Archive

Swallow the Air won the 2004 David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writers. Judging by this slender volume of work, the choice was a judicious one. Thematically, Tara June Winch’s début effort travels along the well-worn path of fiction based on personal experiences, with the protagonist propelling the narrative through a journey of self-discovery. In this respect, Swallow the Air nestles snugly in the semi-autobiographical framework favoured by first novelists, but the sophistication and subtlety of the prose belie Winch’s age; she is twenty-two, but writes with the élan of those much more accomplished. Swallow the Air can either be read as a novel with short chapters or as a series of interlinked short stories.

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Something like a double helix of dialectical thinking winds its graceful way through these ‘eight lessons’. Ideas and theories about the nature of human (and other) life and how to live it, about the workings and the relative merits of logic, reason, belief, and faith, are sketched, rehearsed, debated, and set in ...

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What is it about Paul Keating that so fascinated his retainers? Six years ago, John Edwards wrote a massive biography-cum-memoir taking Keating’s story to 1993. Now Don Watson has produced an even heftier tome. Narrower in chronological span – 1992 to 1996 – Watson is broader in his interests, more personal, more passionate ...

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Brenda Niall reviews 'The Great Fire' by Shirley Hazzard

Brenda Niall
Tuesday, 05 March 2019

London seen through a haze of smoke and fire in J.M.W. Turner’s famous painting, The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, is the evocative cover image for Shirley Hazzard’s long-awaited novel. The Great Fire comes twenty-three years after Hazzard’s brilliantly composed, witty, and ultimately tragic work ...

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Evelyn Juers reviews 'The Feel of Steel' by Helen Garner

Evelyn Juers
Tuesday, 05 March 2019

Following True Stories, published in 1996, The Feel of Steel is Helen Garner’s second collection of non-fiction. It comprises thirty-one pieces of varying lengths. Longer narratives such as ‘Regions of Thick-Ribbed Ice’, about a hair-raising trip to Antarctica, and ‘A Spy in the House of Excrement’, about the outcome ...

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Brenda Niall reviews 'March' by Geraldine Brooks

Brenda Niall
Tuesday, 05 March 2019

Spacious and solidly constructed, the classic nineteenth-century novel invites revisiting. Later writers reconfigure its well-known spaces, change the lighting, summon marginal figures to the centre. Most memorable, perhaps, is Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), in which the first Mrs Rochester ...

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Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Monday, 04 March 2019

Kate Grenville is a brave woman. For some years now, the representation of Aboriginal people by white writers has been hedged about by a thicket of post­colonial anxieties, profoundly problematic and important but too often manifested as hostile, holier-than-thou critique, indulging, at its most inept ..

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Michael Williams reviews 'Dead Europe' by Christos Tsiolkas

Michael Williams
Monday, 25 February 2019

So often, the language used to discuss Australian literature is that of anxiety. A.A. Phillips’s ‘cultural cringe’, coined in 1950, is never far from the critical surface as readers and commentators grapple with questions of national and literary identity. The report of the 1995 Miles Franklin Award’s judges offers one such example ...

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James Bradley reviews 'The White Earth' by Andrew McGahan

James Bradley
Wednesday, 26 December 2018

‘White’ and ‘earth’ are not words that sit easily together in an Australian context, so much so that placing them thus seems almost deliberately unsettling. Juxtaposed, they only serve to remind us of things that are mostly too hard for us to look at directly, a claim to a possession all know to be ill-founded ...

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Stephanie Triggs reviews 'Wild Surmise' by Dorothy Porter

Stephanie Trigg
Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Dorothy Porter’s new verse novel, Wild Surmise, takes an almost classic form. The verse novel is now well-established as a modern genre, and Porter has stamped a distinctive signature and voice on the verse form, particularly with the phenomenal success of her racy, action-packed detective novel, The Monkey’s Mask (1994) ...

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