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Thuy On

Thuy On

Thuy On is books editor of The Big Issue. She's also an arts journalist/critic who has written for a variety of publications including The Australian, The Age/SMH, The Saturday Paper, Books+Publishing, and ArtsHub. Her first book of poetry, Turbulence, was published by UWAP. She's one of three recipients of the 2020 SRB Juncture Fellowships. 

Thuy On reviews ‘The Grave at Thu Le’ by Catherine Cole

September 2005, no. 274 01 September 2005
The Grave at Thu Le explores a young French woman’s visit to Vietnam to research her ancestry, and to locate the cemetery in which members of her family were interred. Catherine D’anyers’s great-great-grandfather Claude was an engineer who lived in the colonial community in Hanoi at the turn of the last century. Past and present strands of the novel interweave as old, childhood stories of ye ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews ‘Butterfly Song’ by Terri Janke

March 2005, no. 269 01 March 2005
From the first paragraph, Terri Janke’s Butterfly Song makes its intentions clear: this is a novel about the love of the land and the palpable connection to the ancestral home. ‘They say if you live on an island for too long, you merge with it. Your bones become the sands, your blood the ocean. Your flesh is the fertile ground. Your heart becomes the stories, dances, songs. The island is part ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews ‘The Book of Rapture’ by Nikki Gemmell

September 2009, no. 314 01 September 2009
One could be forgiven for thinking that after the succès de scandale of her previous novel, The Bride Stripped Bare (2005), Nikki Gemmell’s next novel would also address the permutations of sexual desire, particularly since the title of her latest novel is The Book of Rapture and the cover is a riot of fleshy red and purple. This time round, though, Gemmell is more interested in exploring relig ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews 'The Presence of Angels' by Margaret Barbalet and 'Coldwater' by Mardi McConnochie

December 2001–January 2002, no. 237 01 December 2001
Mardi McConnochie’s first novel is a strange strain of literary adaptation. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys manufactured a life for Charlotte Brontë’s madwoman in the attic, Bertha Rochester. McConnochie goes one step further and hijacks the Brontë sisters themselves, transplanting them from their Yorkshire home to an island called Coldwater somewhere off the colony of NSW. There the sisters ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews 'Mahjar' by Eva Sallis

April 2003, no. 250 01 April 2003
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 Sealio ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews 'The Perfume River: Writing From Vietnam' edited by Catherine Cole

June 2010, issue no. 322 01 June 2010
The Perfume River crosses the city of Hue, in the centre of Vietnam. Like tributaries that flow into the main body of water, this anthology of short stories and poetry crosses temporal and geographical boundaries, with Vietnam as the locus point. As editor Catherine Cole says in her introduction, ‘For all Vietnam has defined itself as a voice of inspiration, of homeland, memory and discovery’. ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews 'Gunshot Road' by Adrian Hyland

June 2010, issue no. 322 01 June 2010
Two drunk whitefellas have a barney at the Green Swamp Well Roadhouse. One ends up with a hammer in his throat. To the police, it is a simple case of provocation and retaliatory murder, but the newly appointed Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) for Bluebush in the Northern Territory thinks otherwise. As a local, Emily Tempest knows the feuding boozers and doubts that an argument – over G ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews '15 Kinds of Desire' by Mandy Sayer and 'Willow Tree and Olive' by Irini Savvides

July 2001, no. 232 01 July 2001
Husbands, wives, and lovers, desperadoes,  mistresses, adulterers, transsexuals, prostitutes and  paedophiles: these are some of the people who populate Mandy Sayer’s 15 Kinds of Desire. Despite such a roll-call of confronting players, Sayer’s short story collection is not so much an itemisation of sexual peccadilloes but an exploration into various gradations of love, sex and obsess ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews 'The Scandal of the Season' by Sophie Gee

June 2007, no. 292 01 June 2007
The Rape of The Lock helped secure Alexander Pope’s reputation as a commanding poet of the early eighteenth century. This mock-epic poem, based on a real incident, satirises the trivialities of high society by comparing it with the epic world of the gods. One of Pope’s acquaintances, Lord Petre, cut off a ringlet of hair from his paramour Arabella, thereby causing a breach of civilities betwee ... (read more)

Thuy On reviews 'Pushing Back' by John Kinsella

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
Comprising more than thirty works of poetry, fiction, memoir, and criticism, John Kinsella’s prolific output is impressive, and this figure doesn’t include his collaborations with other artists. Here is a writer who swims between boundaries, experiments with form and content, and eludes easy categorisation. His most recent novel, Hollow Earth (2019), was a foray into science fiction and fantas ... (read more)
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