A one size fits all definition for Australian fiction? Nup.

A one size fits all definition for Australian fiction? Nup. Australian imaginations cross borders and time as easily as those from elsewhere. There is no rule that all Australian fiction must deal with the bush, or the surf or gritty inner city crime. Within the short selection below you’ll find Medieval Europe, Chinese dragons, Antarctica, Texas, CIA conspiracies and, from Christos Tsiolkas’ new set of short stories alone, love, sex, death, family, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, sacrifice and revelation… These holidays, let an Australian imagination choose your destination.

Amnesia

by Peter Carey

‘Love comes out of nowhere for most of us, when we least expect it . . . this young man has flown into your heart and made a nest.’

Amidst the carnage of Gallipoli, British nurse Claire Nightingale meets Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren. Despite all odds, they fall deeply in love. Their flame burns bright and carries them through their darkest hours, even when war tears them apart.

Jamie’s chance meeting with Turkish soldier Açar Shahin on the blood-stained battlefield forges an unforgettable bond between the men. It also leaves a precious clue to Jamie’s whereabouts for Claire to follow.

Come peacetime, Claire’s desperate search to find Jamie takes her all the way to Istanbul, and deep into the heart of Açar’s family, where she attracts the unexpected attention of a charismatic and brooding scholar.

In the name of forgiveness, cultures come together, enemies embrace and forbidden passions ignite – but by the breathtaking conclusion, who will be left standing to capture Nurse Nightingale’s heart?

A heart-soaring novel of heartbreak and heroism, love and longing by a powerhouse Australian storyteller.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


When the Night Comes

by Favel Parrett

The hauntingly beautiful story of a young girl transformed by the power of kindness from award-winning author Favel Parrett.

Running away from the mainland was supposed to make their lives better. But, for Isla and her brother, their mother’s sadness and the cold, damp greyness of Hobart’s stone streets seeps into everything.

Then, one morning, Isla sees a red ship. That colour lights her day. And when a sailor from the ship befriends her mother, he shares his stories with them all – of Antarctica, his home in Denmark and life onboard. Like the snow white petrels that survive in the harshest coldest place, this lonely girl at the bottom of the world will learn that it is possible to go anywhere, be anything. But she will also find out that it is just as easy to lose it all.

For Isla, those two long summers will change everything.

Favel Parrett delivers an evocative and gently told story about the power fear and kindness have to change lives.

In 2011, Favel Parrett’s career was launched with the critically-acclaimed and award-winning debut Past the Shallows. A heart-breaking novel, it was sold internationally, shortlisted in the prestigious Miles Franklin Award and won the Dobbie Literary Award. Favel herself won the ABIA Newcomer of the Year Award in 2012.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Great Zoo of China

by Matthew Reilly

GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years.

They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Lion Rampant-
The Lion Series: Book 2

by Blanche d’Alpuget

The second novel in the compelling series about two of medieval history’s most fascinating characters, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

It is 1154 and Henry Plantagenet avenges his family honour by taking back the English throne from Stephen the Usurper. The kingdom he inherits is impoverished, lawless and broken by years of civil war. By his side is the beautiful, wealthy and indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine. Combining forces, this golden couple use their charisma and shrewd diplomacy to crush rebellious barons and restore England’s prestige and glory.

However, an equally ambitious financial magician is needed to restore the royal treasury. Opportunistic Thomas Becket answers the call, using his appointment of Chancellor to fill not only the King’s coffers but also his own. In a dance of ambition, vengeance and forbidden passions, Henry, his Queen and the Chancellor fight for political power and control against forces seen and imagined, each with their own agenda, each determined to hide their own shameful secrets.

Josephine Blanche d’Alpuget is an Australian writer and the second wife of the longest-serving Australian Labor Party Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Great Plains

by Nicole Alexander

From the American Wild West to the wilds of outback Queensland, from the Civil War to the Depression of the 1930s, The Great Plains is an epic story about two conflicting cultures and one divided family.

It is Dallas 1886, and the Wade Family is going from strength to strength: from a thriving newspaper and retail business in Texas to a sprawling sheep station half a world away in Queensland.

Yet money and power cannot compensate for the tragedy that struck twenty-three years ago, when Joseph Wade was slaughtered and his seven-year-old daughter Philomena abducted by Apache Indians.

