock, deep in the Australian bush. The excursion ends in tragedy when three girls and a teacher mysteriously vanish after climbing the rock. Only one girl returns, with no memory of what has become of the others.

About the Author
Joan Lindsay was born in Melbourne, where she went to school as a day-girl for a few years at Clyde Girls’ Grammar, then situated in East St Kilda. She knew and loved the Macedon district from early childhood. In 1922 she married Sir Daryl Lindsay in London. The Lindsays travelled together in Europe and the USA, Daryl with his paints and Joan with her typewriter. Picnic At Hanging Rock (1967) is her best-remembered book and was filmed by Peter Weir in 1975. Sir Daryl died in 1976. Joan lived at their country home on the Mornington Peninsula, Mullberry Hill, Victoria, Australia, until her death in December 1984.

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


Of course, between you and me, we know they got it completely wrong. What would you have chosen?

Have your say on our twitter page @booktopia, our facebook page, or just leave a comment below.

The Miles Franklin Literature Award Longlist 2012

From where I sit the 2012 Miles Franklin Literature Award longlist seems right. The names I expected to see are listed, Elliot Perlman, Kate Grenville, Gail Jones, Alex Miller, as are some of the names I hoped to see, Charlotte Wood, Charlotte Wood and Charlotte Wood. There are a few disastrous exclusions,  though. The Life by Malcolm Knox, for one. Kylie Ladd’s Last Summer, is another. And my unpublished and unreadable historical epic, Untitled.

That said, I find it an attractive list. And an encouraging list. For the most part these literary titles are readable and sold quite well. And when literature sells you know you’re living in promising times.

(Pssst… just look at how many of the longlisted authors have answered my Ten Terrifying Questions. Cool.)


Charlotte Wood – Animal People

On a stiflingly hot December day, Stephen has decided it’s time to break up with his girlfriend Fiona. He’s 39, aimless and unfulfilled, he’s without a clue working out how to make his life better. All he has are his instincts – and unfortunately they might just be his downfall . . .

As he makes his way through the pitiless city and the hours of a single day, Stephen must fend off his demanding family, endure another shift of his dead-end job at the zoo (including an excruciating teambuilding event), face up to Fiona’s aggressive ex-husband and the hysteria of a children’s birthday party that goes terribly wrong. As an ordinary day develops into an existential crisis, Stephen begins to understand – perhaps too late – that love is not a trap, and only he can free himself. Click here to read more…

Charlotte answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Animal People

Read my review of Animal People


Tony Birch – Blood

From the moment he saw her, wrapped in a blanket at the hospital, Jesse knew that he’d be the one to look after his little sister, Rachel. Mum was always on the move and always bringing home trouble.

When his mum’s appetite for destruction leads the little family into the arms of Ray Crow, beneath the charm and charisma, Jesse sees the brooding violence and knows that, this time, the trouble is real.

But Jesse’s just a kid and even as he tries to save his sister, he makes a fatal error that exposes them to the kind of danger he has sworn to protect Rachel from. As their little world is torn to pieces, the children learn that, when you are lost and alone, the only thing you can trust is what’s in your blood. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Blood


Steven Carroll – Spirit of Progress

The thing that makes you, it never goes.

A sleek high-speed train glides silently through the French countryside, bearing Michael, an Australian writer, and his travelling world of memory and speculation.

Melbourne, 1946, calls to him: the pressure cooker of the city during World War II has produced a small creative miracle, and at this pivotal moment the lives of his newly married parents, a group of restless artists, a proud old woman with a tent for a home, a journalist, a gallery owner, a farmer and a factory developer irrevocably intersect. And all the while the Spirit of Progress, the locomotive of the new age, roars through their lives like time′s arrow, pointing to the future and the post-war world only some of them will enter. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Spirit of Progress


Mark Dapin – Spirit House

Long ago, Jimmy Reubens was a POW on the Thai-Burma Railway. For more than four decades, he has staved off the ghosts of his past by drinking too much, outstaying his welcome at his local RSL, and bickering with his three closest mates. But the past won’t stay buried forever.

