Jane Sullivan

Jane Sullivan is a literary journalist and novelist based in Melbourne. Her latest book is a bibliomemoir, Storytime (Ventura Press, 2019).

Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Dark Flood Rises' by Margaret Drabble

December 2016, no. 387 25 November 2016
Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Dark Flood Rises' by Margaret Drabble
I’ve been reading Margaret Drabble’s novels with great pleasure for most of my life, and we’ve all been getting on a bit: Drabble, me, her readers, her characters. So I suppose it was inevitable that we would get to a novel about old age and death. When I discovered that these were indeed the subjects of her eighteenth novel, The Dark Flood Rises, and saw the sinister black-lace design on th ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan reviews 'Napoleon’s Roads' by David Brooks

March 2016, no. 379 24 February 2016
Jane Sullivan reviews 'Napoleon’s Roads' by David Brooks
'Why do we write?' asks David Brooks at the start of this exhilarating collection of short stories. 'What are we groping for?' The entire collection seems like an attempt to answer a question that the author acknowledges is unanswerable. Yet there is no futility here. His groping, as he calls it, charms and disturbs and conjures up images of extraordinary, if fleeting, power. As the publisher's b ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan reviews 'Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights' by Salman Rushdie

November 2015, no. 376 26 October 2015
Jane Sullivan reviews 'Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights' by Salman Rushdie
Kazuo Ishiguro recently sparked off a literary row about whether 'serious' writers should dabble in fantasy when he insisted rather too strongly that he was not writing fantasy in his latest novel The Buried Giant (2015). All those giants and pixies, knights and dragons were but a means to an end. A strange controversy, considering a galaxy of 'serious' stars have been liberally using fantasy for ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Other Side of the World' by Stephanie Bishop

September 2015, no. 374 26 August 2015
Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Other Side of the World' by Stephanie Bishop
One of the most potent stories we can tell is a story of migration. With the exception of indigenous people, every Australian originally came from somewhere else. Take just one source: the emigrants from England. Kate Grenville writes about her convict and settler ancestry in her Secret River trilogy; in The Golden Age, Joan London writes of European refugees in Perth in the 1950s, a time she can ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan reviews 'Oddfellows' by Nicholas Shakespeare

March 2015, no. 369 02 March 2015
Jane Sullivan reviews 'Oddfellows' by Nicholas Shakespeare
Two aggrieved Islamic men follow a foreign cause and wage jihad on their fellow Australians. Shouting Allahu akbar, they stage an ambush, raise a home-made flag and open fire on hundreds of men, women and children. They escape and die in a final shoot-out. They leave four dead and seven wounded. It could be ripped from today’s headlines – except it happened a hundred years ago. On New Year’ ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories' by Hilary Mantel

January-February 2015, no. 368 01 January 2015
Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories' by Hilary Mantel
If you think of writers as constructors, then Hilary Mantel is surely a builder of cathedrals. Two cathedrals, in fact: her two Man Booker Prize-winning novels about Thomas Cromwell and his England, Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), are soaring, intricate, and gigantic. And there is another cathedral, a third in the trilogy, on the way. Vast as these enterprises are, Mantel can also ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Wonders' by Paddy O’Reilly

August 2014, no. 363 01 August 2014
Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Wonders' by Paddy O’Reilly
A while ago, I was walking through Melbourne Central station when I was buffeted on all sides. Muscular minders were pushing back a crowd of jostling fans from a red carpet. Everyone was holding iPhones above their heads. They had come to see two Hollywood stars. But Hollywood is different these days. One star was playing a mutant who could grow adamantium claws from his hands. The other, an ordin ... (read more)

Jane Sullivan is Critic of the Month

June–July 2014, no. 362 27 May 2014
Jane Sullivan is Critic of the Month
When did you first write for ABR? September 1991. Which critics most impress you? As a journalist, I have been constantly thrown in the deep end and expected to review everything from books to shows to films to restaurants. I still admire some classic figures I idolised when I was starting out in England and didn’t know much about anything: Kenneth Tynan on theatre; Pauline Kael on film; Cliv ... (read more)

Iris Murdoch and Brian Medlin

May 2014, no. 361 29 April 2014
Iris Murdoch and Brian Medlin
If you’re a bookish type of a certain age, chances are you went through your Iris Murdoch period. You binged on novels such as The Black Prince (1973) and The Sea, The Sea (1978); you immersed yourself in her world of perplexed, agonised souls searching for meaning, falling disastrously in love with absurdly wrong people, consoling themselves with a swim or a madrigal singalong. It’s less like ... (read more)

Feeding on the Fellow

July–August 2013, no. 353 25 June 2013
Feeding on the Fellow
This novel comes to us some forty years after it was written. Janet Frame (1924–2004) did not allow it to be published during her lifetime. Very probably she was anxious not to be seen as savaging the hands that had fed her: and it is indeed a gleeful, glorious savaging. ... (read more)
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