Historical Fiction

Sarah Thornhill is the third book in Kate Grenville’s loose trilogy depicting life in the early days after Australia’s settlement. Like the previous novels, The Secret River (2005) and The Lieutenant (2008), Sarah Thornhill fictionalises actual stories of settlement. In the process, Grenville transforms our history into someth ...

In 2003, the year in which Elliot Perlman’s previous novel Seven Types of Ambiguity was published, the eminent gadfly David Marr suggested that Australian novelists failed to address major contemporary social concerns. As if anticipating Marr’s criticisms, Perlman wove a plot that involved stock market speculation (and peculation), upmarket Melbourne brothels, privatised prisons, p ...

At the beginning of Steven Carroll’s new novel, Spirit of Progress, Michael stands on a platform of the Gare Montparnasse in Paris. Readers of Carroll’s ‘Glenroy’ trilogy will remember that Michael is Vic and Rita’s son – a boy who grew up with an unblinking grasp of his parents’ fractured marriage and who learned early to fend for himself. Now a man, Michael observes the ...

Any attempt to write a novel that covers three generations, two centuries, and two continents is undeniably ambitious. Include subject matter that ranges from Jewishness and gemstones to the occult, and set the story in a vibrant and sometimes turbulent time in the history of Melbourne and Victoria, from the 1850s gold rushes to the early 1900s, and the possibilities are exciting. Whether A ...

Geraldine Brooks has an extraordinary radar for a good story, a curiosity that has carried her, and her readers, from Year of Wonders (2001), set during England’s plague of 1666; to March andthe American Civil War; to medieval Spain and the People of the Book (2008).Her latest novel, Caleb’s Crossing, is set closer to the place Brooks calls home – in th ...

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 – bu ...

Stories of the impact of European discovery, exploration, invasion, and settlement on Australia are naturally a source of fascination to novelists. The microcosm of the island of Tasmania, with its cruel yet beautiful landscape and its unforgiving weather, offers these stories with a special kind of eerie horror. Against this setting, the stories emerge both in concert and in counterpoint, desc ...

Mandy Sayer has been winning awards since the start of her career more than twenty years ago. Her first novel, Mood Indigo (1990), a pacy, absorbing account of a remarkable and rackety childhood, bagged the Vogel in 1989. Its autobiographical origins become clear when read in conjunction with her memoir Velocity (2005), which covers Sayer’s early ...

Mary Queen of Scots, widow of the youthful French king, returns from her long exile in France to a country bereft of pageantry... ... (read more)

In the afterword to The Ghost of Waterloo, Robin Adair reveals what attracts him to writing historical fiction...

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