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Eva Sallis

This important book succeeds in forcing us to see and hear the individuals hidden from knowledge and understanding behind the razor wire of Australia’s detention centres. The opening chapter, ‘The Iron Curtin’, presents material that, even if familiar to some, still has the power to shock. I was jolted once more by the cold facts of our treatment of refugees a ...

Mahjar by Eva Sallis

April 2003, no. 250

The word ‘mahjar’, Eva Sallis informs us, ‘refers collectively to all the lands of Arab, most often Lebanese, migration’. Her third book of fiction is a slight volume composed of fifteen stories, divided into three sections. In deceptively simple prose and syntax, Sallis surveys the gamut of experiences affecting the displaced migrant. As in her previous novels, Hiam and The City of Sealions, a beguiling mixture of fantasy, fact, and fable make up the fabric of the book. With a PhD in comparative literature (Arabic and English), Sallis is well placed to oscillate between two cultures, and Mahjar is a perfect vehicle to showcase cross-cultural interactions.

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Nikki Gemmell’s third novel, Love Song, set in both Australia and England, is a striking and memorable work. The style is sharp, jagged even, but so energetic that it sucked me in. I had to read it twice to know more than the fact that I had thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is a story written to an unborn child by a mother who seems, at first, both old and young, something which proves to be the case. She is Lillie, a girl who has survived the eccentric, cult-like community that incarcerated her, and who has survived the loss of her lover, the child’s father. She has survived a short life dogged by false accusation. She is also a young woman who, at the point of writing that old person’s document, her memoirs, is scarcely into her adulthood and is still inexperienced in the ways of the world. Her voice is fresh, young and oddly wise.

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