Historical Fiction

Jane Sullivan’s novel, which was runner-up in the 2010 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for a novel by a writer over thirty-five years of age, blends the powerful theme of ...

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The language of wallpaper is entrancing: a velvet flock, a Réveillon arabesque, a Dufour panoramic. After ten years’ research and writing, Lyn Hughes’s fourth novel, Flock, is rich with the texture and imagery of wallpaper.

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Those Who Come After by Elisabeth Holdsworth

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April 2011, no. 330

Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten. 
(Truly, I live in dark times.)

When her mother uttered that line from Bertolt Brecht’s great poem ‘An die Nachgeborenen’, Juliana – the narrator of Elisabeth Holdsworth’s first novel – knew they were in for a hard time. Janna had returned to the Netherlands from Da ...

A conversation about an anachronism led Rodney Hall to this new novel, Love without Hope. He acknowledges his wife as the person who informed him that until the 1980s there was a Department of Lunacy in New South Wales, with an asylum superintendent titled the Master of Lunacy.

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The Child of an Ancient People by Anouar Benmalek (translated by Andrew Riemer)

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March 2004, no. 259

At once extravagant and tightly wrapped, this novel reinforces the view that historical fiction says as much about the present and the future as it does about the past. At the level of history proper, Anouar Benmalek’s vision unites three continents that, in the second half of the nineteenth century, are subject to the depredations of European colonialism and domestic tyranny. At the human level, his fiction is preoccupied with the bodily functions and basic needs of survival: things that never change. The broad, impersonal sweep of world history is made up of the infinitesimally small transactions of the primal scene: copulating, defecating, vomiting, bleeding, all driven by the elemental forces of fear and desire, violence and conscience.

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The Sunken Road is an ambitious novel which sets the crisscrossing lives of families in the northern highlands of South Australia against a temporal panorama of a century and a half and forces that extend far beyond state and continent. It is a compassionate but never sentimental account of a collective experience full of hope, pain, exploitation and double standards. At its centre is a strongly rendered character called Anna Antonia Ison Tolley.

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Australian involvement in World War I has in recent years attained a high profile in books, film and television. The trend has been to demythologise the legends of heroism and courage associated with war, and the theme often adopted is the rapid and brutal transformation from naivety to understanding of how baseless the myth was. Although this might be considered well covered ground, Geoff Page in his first novel, Benton’s Conviction, has returned to the war setting. However, because he concentrates on an aspect which hitherto has not been fully explored, and sustains the work with deft prose, Page has succeeded in producing a novel of originality and consistent interest.

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