When his thirteen-year-old grandson comes to stay after his parents marriage breaks up, Jimmy has a chance to finally begin to lay his ghosts to rest, but first he has to tell their stories. Click here to read more…

Mark answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read his answers here
Click here to order your copy of Spirit House


Virginia Duigan – The Precipice

Thea Farmer, a reclusive and difficult retired school principal, lives in isolation with her dog in the Blue Mountains. Her distinguished career ended under a cloud over a decade earlier, following a scandal involving a much younger male teacher. After losing her savings in the financial crash, she is forced to sell the dream house she had built for her old age and live on in her dilapidated cottage opposite.

Initially resentful and hostile towards Frank and Ellice, the young couple who buy the new house, Thea develops a flirtatious friendship with Frank, and then a grudging affinity with his twelve-year-old niece, Kim, who lives with them. Although she has never much liked children, Thea discovers a gradual and wholly unexpected bond with the half-Vietnamese Kim, a solitary, bookish child from a troubled background.

Her growing sympathy with Kim propels Thea into a psychological minefield. Finding Frank’s behaviour increasingly irresponsible, she becomes convinced that all is not well in the house. Unsettling suspicions, which may or may not be irrational, begin to dominate her life, and build towards a catastrophic climax. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of The Precipice


Anna Funder – All That I Am

Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is living out her days in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past – and a part of history that has been all but forgotten.

Another lifetime away, it’s 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller, self-doubting revolutionary and poet, sits in a New York hotel room settling up the account of his life.

When Toller’s story arrives on Ruth’s doorstep their shared past slips under her defences, and she’s right back among them – those friends who predicted the brutality of the Nazis and gave everything they had to stop them. Those who were tested – and in some cases found wanting – in the face of hatred, of art, of love, and of history. Click here to read more…

Anna answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of All That I Am


Kate Grenville – Sarah Thornhill

From the beginning Jack and I was friends. Somehow our way of looking at things fitted together. He never called me Dolly, the way the others did, only my full and proper name.

Sarah Thornhill is the youngest child of William Thornhill, convict-turned-landowner on the Hawkesbury River. She grows up in the fine house her father is so proud of, a strong-willed young woman who’s certain where her future lies.

She’s known Jack Langland since she was a child, and always loved him.

But the past is waiting in ambush with its dark legacy. There’s a secret in Sarah’s family, a piece of the past kept hidden from the world and from her. A secret Jack can’t live with. A secret that changes everything, for both of them. Click here to read more…

Kate answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Sarah Thornhill


Gail Jones – Five Bells

On a radiant day in Sydney, four adults converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Crowds of tourists mix with the locals, enjoying the glorious surroundings and the play of light on water.

But each of the four carries a complicated history from elsewhere; each is haunted by past intimacies, secrets and guilt: Ellie is preoccupied by her sexual experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Told over the course of a single Saturday, Five Bells describes four lives which chime and resonate, sharing mysterious patterns and symbols. A fifth figure at the Quay, a barely glimpsed child, reminds us that some patterns are imprecise and do not resolve. By night-time, when Sydney is drenched in a rainstorm, each life has been transformed. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Five Bells


Gillian Mears – Foal’s Bread

The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn’t totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn’t died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he’s pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal’s Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land. Click here to read more…

Gillian answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Foal’s Bread


Alex Miller – Autumn Laing

Autumn Laing has long outlived the legendary circle of artists she cultivated in the 1930s. Now ‘old and skeleton gaunt’, she reflects on her tumultuous relationship with the abundantly talented Pat Donlon and the effect it had on her husband, on Pat’s wife and the body of work which launched Pat’s career. A brilliantly alive and insistently energetic story of love, loyalty and creativity.

Autumn Laing seduces Pat Donlon with her pearly thighs and her lust for life and art. In doing so she not only compromises the trusting love she has with her husband, Arthur, she also steals the future from Pat’s young and beautiful wife, Edith, and their unborn child.

