Hamish Hamilton

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Butterfly' by Sonya Hartnett

Lisa Gorton
Monday, 14 September 2020

Sonya Hartnett is one of the most various of good writers. In particular, she is good at creating atmosphere: a distinctive world for every story. As a consequence, every book she writes is a different style of book. Take some recent examples. The Ghost’s Child (2007), with its plot like a fable, reads like an old tale told in an outdated language of ‘sou’westers’ and ‘fays’. Its form, language and style are so consistent its oddity seems like part of its simplicity. In contrast, Surrender (2005), a horror story, has a style of calculated Gothic, playing narrative games to manufacture menace.

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Felicity Plunkett reviews 'Summer' by Ali Smith

Felicity Plunkett
Monday, 14 September 2020

I could begin with a lark stitched into a letter. It’s 2020 and ‘all manner of virulent things’ are simmering. Sixteen-year-old Sacha writes to Hero, a detained refugee. She wants to send ‘an open horizon’. Unsure what to say to someone suffering injustice, she writes about swifts: how far they travel, how they feed – and even sleep – on the wing. The way their presence announces the beginning and ending of summer ‘makes swifts a bit like a flying message in a bottle’. Maybe they even make summer happen.

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Towards the end of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory (2018), Richard Powers attempts to articulate why literature, or more precisely the novel, has struggled to encompass climate change: ‘To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs. No: life is mobilized on a vastly larger scale, and the world is failing precisely because no novel can make the contest for the world seem as compelling as the struggles between a few lost people.’

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Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Sweetness and Light' by Liam Pieper

Jay Daniel Thompson
Monday, 27 April 2020

Connor is a thirty-something Australian who bides his time grifting in India. His targets are Western female tourists, whom he describes as ‘talent’, and whom he seduces and fleeces. Connor seems to be escaping something, most likely the upbringing in which his masculinity and personal safety were constantly called into question.

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Alex Cothren reviews 'The Adversary' by Ronnie Scott

Alex Cothren
Monday, 27 April 2020

One of the few details we learn about the unnamed narrator of Ronnie Scott’s début novel, The Adversary, is that he is fond of Vegemite. Although only a crumb of information, this affinity for the popular breakfast tar reveals much about our hero. Just as Vegemite ‘has to be spread very thin or you realised it was salty and unreasonable’, his human interactions give him a soupçon of a social life, a mere taste that never threatens to overwhelm his senses.

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J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Ghost Species' by James Bradley

J.R. Burgmann
Friday, 24 April 2020

James Bradley’s Ghost Species arrives at a time when fiction seems outpaced by the speed with which we humans are changing the planet. Alarmingly, such writerly speculation has been realised during Australia’s tragic summer, when the future finally bore down on us. And there are few writers of climate fiction – or ‘cli-fi’, the term coined by activist blogger Dan Bloom and popularised in a tweet by Margaret Atwood – who so delicately straddle the conceptual divide between present and future as Bradley.

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There are few people on earth I would rather read than Germaine Greer, mad or sane. Whatever reservations I might want to express about Daddy We Hardly Knew You, it is some testament to its compelling power that I read most of it strung-out with fatigue from checking proofs some time towards dawn and I still found it difficult to stop reading.

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Shannon Burns reviews 'Essays One' by Lydia Davis

Shannon Burns
Friday, 20 March 2020

Essays One is the first of two volumes of collected non-fiction drawn from all periods of Lydia Davis’s long career. While the second collection will, according to the author, ‘concentrate more single-mindedly on translation and the experience of reading foreign languages’, this volume has an alternating focus on writing and reading practices, translation, commentary, reviews, and personal essays. It is loosely structured, non-chronological, and doesn’t shy away from repetition or reiteration – particularly throughout the several pieces that share the subtitle ‘Forms and Influences’.

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Leah Purcell has described how her lifelong fascination with Henry Lawson’s iconic 1892 short story provided her with abundant creative ammunition. Her mother read her the story when she was five; it held a special place for them both. ‘I’d say the famous last line: “Ma, I won’t never go drovin ... she’d tear up”.’

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At seventy-six, Paul Theroux drove from his home in Cape Cod to Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican road trip is his account of this adventure, at times misinformed, on occasions tedious, with moments of entertaining, well-researched discussions about the scintillating complexity of Mexico.

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