Only her uncle, Aloysius, remains convinced that one day Philomena will return. So when news reaches him that the legendary Geronimo has been captured, and a beautiful white woman discovered with him, he believes his prayers have been answered.

Little does he know that the seeds of disaster have just been sown. Over the coming years three generations of Wade men will succumb to an obsession with three generations of mixed-blood Wade women: the courageous Philomena, her hot-headed granddaughter Serena, and her gutsy great-granddaughter Abelena – a young woman destined for freedom in a distant red land. But at what price . . . ?

In the course of her career Nicole Alexander has worked both in Australia and Singapore in financial services, fashion, corporate publishing and agriculture. A fourth-generation grazier, Nicole returned to her family’s property in the late 1990s. She is currently the business manager there and has a hands-on role in the running of the property. Nicole has a Master of Letters in creative writing and her novels, poetry, travel and genealogy articles have been published in Australia, Germany, America and Singapore. She is the author of five novels: The Bark Cutters, A Changing Land, Absolution Creek, Sunset Ridge and The Great Plains (to be released in November 2014).

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


South of Darkness

by John Marsden

My name, then, is Barnaby Fletch. To the best of my knowledge I have no middle name and cannot say of whom I am the son, or of whom my father’s father’s father was the son. Alas, my origins are shrouded in mystery.

Thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch is a bag-and-bones orphan in London in the late 1700s.

Barnaby lives on his wits and ill-gotten gains, on streets seething with the press of the throng and shadowed by sinister figures. Life is a precarious business.

When he hears of a paradise on the other side of the world – a place called Botany Bay – he decides to commit a crime and get himself transported to a new life, a better life.

To succeed, he must survive the trials of Newgate Prison, the stinking hull of a prison ship and the unknown terrors of a journey across the world.

And Botany Bay is far from the paradise Barnaby has imagined. When his past and present suddenly collide, he is soon fleeing for his life – once again.

A riveting story of courage, hope and extraordinary adventure.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Road Back

by Di Morrissey

Is it ever too late to change your life?

From the mountains to the valleys, from big cities to tiny towns, to the outback and our islands, Di Morrissey knows this country. She’s been there.

In The Road Back, Di weaves a tale of reconnection and starting over.

Journalist Chris Baxter is at a crossroads. Returning with his teenage daughter to his mother’s house in the beautiful township of Neverend, Chris hopes to pick up the pieces after his life takes an unexpected turn.

Sometimes taking the road back is the start of a journey forward.

 

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Springtime

by Michelle de Kretser

A rare, beguiling and brilliant ghost story from the Miles Franklin Award winning author.

Picking up her pace, Frances saw a woman in the leaf-hung depths of the garden. She wore a long pink dress and a wide hat, and her skin was a creamy white. There came upon Frances a sensation that sometimes overtook her when she was looking at a painting: space was foreshortened, time stood still.

When Frances met Charlie at a party in Melbourne he was married with a young son.

Now she and Charlie live in Sydney with her rescue dog Rod and an unshakeable sense that they have tipped the world on its axis. They are still getting their bearings – of each other and of their adopted city. Everything is alien, unfamiliar, exotic: haunting, even.

Worlds of meaning spin out of perfectly chosen words in this rare, beguiling and brilliant ghost story by Miles Franklin Literary Award-winning writer Michelle de Kretser.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Wife on the Run

by Fiona Higgins

When social media and a mobile phone expose a high school scandal and a husband’s shameful secrets the only thing left to do is … run. In the remarkable new novel from the bestselling author ofThe Mothers’ Group a beleaguered wife and mother escapes it all on a family road trip – without technology – to reclaim her life and rebuild her family.

A mother’s greatest fear… A wife’s worst nightmare… What would you do?

When two technology-related disasters hit within days of each other, Paula knows her comfortable suburban life has been irrevocably blown apart. One involves the public shaming of her teenage daughter, the other is a discovery about her husband that shocks her to her core. With her world unravelling around her, Paula does the only thing that makes any sense to her: she runs away from it all.