Fifty-three years later, cantankerous, engaging, unrestrainable 85-year-old Autumn is shocked to find within herself a powerful need for redemption. As she begins to tell her story, she writes, ‘They are all dead and I am old and skeleton-gaunt. This is where it began…’ Click here to read more…

Alex answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read his answers here
Click here to order your copy of Autumn Laing


Frank Moorhouse – Cold Light

It is 1950, the League of Nations has collapsed and the newly formed United Nations has rejected all those who worked and fought for the League. Edith Campbell Berry, who joined the League in Geneva before the war, is out of a job, her vision shattered. With her sexually unconventional, husband, Ambrose, she comes back to Australia to live in Canberra.

Edith now has ambitions to become Australia’s first female ambassador, but while she waits for a Call from On High, she finds herself caught up in the planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be ‘a city like no other’.

When her communist brother, Frederick, turns up out of the blue after many years of absence, she becomes concerned that he may jeopardise her chances of becoming a diplomat. It is not a safe time to be a communist in Australia or to be related to one, but she refuses to be cowed by the anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. Click here to read more…

Frank answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read his answers here
Click here to order your copy of Cold Light


Favel Parrett – Past the Shallows

Harry and Miles live with their father, an abalone fisherman, on the south-east coast of Tasmania. With their mum dead, they are left to look after themselves. When Miles isn’t helping out on the boat they explore the coast and Miles and his older brother, Joe, love to surf. Harry is afraid of the water.

Everyday their dad battles the unpredictable ocean to make a living. He is a hard man, a bitter drinker who harbours a devastating secret that is destroying him. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to leave home and so are forced to live under the dark cloud of their father’s mood, trying to stay as invisible as possible whenever he is home. Harry, the youngest, is the most vulnerable and it seems he bears the brunt of his father’s anger. Click here to read more…

Favel answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Past the Shallows


Elliot Perlman – The Street Sweeper

From the scars of the civil rights struggle in the United States to the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau, there are even more stories than there are people passing each other every day on the crowded streets of any major city. Only some of these stories survive to become history.

Adam Zignelik, an almost 40-year-old untenured academic historian at New York’s Columbia University, is the son of a prominent American civil rights lawyer and an Australian mother. One of his late father’s closest friends had been the African American civil rights activist, William McCray. Since the death of Adam’s parents it is the McCray family – William, his son Charles (Chair of History at Columbia) and Charles’ wife – that has become Adam’s adopted family.

With Adam’s career and his relationship with his long-time girlfriend in crisis, he gets a suggestion for a promising research topic from William McCray, who is a World War II veteran, that just might save him professionally and even personally. Click here to read more…

Elliot answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read his answers here
Click here to order your copy of The Street Sweeper


My top books for 2011 by Toni Whitmont

For a person who spends at least 50% of her working hours meeting with publishers about up coming books, I spend a lot of time talking about the next big thing.

Want to know what the run away hit single is going to be for next March? I’m your person. Unless of course it’s not because, well,  readers are a fickle lot, and that’s before the media juggernaut rolls into town and changes everyone’s minds about what they want and what they don’t want.

Right now a heart beat away from Christmas, you may be making yours lists and checking them twice, but I am being sold in books for Valentine’s Day, and, heaven help me, key titles for Mother’s Day 2012.

This is not a job where you can live in the moment. But there are some advantages of being so focused on where the action might be. I can justify ignoring all the big, bossy, Christmas books that quite frankly are going to be taken up in droves whether I get behind them or not. Readers don’t need me to convince them to try Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves or Di Morrissey’s The Opal Desert. If that is your sort of book, you are going to find it anyway just by driving Continue reading

Get Reading with Booktopia

Here is a question for you. Is there a scent that you associate with books? I don’t mean the smell of the paper, or the leather when you walk into a room full of old books. I mean, is there a smell that immediately transports you to reading heaven? Do you associate a perfume with a particular memory of reading, or a particular book?

