The Best Australian Stories 2017
Black Inc., $29.99 pb, 188 pp, 9781863959612
In her Introduction to The Best Australian Stories 2017, Maxine Beneba Clarke describes how the best short fiction leaves readers with ‘a haunting: a deep shifting of self, precipitated by impossibly few words’. Many of the stories here achieve this, inserting an image or idea into the reader’s mind and leaving it there to worry, delight, or intrigue. The collection as a whole seems haunted by the figure of the lost child, one that Peter Pierce suggested in his book The Country of Lost Children (1999) has preoccupied the Australian imagination at least since the nineteenth century, first as children lost to the bush and later as victims of adult behaviour. The children featured in these stories demonstrate resilience as well as damage, creativity as well as fear, but many of the adult protagonists are heavily shadowed by their anxiety over children.