Picador

To some it may seem solipsistic to be reviewing what is, in effect, a collection of reviews, but when the reviewer in question is as smart as the late Clive James and the subject is as substantial as Philip Larkin (1922–85) this is unlikely to be the case.

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The Innocent Reader by Debra Adelaide & Wild About Books by Michael Wilding

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December 2019, no. 417

The Innocent Reader, Debra Adelaide’s collection of essays reflecting on the value of reading and the writing life, also works as a memoir. Part I, ‘Reading’, moves from childhood memories of her parents’ Reader’s Digest Condensed Books to discovering J.R.R. Tolkien and other books in the local library, and to the variable guidance of teachers at school and university. Its centrepiece is the powerful essay ‘No Endings No Endings No’, which juxtaposes the shock of discovering that her youngest child has cancer with her grief at the death of Thea Astley in 2004. The last words of Astley’s final novel, Drylands (1999) give this essay its title. Adelaide draws out the hope that they suggest as she tells how reading – aloud to her son in hospital, and to herself when he was too ill to listen – enabled her to survive this terrible time.

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The most charismatic of the many monsters in Elizabeth Bryer’s début novel is the conceptual artist Maddison Worthington, who commands attention with her lipstick of ‘Mephistophelian red’ and her perfume of ‘white woods, musk and heliotrope’. From the solitude of a labyrinthine mansion ...

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Homeland by Fernando Aramburu, translated by Alfred MacAdam

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June–July 2019, no. 412

ETA, a terrorist group formed in the late 1950s, was predominantly active in the Basque Country. Its name is an acronym in Basque for ‘Euskadi Ta Askatasuna’, which means ‘Basque Country and Freedom’. Fernando Aramburu’s Homeland is not the first novel to deal with the decades of ETA’s terror ...

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I didn’t write this review. I stole it. Or so a review that echoes the framing conceit of Alex Landragin’s elegant and unusual début might begin. This richly allusive, speculative historical novel opens with a preface from the book’s self-described ‘adopted parent’, the fictionalised ‘Alex Landragin’. Following the sudden death of ...

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Mainstream science fiction is a genre that thrives on quantity as much as quality. Such narratives pose the deepest questions; as Douglas Adams once famously put it, these are stories about Life, the Universe, and Everything. Why publish stand-alone space operas when storylines, character arcs, worlds, and revenues can be elaborated across trilogies? ... (read more)

In Chris Womersley’s collection of short fiction, A Lovely and Terrible Thing, a man is caught in a fugue moment. Just after unexpectedly discharging a gun into the body of a stranger, he gazes at his reflection in a darkened window pane: ‘I saw someone outside looking in, before realising it was, in fact, my own reflection ...

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At the front of Miriam Sved’s A Universe of Sufficient Size is a black-and-white photograph of a statue. The cloaked figure holding a pen (‘like a literary grim reaper’, reflects one character) is the statue of Anonymous in Budapest, a significant setting in the book. Its inclusion is a reminder that the novel draws on the story of ...

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As the United States tears itself to pieces over a proposed wall, which has in recent months transmogrified into a steel fence, here in Australia we have no right to be smug or to rubberneck. After all, Australia loves its fences. Since it was first occupied as a penal colony, this land has been bisected by a seemingly endless ...

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To complement our ‘Books of the Year’ feature, which appeared in the December 2018 issue, we invited some senior publishers to nominate their favourite books of 2018 – all published by other companies.

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