For me, it is an easy ask. The minute I catch even a whiff of jasmine, I am in sensory heaven – jasmine poking through the paling fence, a sprig or two tucked behind one ear, sun on my back, book in my hand, sheltered from the cold early spring wind in a walled courtyard, pot of tea steaming by my Continue reading

Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville – review by Toni Whitmont

The publication of a new Kate Grenville novel is always cause for excitement, especially so this time, as she is concluding  her loosely related Colonial trilogy, which started with The Secret River and then went on to The Lieutenant.

Sarah Thornhill, which will be published next month in a handsome hardback edition, can be read as a standalone novel, although the characters include Sarah, the youngest child of Will Thornhill, whose brutal convict past is the subject of much of The Secret River and whose secret casts a shadow over the life choices of his wilful and brave daughter.

The Secret River is disturbing and luminous. My theory is that it should be mandatory reading for all new comers to this country. I don’t reckon you can understand Australia without having read that book. The Lieutenant, which didn’t sell quite as well but which was to my mind in many ways a more intriguing story, bookended it neatly. Both books concerned powerful emotional relationships between the first Australians and the white colonists, and both involved the drama of choice.

Sarah Thornhill is a fitting ending to the trilogy. Grenville writes like a poet, matching her rhythm and cadence to the characters and the setting. The story is utterly compelling and the emotion is taut and eventually, overwhelming.

Sarah Thornhill is, at heart, a love story. And it is so much more. Grenville’s familiar preoccupations are all worked in exquisitely – the shame of past wrongs, notions of home and place, the carving out of identity, the connection and disconnection of race, the poison chalice of inheritance.

Sarah Thornhill, is a September release and is available to pre-order here. It will be published in a handsome hardback edition. This is a book that deserves its place on your shelf. You will be coming back to it again and again.

Go here for Kate Grenville’s answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions.

Kate Grenville, author of Sarah Thornhill, The Secret River and more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Orange Prize and
Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner

Kate Grenville

author of Sarah Thornhill
The Lieutenant
,
The Secret River
and more

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 Sydney, went to school at the local state schools (North Sydney Demonstration School and Cremorne Girls’ High), then to an arts degree at Sydney Uni. I was lucky to grow up in a house with plenty of books and dinner-table discussion. Dad would have liked to be a professional writer and wrote as a hobby, publishing 3 books (a novel, a memoir and a book about the Vietnam War), and Mum had a powerful sense of the importance of passing on family stories (some of the ones she told me were the starting Continue reading

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

I just wanted to share my excitement about the imminent publication of Geraldine Brooks’ new book, Caleb’s Crossing.

Geraldine’s particular passion is for bringing to vivid life shards of little known history. With Year of Wonders we were all instantly transported to the terror and the marvel that was the English plague of the mid-seventeenth century. In People of the Book she illuminated the Jewish world going back through the centuries, and in March, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, she gave us a compelling alternative view on Little Women.

I am only about a third of the way through my proof of Caleb’s Crossing, and I haven’t yet sighted a finished copy. So far it has proved itself to be beautifully written, measured in pace, nourishing to the imagination and utterly compelling to read.

As to the theme, it puts me in mind of some other great Australian novelists who have so recreated that clash of civilisation brought about when a colonising force comes face to face with first people – Kate Grenville’s Secret River, Richard Flanagan’s Wanting, and most recently (and probably most authentically) Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance. As an aside, it is fascinating to read an Australian’s take (albeit she probably has dual citizenship by now) to an American story.

Caleb’s Crossing is available from May 1 and can be pre-ordered now. A beautiful hardback edition is also available.

In the meantime, go here to read Brooks’ answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions.

As for her fascinating forays into non-fiction, try Nine Parts of Desire.

