GUEST BLOG: My Five Favourite Books of All Time (by Susan Duncan)

Susan Duncan, author of Gone Fishing, the sequel to the bestselling The Briny Cafe, tells us her five favourite books of all time.


 by Tim Winton

It reminds me of what it is to be deeply Australian – the good, the bad, the ugly and the very, very funny.

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…more

A Fortunate Life

by A.B. Facey

Anyone who thinks they had it tough should read this book. The integrity and decency of this man shines through and inspires.

Born in 1894, Facey lived the rough frontier life of a sheep farmer, survived the gore of Gallipoli, raised a family through the Depression and spent sixty years with his beloved wife, Evelyn. Despite enduring hardships we can barely imagine today, Facey always saw his life as a ‘fortunate’ one.

A true classic of Australian literature, his simply written autobiography is an inspiration. It is the story of…more

The Book Thief

by Marcus Zusak

The most original writing I’ve read for years. It makes you look at the world from a different perspective.

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…more

The Thorn Birds

by Colleen McCullough

I read this while I was living in New York. I wanted to get on the next plane home.

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…more

The Cook’s Companion

by Stephanie Alexander

One of the first books to document Australian ingredients and tell us how to use them, it’s an encyclopedia of food.

The Cook’s Companion has established itself as the kitchen ‘bible’ in over 300,000 homes since it was first published in 1996.  Stephanie Alexander has added over 300 new recipes as well as 12 new chapters to this thoroughly revised and updated edition. Stephanie believes that good food is essential to living well: her book is for everyone, every day. She has invaluable information about ingredients, cooking techniques and kitchen equipment, along with…more

Susan Duncan enjoyed a 25-year career spanning radio, newspaper and magazine journalism, including editing two of Australia’s top selling women’s magazines, The Australian Women’s Weekly and New Idea. She now lives in her own patch of offshore paradise, Pittwater, with her second husband, Bob, in the beautiful home built for poet Dorothea Mackellar in 1925.

Susan’s bestselling memoir, Salvation Creek, won the 2007 Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award and was shortlisted for the prestigious Dobbie Award, part of the Nita B Kibble awards for women writers. Its sequel, The House at Salvation Creek, was also a huge bestseller. She has now turned her hand to fiction and is the author of two novels: The Briny Cafe and Gone Fishing.

gone-fishingGone Fishing

by Susan Duncan

For bargeman Sam Scully, life in Cook’s Basin is nothing short of paradise. A wonderland of golden sand and turquoise waters, battered old tinnies and wonky pontoons, it’s a realm unspoilt by the modern world.

But then a notice goes up in the Square that screams ‘EXCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT!’

Paradise is about to be ripped apart.

With plans underway to build a flash resort in the heart of their community, the residents leap into action – with Sam as their leader, and a twelve-foot papier-mache cockatoo as their mascot . . . But it’s never going to be easy to turn the tide of ‘progress’.

Meanwhile there’s trouble brewing at the Briny Café. Kate Jackson is struggling to come to terms with the dreadful secret spilled on her mother’s deathbed. And as for Kate’s co-owner, Ettie Brookbank… Well, what is happening to Ettie?

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

The Briny Café by Susan Duncan: Review by Toni Whitmont

I am the first to admit that I was a late comer to the Susan Duncan phenomenon. I had plenty of recommendations for Salvation Creek from happy customers, but I didn’t actually get around to reading any of her books until I interviewed her on the publication of A Life on Pittwater, the wonderful visual memoir of the community on the islands off the northern most tip of Sydney.

There is a clip of that interview here.

A couple of weeks ago we were able to source a supply of her two memoirs plus A Life on Pittwater in a pack, and we sold nearly 100 of them in a about 10 days, such is the measure of enthusiasm amongst the reading public for her story.

And so to The Briny Café, Susan’s very first novel.

What works so well about this book is that it is based on a fictitious water-accessed community already so familiar to us from Salvation Creek. More importantly it plays to that deep yearning for both community, and connection, that so many people experience.

The main character is Ettie Brookbank, a woman in her 50s who is central to everyone’s lives in sleepy Cook’s Basin, only accessible by boat. The community is held together by The Briny Café, a sagging, decrepit, weatherboard construct that is in danger of collapsing down into its moorings.

The Briny Café is a book where nothing much happens – and I say that as a good thing. The focus is on the characters, the vignettes of interaction, the integration of new comer, the allowances for small eccentricities, the cementing of some relationships, the fracturing of others. Yes, there is a villain of the piece, and yes, he is pretty nasty, but the book is essentially about ordinary people doing ordinary things in a most extraordinary location – and finding their place.

Don’t misunderstand me. The Briny Café shines. It is the simplicity of the tale, the familiarity of the characters that makes it work so wonderfully. Susan avoids cliché while offering something that we all really want – to feel good about life, to feel good about other people, and to get some respite from the stuff of everyday madness.

The Briny Café is warm, engaging, nourishing and refreshing. Settling down to read it is rather like settling down to a good cup of tea and one of Ettie’s famous raspberry muffins.

The Briny Café is a September release and is available to pre-order here. Meanwhile, go here to read Susan Duncan’s answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions.

Susan Duncan, author of The Briny Café, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Susan Duncan

author of The Briny Café

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 Albury, on the NSW and Victorian border and raised until the age of ten, at nearby Bonegilla Migrant Camp. Later, I attended Clyde School, a girls’ boarding school at Woodend,  that has now been amalgamated with Geelong Grammar.

2.  What did you want to be when you were Continue reading


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