She pulls her children out of school and takes off on a trip across Australia with her elderly father and his caravan. The only rule is No Technology – no phones, no Facebook, no Instagram, no tablets, games or computers. It’s time to get back to basics and learn how to be a family again.

It all sounds so simple – and for a while, it is. But along the way Paula will meet new, exciting complications, and realise that running away is only a temporary solution. The past has to be faced before the future can begin.

A thrilling, tender and hugely entertaining story of loss, love and discovery from the bestselling author of The Mothers’ Group.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local


Can You Keep a Secret?

by Caroline Overington

How well do you really know the one you love? With her customary page-turning style and potent themes, this is Caroline Overington at her thought-provoking best.

‘Why do some people decide to get married when everyone around them would seem to agree that marriage, at least for the two people in question, is a terrifically bad idea?’

The year is 1999, and Lachlan Colbert – Colby – has the world at his feet. He’s got a big job on Wall Street and a sleek bachelor pad in the heart of Manhattan.

With money no object, he and his friends take a trip to Australia to see in the new millennium. And it’s there, on a hired yacht sailing the Whitsundays, that he meets Caitlin.

Caitlin Hourigan has got wild hair and torn shorts – and has barely ever left the small patch of Queensland where she grew up. But Colby is smitten and for Caitlin, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, a blissful future awaits – marriage, a big house, a beautiful little boy.

But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. And for Lachlan and Caitlin the nightmare is only just beginning…

Caroline Overington is a bestselling author and journalist who has worked for The Sydney Morning Heraldand The Australian. She is the mother of delightful 13-year-old twins and lives in Bondi with her family, a blue dog and a lizard.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local

 


Merciless Gods

by Christos Tsiolkas

A collection of thrilling, original and imaginative stories from the award-winning, bestselling author of The Slap and Barracuda – a showcase all of his immense and unique story-telling talents.

Love, sex, death, family, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, sacrifice and revelation…..

This incendiary collection of stories from acclaimed bestselling international writer Christos Tsiolkas takes you deep into worlds both strange and familiar, and characters that will never let you go…

Christos Tsiolkas was born in Melbourne in 1965. Loaded, his first novel, was published in 1995 and later made into the award-winning film Head On. In 1996 he collaborated with Sasha Soldatow on the dialogue Jump Cuts. His novel The Jesus Man was published in 1999.

His critically acclaimed novel Dead Europe was published in 2005 and in 2008 he reached bestselling status with the bold The Slap which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

He is also the author of several plays including Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? and Dead Caucasians and Non Parlo di Salo, co-written with Spiro Economopoulos.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local


Hello from the Gillespies

by Monica McInerney

For more than thirty years, Angela Gillespie has sent friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled ‘Hello from the Gillespies’. It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself – she tells the truth.

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping poorly with retirement. Her 32-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together – and pull themselves together – in wonderfully surprising ways.

One of the stars of Australian fiction, Monica McInerney is the author of the internationally bestselling novels, A Taste for It, Upside Down Inside Out, Spin the Bottle, The Alphabet Sisters, Family Baggage, Those Faraday Girls and At Home with the Templetons. Those Faraday Girls was the winner of the General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2008 Australian Book Industry Awards. Her collection of short fiction, All Together Now, was shortlisted for the same award in 2009. At Home with the Templetons was shortlisted in the Popular Fiction category of the 2010 Irish Book Awards and in the Romantic Elements category of the 2011 Australian Romantic Book of the Year Awards. In 2006 she was the ambassador for the Australian Government initiative Books Alive, with her novella Odd One Out. Her new novel, Lola’s Secret, was published in October 2011.

Monica grew up in a family of seven children in the Clare Valley of South Australia and has been living between Australia and Ireland for twenty years. She and her Irish husband currently live in Dublin.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local


The Rosie Effect

by Graeme Simsion

‘We’ve got something to celebrate,’ Rosie said.

I am not fond of surprises, especially if they disrupt plans already in place. I assumed that she had achieved some important milestone with her thesis. Or perhaps she had been offered a place in the psychiatry-training programme. This would be extremely good news, and I estimated the probability of sex at greater than 80%.

‘We’re pregnant,’ she said.