Geraldine Brooks spent six years covering the Middle East through wars, insurrections, and the volcanic upheaval of resurgent fundamentalism. Yet for her, headline events were only the backdrop to a less obvious but more enduring drama: the daily life of Muslim women. Nine Parts of Desire is the story of Brooks’ intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives. Defying our stereotypes about the Muslim world, Brooks’ acute analysis of the world’s fastest growing religion deftly illustrates how Islam’s holiest texts have been misused to justify repression of women, and how male pride and power have warped the original message of a once liberating faith

In Foreign Correspondence, Geraldine Brooks longs to discover the vivid places where she believes history and culture are made. Penfriends from the Middle East, France and America offer her the window she craves on life beyond Australia’s isolated backyard. With the aid of their letters, Brooks turns her bedroom into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the barricades of Parisian student protests and the swampy fields of an embattled kibbutz. Twenty years later and worlds away from her sheltered girlhood, Brooks is an award-winning foreign correspondent covering war and famine. Still intrigued by the foreign correspondents of her adolescence, she embarks on a human treasure hunt in Israel, France and the US to find them.

The 50 Must Read Australian Novels (30 to 21) (The Popular Vote 2010)

We are counting down The 50 Must Read Australian Novels as voted by our good and learned friends on twitter and facebook – today we move from 30 to 21.

The list creation process was fairly simple – I asked for nominations and hundreds of titles were suggested. I then made a list and asked people to vote for their favourites. The response was vigorous. And we soon had the makings of a good list.

A clever twitter chap suggested I allow one novel per author and I made it law. The highest ranking title by that author is the one included in the top fifty.

A very democratic process, don’t you think?

Well, if you don’t like my list – you only have yourselves to blame. However, if you do like my list, as adjudicator, you have me to thank. :)

(The story so far 40 to 31 50 to 41 )


9780207197406

30. Ride On Stranger

Kylie Tennant

“Civilization is mad and getting madder every day”.

So says Shannon Hicks in Kylie Tennant’s marvellous, harsh, satiric 1943 novel. Arriving in Sydney just before WWII, Shannon, a dreamer and idealist takes on the world of politics, business, religion and men.

The consequences are challenging and unpredictable.


978073228224029. The Thorn Birds

Colleen McCullough

Treasured by readers around the world, this is the sweeping saga of three generations of the Cleary family.

Stoic matriarch Fee, her devoted husband, Paddy, and their headstrong daughter, Meggie, experience joy, sadness and magnificent triumph in the cruel Australian outback. With life’s unpredictability, it is love that is their unifying thread, but it is a love shadowed by the anguish of forbidden passions. For Meggie loves Father Ralph de Bricassart, a man who wields enormous power within the Catholic church …

As powerful, moving and unforgettable as when it originally appeared, The Thorn Birds remains a novel to be read … and read again.
Continue reading

That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott

Kim Scott won the Miles Franklin more than a decade ago for his novel Benang. His latest, That Deadman Dance, must surely be under consideration for a raft of major prizes.

A Noongar man from SW Western Australia, Scott has written a novel of first contact, which traces the first couple of decades of British presence in a fictional settlement on the coast. The story revolves around Bobby Wabalanginy, his people and the shifting alliances and relationships that link him into the fledgling colony as much as distance him from it.

The insights into earlier colonial times in WA are fascinating, especially the contact with the Yankee whalers. However, it is Noongar people, and their light touch on the landscape, which hold the greatest interest in the book. What starts as a reasonably promising relationship between English and Noongar, gradually deteriorates as the power shifts towards the newcomers until Bobby is forced to choose between the old world and the new.
There is interest enough in the story to make this a compelling book.

However, what lifts it way above that is the writing. Scott’s prose shimmers. This is a book that demands to be savoured. The readers will want to pause and re-read passages for the sheer beauty of the language and imagery.
The book has much to say about the first Australians and the English who changed their lives irrevocably. While contemporary writers such as Kate Grenville, Richard Flanagan, Andrew McGahan and Alex Miller have all wrestled with related themes, Kim Scott’s flawlessly written tale adds both meaning and depth to the Australian writing experience.

That Deadman Dance is available in both hard back and paper back now.

(Review by TW  published in  Bookseller and Publisher Magazine)

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