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
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 ...
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.
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 ...
There are a number of strands at play in this curiously titled novel set in postwar London in the Coronation year, 1953. The well-to-do Mrs Harriet Wallis, convicted of the murder of her husband, Cecil, becomes the second-last woman in England to be hanged. The last woman to be executed for murder in England was Ruth Ellis, about whom Mike Newell made the film Dance with a Stranger (1985), with Miranda Richardson as Ellis.
Rhyll McMaster established her considerable reputation as a poet in the 1970s and 1980s. Feather Man is her début novel. In a first-person narrative, the protagonist recounts her life story from the time when she was a child living in suburban Brisbane in the 1950s until her emergence as a painter in London in the 1970s. It is a Kunstleroman divided into four parts, each named for a significant male character who shapes her relationship to art. The narrator’s name is withheld until near the end, when we learn that, somewhat ambiguously, her classically educated father named her ‘Lyce’, from Horace’s Odes on Love.
There are two reasons for celebrating this chastely elegant slim volume. One is the arrival of a publisher prepared, when major firms are retreating from the field, to declare that poetry is central to a flourishing literary culture, and to match that declaration by commitment to a new series, Brandl & Schlesinger Poetry. The other is the appearance of a new and striking collection from that fine poet Rhyll McMaster.
Both of these volumes of poetry claim to deal with the ordinary. Peter Rose’s publisher, Picador, states in its back-cover blurb that the author of The Catullan Rag chooses ‘to focus ... sharply on the urban, the everyday, the seemingly ordinary’, while Heinemann suggests that ‘McMaster has a sure ear for the rhythms of everyday speech’.