Interwoven short story collections are often at their best when they offer multiple perspectives on the same event. Laurie Steed does this well in his début novel You Belong Here, as he captures the life of a single family through the multiplicity of its members.

Jen meets Steven on her way to a party in Brunswick in 1972; within a few years they are married. Steed shows the way two people bring their respective personal histories to a relationship, ‘a Möbius strip of past and present, with neither gaining traction’. Steven works at Tullamarine in air traffic control, but is unable to quarantine the stresses of his job from his domestic life. By 1980 the couple have three children. One of the strengths of the book is the way that Steed writes about the challenges of parenthood: the weight of the responsibility and the sacrifice of individuality parents make in its name. Moments of love that pass from parents to their children are also rendered nicely.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'You Belong Here' by Laurie Steed
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Interwoven short story collections are often at their best when they offer multiple perspectives on the same event. Laurie Steed does this well in his début novel You Belong Here, as he captures the life of a single family through the multiplicity of its members. Jen meets Steven on her way to a party in Brunswick in 1972 ...

  • Book Title You Belong Here
  • Book Author Laurie Steed
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Margaret River Press, $25 pb, 256 pp, 9780648203902

In Harriet McKnight’s début novel, a story about early onset dementia is offset by a second conservation-focused narrative involving the glossy black cockatoo. This braided structure immediately creates anticipation about where and how the two stories will meet.

Pina is the primary carer for her husband, Alan, whose illness now dictates the rhythm of their lives. The illness is erasing Alan’s memory along with his personality as it becomes increasingly difficult for him ‘to keep a grip on what was real and what wasn’t’. Pina is steadfast in her determination to care for him at home, even when his symptoms begin to feel ‘like a personal affront’.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'Rain Birds' by Harriet McKnight
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Custom Highlight Text

    In Harriet McKnight’s début novel, a story about early onset dementia is offset by a second conservation-focused narrative involving the glossy black cockatoo. This braided structure immediately creates anticipation about where and how the two stories will meet. Pina is the primary carer for her husband, Alan, whose illness ...

  • Book Title Rain Birds
  • Book Author Harriet McKnight
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Black Inc., $29.99 pb 282 pp, 9781863959827

Described as ‘modern literary noir’, Fiona Capp’s novel delves deeper into the psychology of its characters than most in the genre. The opening is sleek and pacey, as Capp guides us expertly through the central intrigue.

Ned is squatting in a boatshed on the Mornington Peninsula, having entrusted the investment of the sum of his and his sister’s inherited wealth to a childhood friend, who promptly disappeared. When Ned overhears a conversation between the politician Richard Morrow and a developer implicating Morrow in corruption, he sees an opportunity to recoup his losses. Though honest by instinct, Ned decides to blackmail Morrow on account of his sister Angela’s deteriorating quadriplegia. After springing Ned in his boatshed, Morrow employs him as a gardener, but from here the narrative lines spiral inwards.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'To Know My Crime' by Fiona Capp
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title To Know My Crime
  • Book Author Fiona Capp
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio HarperCollins $29.99 pb, 337 pp, 9781460752807

In the midst of preparing for an important London exhibition, photographer Andrew is drawn back to Australia by the sudden disappearance of his former girlfriend, Kirsten. His compulsion to resolve this troubled relationship evolves into a desire to account for an earlier loss. As Andrew grapples with his ambivalence about a new photographic subject, and his ability to sustain the ‘small, bright miracle’ of his present-day relationship with Dominique in Berlin, the complex role of photography in his life is redefined.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Josephine Taylor reviews 'Where the Light Falls' by Gretchen Shirm
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Custom Highlight Text

    In the midst of preparing for an important London exhibition, photographer Andrew is drawn back to Australia by the sudden disappearance of his former girlfriend, Kirsten ...

  • Book Title Where the Light Falls
  • Book Author Gretchen Shirm
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Allen & Unwin $27.99 pb, 320 pp, 9781760113650

Jennifer Down's first novel, Our Magic Hour, is notable for its stylistic individuality. The novel's opening is disorientating at first: Audrey wears a shirt whose 'sleeves swallowed her hands'; spaghetti bolognese 'spatters' on a stove; a football match 'bellows' from a television. This is an object-rich terrain, in which the details provide cues to interpreting the fictional world.

Audrey, Katy, and Adam were friends in high school – their bond was close, even claustrophobic: they shared beds and their conversations were frank, at times needful. As the narrative begins, Katy has taken her own life, and Audrey and Adam are grieving. When Audrey receives the news, Katy's coat is still draped over a chair in Audrey's kitchen, 'an exoskeleton left behind'. Audrey's mostly happy relationship with Nick is fraying; Adam keeps 'getting scared of everything'.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'Our Magic Hour' by Jennifer Down
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title Our Magic Hour
  • Book Author Jennifer Down
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 288 pp, 9781925240832

It is not difficult to see why the publisher expects Relativity to find a wide readership; centred on Ethan its eccentric, physics-obsessed young protagonist, this is a touching portrayal of a fractured family.

Claire has always known her son is special, with his talent for numbers and precocious knowledge of astronomical facts. At school, his peers call him ‘Stephen Hawking’, but to Ethan this is ‘the greatest compliment’. Claire gave up her career as a ballet dancer in order to raise her son. Despite Claire’s loneliness and the unspoken mystery of Ethan’s absent father, the two have a loving relationship. When Ethan’s estranged father, Mark, contacts Claire in an effort to fulfil his own father’s dying wish to see his grandson, several coincidences coalesce to draw Mark back into their lives.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'Relativity' by Antonia Hayes
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title Relativity
  • Book Author Antonia Hayes
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Viking, $32.99 pb, 356 pp, 9780670078585
Friday, 31 October 2014 10:02

'The Break' by Deb Fitzpatrick

The Break centres on the story of two families. Rosie quits her job as a journalist in Perth and moves, with her boyfriend, to the Margaret River, where they try to escape the monotony of their city existence. Ferg lives on a fruit orchard with his wife, his son, and his widowed mother. With the arrival of Ferg’s estranged brother Mike, relationships are straining. The characters in The Break struggle to balance the reality of living responsible, productive existences with finding fulfilment in their lives.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'The Break' by Deb Fitzpatrick
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title The Break
  • Book Author Deb Fitzpatrick
  • Biblio Fremantle Press, $24.99 pb, 227 pp, 9781922089632
Tuesday, 26 August 2014 15:34

Arms Race and other stories

Characters on the verge of a breakthrough populate this impressive début short story collection. An aspiring artist in ‘Making It’ is unsure whether a tilt at greatness is worth the personal sacrifice. In ‘Scar’, a middle-aged geologist feels conflicted by prospective fatherhood and observes, ‘Against that slow patience of stone the need to reproduce had always seemed like vanity.’ Low’s stories cover an ambitious range of locations from Melbourne to Mongolia; his prose is energetic and inspired.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Gretchen Shirm reviews 'Arms Race'
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title Arms Race
  • Book Author Nic Low
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Text Publishing, $27.99 pb, 248 pp, 9781922147981