The Rosie Project was an international publishing phenomenon, with more than a million copies sold in over forty countries around the world. Now Graeme Simsion returns with the highly anticipated sequel, The Rosie Effect.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are now married and living in New York. Don has been teaching while Rosie completes her second year at Columbia Medical School. Just as Don is about to announce that Gene, his philandering best friend from Australia, is coming to stay, Rosie drops a bombshell: she’s pregnant.

In true Tillman style, Don instantly becomes an expert on all things obstetric. But in between immersing himself in a new research study on parenting and implementing the Standardised Meal System (pregnancy version), Don’s old weaknesses resurface. And while he strives to get the technicalities right, he gets the emotions all wrong, and risks losing Rosie when she needs him most.

The Rosie Effect is the charming and hilarious romantic comedy of the year.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local

 


Nightingale

by Fiona McIntosh

‘Love comes out of nowhere for most of us, when we least expect it . . . this young man has flown into your heart and made a nest.’

Amidst the carnage of Gallipoli, British nurse Claire Nightingale meets Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren. Despite all odds, they fall deeply in love. Their flame burns bright and carries them through their darkest hours, even when war tears them apart.

Jamie’s chance meeting with Turkish soldier Açar Shahin on the blood-stained battlefield forges an unforgettable bond between the men. It also leaves a precious clue to Jamie’s whereabouts for Claire to follow.

Come peacetime, Claire’s desperate search to find Jamie takes her all the way to Istanbul, and deep into the heart of Açar’s family, where she attracts the unexpected attention of a charismatic and brooding scholar.

In the name of forgiveness, cultures come together, enemies embrace and forbidden passions ignite – but by the breathtaking conclusion, who will be left standing to capture Nurse Nightingale’s heart?

A heart-soaring novel of heartbreak and heroism, love and longing by a powerhouse Australian storyteller.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

Descended from Irish convicts transported to Van Diemens Land (later renamed Tasmania) during the Great Famine, Richard Flanagan was born in his native island in 1961, the fifth of six children. He spent his childhood in the mining town of Rosebery and left school at sixteen to work as a bush laborer. He later attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. His first novel is the much celebrated Death of a River Guide (available from Grove Press), which won major Australian literary prizes including the 1996 National Fiction Award and was described by the Times Literary Supplement as “one of the most auspicious debuts in Australian writing.”

His second novel, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (available from Grove Press), was similarly critically acclaimed and has sold over 150,000 copies in Australia, an unprecedented figure there for a literary novel. It won the Australian Booksellers Book of the Year Award and the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction. Flanagan’s first two novels, declared Kirkus Reviews, “rank with the finest fiction out of Australia since the heyday of Patrick White.” Gould’s Book of Fish, his third novel, won Best Book for the 2002 Commonwealth Writers Prize in the South East Asia & South Pacific Region.

In addition to Australia and the USA, his novels are being published in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Britain, Germany, Holland, and France. He directed an acclaimed feature film based on The Sound of One Hand Clapping, which had its world premiere in competition at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Golden Bear for best film. He lives in Tasmania with his wife and three children.

Order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

Will Richard Flanagan win the Man Booker?

I can be a little bitter sometimes…

Around this time last year I finished Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and immediately shouted to the world “THIS WILL WIN THE MILES FRANKLIN!”

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northI told everyone who would listen, swelling with literary priggishness, waving them away when they offered up other worthy winners.

“No” I would say.

“You’ve got it all wrong.”

“I mean have you even read it?”

“And if you have, I mean, did you really read it, or just, you know, read it?”

Imagine my horror when, in June this year, The Narrow Road to the Deep North lost out to Evie Wyld’s bold sophomore novel All the Birds, Singing.

You live and die by your literary recommendations, and while Wyld’s talent and bravery is well worth rewarding, I couldn’t help thinking the judges had made a huge mistake, turning away the opportunity to recognise a truly great Australian novel with Australia’s greatest literary honour.

Fast forward four months and I’m sitting here typing with a smug look on my face.

all-the-birds-singingWell, more smug than usual.

Soon the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced, and who do we find sitting equal favourite with the bookies?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

Perhaps it is poor form that, on the birthday of Miles Franklin, I find myself willing Flanagan to the prize because of my own hubris, but getting a book recommendation wrong stings. Just ask Oprah.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an extraordinary novel from one of Australia’s finest writers at the top of their game. It crosses generations and continents. It’s about love and lust, bravery and cowardice, friendship and betrayal. In a strong field, it’s a very worthy winner.

