It has been two hundred and seventy-six years since Pamela was published, the first piece of writing in English in the novel form; it was a structure designed both to entertain and instruct, and still we are debating if the concept was a good idea.

Inga Simpson is the author of two previous novels, Mr Wigg (2013) and Nest (2014). Both have been critically acclaimed and shortlisted for literary prizes, and Nest was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. This pedigree raises expectations that Where The Trees Were is a significant book of ideas.

Simpson has decided on a popular construct, the social historical narrative – the story of Jayne, a country girl, who becomes an art history curator. Her four best friends are boys from local properties, and we follow them as their lives play out after a tragic accident changes the group forever.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Rhyll McMaster reviews 'Where the Trees Were' by Inga Simpson
  • Contents Category Indigenous Studies
  • Book Title Where the Trees Were
  • Book Author Inga Simpson
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Hachette Australia, $29.99 pb, 296 pp, 9780733634536

Broadly speaking, there are two types of epitaphs: those formulated by loved ones to describe the living qualities of the interred; and those that would presume to speak from the grave. Writers, ever reluctant to pass up a blank page – even if it is a tombstone – are disproportionate constituents of the latter. H.G. Wells, father of science fiction, penned his epitaph: ‘Goddamn you all: I told you so.’ Dorothy Parker quipped ‘Excuse My Dust’, while Charles Bukowski, abandoning humour for something bleaker, counselled: ‘Don’t try.’ Rhyll McMaster, who happily still dwells among the living, claims her epitaph will one day read: ‘No-one knows.’

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  • Custom Article Title Bronwyn Lea reviews 'Late Night Shopping' by Rhyll McMaster
  • Contents Category Poetry
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Broadly speaking, there are two types of epitaphs: those formulated by loved ones to describe the living qualities of the interred; and those that would presume to speak from the grave. Writers, ever reluctant to pass up a blank page – even if it is a tombstone – are disproportionate constituents of the latter ...

  • Book Title Late Night Shopping
  • Book Author Rhyll McMaster
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Brandl & Schlesinger, $24.95 pb, 80 pp, 9781921556302

Janette Turner Hospital, who grew up in Brisbane, has taught in Australian and overseas universities, and is well regarded as a novelist and short story writer; among several prizes she has won the Patrick White Award. The stories in her new collection, Forecast: Turbulence, are set in several places where she has lived, including Canada and the American South, where the weather is similarly violent. Despite the fact that this metaphor is flagged throughout this collection, I formed little sense of many of her characters in either place or clime.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Rhyll McMaster reviews 'Forecast: Turbulence' by Janette Turner Hospital
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title FORECAST: TURBULENCE 
  • Book Author Janette Turner Hospital
  • Biblio Fourth Estate, $29.99 hb, 232 pp, 9780732294441

Delia Falconer’s Sydney, the third in a series from NewSouth in which leading Australian authors write about their hometowns, is like its harbour, brimful with tones, vivid with contemplation.

Sydney has had a strong tradition of writers enraptured by the city – in the twentieth century, for example, Patrick White, Christina Stead, Kenneth Slessor – yet their notations form the high notes. Beneath the brash metallic sounds of the growing metropolis and its burgeoning colonial life, Falconer suggests, lay another more sonorous tone, that of the Eora nation whose ‘pervasive disappearance has led to ubiquity, to a pregnant presence’: ‘There are times especially when the autumn mists blur the edges of the harbour, and the king tides rise, when one feels ghostly; when this place feels sentient, and thus more alive, than oneself.’

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  • Custom Article Title Rhyll McMaster reviews 'Sydney' by Delia Falconer
  • Contents Category Society
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Delia Falconer’s Sydney, the third in a series from NewSouth in which leading Australian authors write about their hometowns, is like its harbour, brimful with tones, vivid with contemplation ...

  • Book Title Sydney
  • Book Author Delia Falconer
  • Biblio NewSouth, $29.95 hb, 301 pp, 9781921410925

Mary Watson’s tale begins in Brisbane in the 1870s, when, aged nineteen, she flees an abusive and drunkard father and finds employment as a pianist in a whorehouse in Cooktown run by a Frenchman, Charley Boule. Determined to improve her prospects, she secretly signs on to more lucrative employment: spying on smuggling rackets. It is not clear what is being smuggled – it might be guns – but within a year Mary has dug herself deeper into espionage. She marries a bêche-de-mer fisherman, and goes to live with him on isolated Lizard Island, off the Queensland coast. There, she continues her dangerous and covert work, signalling messages to ships in passage along the coast.

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  • Custom Article Title Rhyll Mcmaster reviews 'The Secret Fate of Mary Watson' by Judy Johnson
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title The Secret Fate of Mary Watson 
  • Book Author Judy Johnson
  • Biblio Fourth Estate, $32.99 pb, 455 pp, 9780732292508