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University of Queensland Press

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

December 2016, no. 387

Ellen van Neerven, Joel Deane, and Mike Ladd present poems about journeys, recovery, and healing, from comfort food to the experience of a stroke, within overlapping landscapes as palimpsests for their respective pathways.

Reciprocity through feeding runs through Ellen van Neerven’s first collection (Comfort Food, University of Queensland Press, $ ...

In their very different ways, these three collections attest that contemporary Australian poetry is alive, robust, and engaging.

Puncher and Wattmann have delivered a generous collection of Martin Langford's most recent poems, Ground ($25 pb, 158 pp, 9781922186751). As we have come to expect from Langford, the voice we find here is strong – passio ...

Contemporary Australian poetry has a complex and ever-evolving relationship with the land, both at home and abroad. Almost twenty-five years post-Mabo and entrenched in ongoing ecological crises, Australian poets explore new ways of experiencing and defining place. Where misguided nationalism sought to limit Australian poe ...

Following the success of her first novel, Claire Zorn displays her remarkable talent again in The Protected. Although the books are vastly different (The Sky So Heavy [2013] is a futuristic survival thriller, while The Protected is a coming-of-age story coloured by grief), thematically they have many similarities. Zorn is adept at exploring the challenges and complexities of growing up, and the fallibility of adults.

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Matthew Condon is fast becoming the George R.R. Martin of Australian true crime. Like the Game of Thrones author, Condon is part-way through the delivery of a saga of epic proportions. However, whereas some fantasy fiction fans doubt that Martin will ever conclude his A Song of Ice and Fire series, everyone knows how the story of corruption in Joh Bjelke-Petersen-era Queensland ends. But knowing the ending doesn’t lessen the shock of the telling. Jacks and Jokers, the second instalment of Condon’s trilogy (the conclusion, All Fall Down, is slated for release in 2015), sprawls and appals in equal measure.

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The One and Only Jack Chant by Rosie Borella & The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman

May 2014, no. 361

In Negotiating with the Dead (2002), Margaret Atwood proposes that all writing ‘is motivated, deep down, by a fear of, and fascination with, mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead’. Certainly writers often use their craft both to preserve the memory of times, places, and people lost to them, and, consciously or unconsciously, to create a vivid, unique voice that will outlast their own earthly existence. Is this fixation with mortality also a reason for the frequent presence of ghosts in narratives? From Hamlet’s father through to Heathcliff’s Catherine, and on to the otherworldly characters in The One and Only Jack Chant and The Haunting of Lily Frost, many stories pose the question as to whether these eerie spectres are ghosts or imagination, as well as what the living can learn from them – and, as Lily Frost questions, ‘What do ghosts want?’

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Publisher’s superlatives aside, Tony Birch’s return to short-form writing is an event to be celebrated. Following on from his Miles Franklin short-listed Blood (2011) and his two earlier collections, Shadowboxing (2006) and Father’s Day (2009), The Promise is a collection of twelve short stories united by Birch’s characteristic wit, matter-of-factness, and charm. In many respects, each of the stories in The Promise is an exploration of how the processes of age, attrition, and heartbreak wear away the rougher edges of his characters, though clearly it is what remains that interests Birch: that ember of humanity impermeable to cynicism and the vagaries of fate.

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When Gabrielle Carey wrote Puberty Blues (1979) with her school friend Kathy Lette, it was closely based on her own experience as a teenager. This initiated a writing career specialising in autobiography. Her novel The Borrowed Girl (1994) is based on her experience of living in a Mexican village, and So Many Selves (2006) is a personal memoir. Her new book extends the work of mourning and remembering her parents, which began with In My Father’s House (1994), an attempt to understand the suicide of her father, Alex Carey, and continued with Waiting Room (2009), an account of her mother Joan’s illness with a brain tumour.

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Janet Butler sets up the story of Australian World War I army nurse Catherine (Kit) McNaughton with a strong and vivid opening chapter. At a hospital base in the north of France, Kit sits in her freezing hut scribbling in her diary, her mind far away with her audience back home. She is about to go on duty. A short time later when she lifts the canvas flap of the hospital tent, she enters another world. It is an understated but startling transition.

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Cry Blue Murder by Kim Kane and Marion Roberts

October 2013, no. 355

Kim Kane and Marion Roberts co-write this eerie Melbourne-based thriller seamlessly. In this story that is every parent’s worst nightmare, we see schoolgirls snatched from the middle of their routine, presumed safe, suburban life.

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