So at around 7:30am tomorrow morning when, touch wood, Richard Flanagan becomes the fourth Australian to win the Man Booker Prize think of me in my living room, punching the air like I’ve won it myself.

You see, as much as I want another Australian win, I really just want him to get up for one reason.

I was right all along.

You see…

…I can be a little bitter sometimes…


Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Man Booker News: Australia’s Richard Flanagan named on six book Shortlist for 2014 prize

Could he do it?

That’s the question on everyone’s lips as Richard Flanagan continues his surge towards a Man Booker Prize for his beautiful novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Flanagan’s masterpiece was controversially overlooked for this year’s Miles Franklin.

2010 winner Howard Jacobson is joined by fellow UK writers Ali Smith and Neel Mukherjee, with the new international floodgates appear only slightly ajar, with two US authors Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris making up the six shortlistees.

Take a closer look at the 2014 Shortlist, and be your own judge…

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (review by Andrew Cattanach)

In this, a year of so many extraordinary gifts from the literary world, how can one work shine so brightly on the Australian landscape?

Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North finds its voice in haunting, stark prose and the deeply personal story of a POW on the Burma death railway his father was a survivor of.

From the opening pages Flanagan surges across generations and lands, with the confidence only a truly great author can conjure. Dorrigo Evans is a surgeon in a Japanese POW camp where the boundaries of hell are blurred with every passing day. Skeletons are the men he attends to, often finding them beyond his care. Yet he is most haunted by the illicit love he left behind in Australia.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is told from more voices than just Dorrigo Evans’, some he has been wronged by and others wronged by him. It sets about proving that war on any battleground will leave scars that may never heal.

Flanagan’s ability as a non-fiction writer serves him well as he writes with such measured, deliberate pathos. It’s hard to believe the novel was written in the shadow of his dying father, a man who experienced such horrific atrocities on ‘The Line’. There is no black and white, as much as I found myself wanting there to be. As I lost myself in the flies and the stench and the hopelessness of Evans’ world as a captive, I craved a winner and a loser, a result of sorts. Clearly Flanagan knows in war, as in life, there are no simple spoils. The Narrow Road to the Deep North isn’t just one of the books of the year, it is one of the finest books of the last decade.

Grab a copy of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North here

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 (40 to 31) (The Popular Vote 2010)

If we mometarily ignore the genius of Hal Porter (37) and the Nobel Prize winning Patrick White (32), the next ten titles on our list could be said to represent the best of modern writing in Australia. Who am I trying to kid? I can’t ignore Hal Porter or Patrick White. The next ten, therefore, can be said to represent the best of Australian writing. No more said. (Full List of 50 Must Read Australian Novels now available – click here)

9780143009528

40. A Fraction of the Whole

Steve Toltz

Meet the Deans.

The Father is Martin Dean.

He taught his son always to make up his mind, and then change it. An impossible, brilliant, restless man, he just wanted the world to listen to him – and the trouble started when the world did.

The Uncle is Terry Dean.

As a boy, Terry was the local sporting hero. As a man, he became Australia’s favourite criminal, making up for injustice on the field with this own version of justice off it.

The Son is Jasper Dean.

Now that his father is dead, Jasper can try making some sense of his outrageous schemes to make the world a better place. Haunted by his own mysteriously missing mother and a strange recurring vision, Jasper has one abiding question: Is he doomed to become the lunatic who raised him, or a different kind of lunatic entirely?

From the New South Wales bush to bohemian Paris, from sports fields to strip clubs, from the jungles of Thailand to a leaky boat in the Pacific, Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole follows the Deans on their freewheeling, scathingly funny and finally deeply moving quest to leave their mark on the world.


978014320305639. Butterfly

Sonya Hartnett

On the verge of her fourteenth birthday, Plum knows her life will change. But she has no idea how.

Over the coming weeks, her beautiful neighbour Maureen will show her how she might fly. Her adored older brothers will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. And her friends – her worst enemies – will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.

Who ever forgets what happens when you’re fourteen? 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)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,635 other followers

%d bloggers like this: