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Book of the Week

Fiction

The Colony by Audrey Magee & The Leviathan Rosie Andrews

Two new novels probe national myths and histories, offering insights into the political and religious forces that continue to shape contemporary conflicts. Set during the height of the Troubles, Irish writer Audrey Magee’s The Colony begins with English artist Mr Lloyd travelling to a remote island off Ireland’s west coast, ‘a rock cutting into the ocean, splitting, splintering, shredding the water’. Lloyd insists on being ferried across by currach rather than by the motorboat the islanders themselves use when crossing to the mainland, a requirement that immediately foregrounds how much of Lloyd’s conception of the island is bound up in romanticised notions of the bleak Irish landscape and the hardy individuals – twelve families in all – who inhabit it.

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From the Archive

July 1984, no. 62

The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur by Elizabeth Perkins

It is 116 years since Charles Harpur, Australia’s first poet of real eminence, died with his own collection of his works unpublished. Except for a couple of small selections – the most recent of which, made by Adrian Mitchell in 1973 and containing only about 120 pages of the poetry, was the most comprehensive – and the infamously corrupt 1883 ‘collection’, it has remained so. This has been a blot on the reputation of Australian critical and academic workers and a loss not only to Australian literature but to Australian history. Now Elizabeth Perkins, of the English Department of James Cook University, has handsomely remedied a long injustice.

From the Archive

April 2013, no. 350

The Making of the First World War by Ian F.W. Beckett

The first thing to be said about this book is that no one associated with it seemed to know what to call it or how to describe its contents. The essays which make up the book are not in any sense about the ‘making’ of World War I. They do not describe either elements that ‘made’ World War I in the sense of causing it, or elements that caused World War I to play out the way it did. Even the blurb does not get the contents entirely right. It says that the twelve particular events dealt with in the essays ‘continue to shape the world today’. No they don’t – or not all of them, anyway. How exactly does the death of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph resonate today?

From the Archive

December 2011–January 2012, no. 337

ABR Sidney Myer Fund Fellowship: 'Sweeping Up the Ashes' by Rachel Buchanan

The book in my hand is a Letts Diary, 11B, made in England. The diary is small, no bigger than a child’s hand. It belonged to a boy named Michael Snell. Clearly he loved school; his first entries list the subjects he studied each day. On 23 January 1950 Michael wrote: ‘Had a letter sent went to school … we had our second injection against typhoid fever getting excited.’ On 24 January he wrote: ‘Last whole day in England for quite a time I hope I come back sometime.’ Then his ship sailed. On 25 January, Michael played football on deck with some other children. Next day he played table tennis, shuttlecock, darts. There was no land in sight. ‘Saw Plymouth last we saw of England for quite a time had light tea waiting for High dinner.’

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