Rachel Robertson reviews 'The Best Australian Stories 2017' edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Rachel Robertson reviews 'The Best Australian Stories 2017' edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Best Australian Stories 2017

edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke

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.

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Rachel Robertson

Rachel Robertson

Rachel Robertson is a West Australian writer and lecturer in professional writing at Curtin University. She was the joint winner (with Mark Tredinnick) of the 2008 Australian Book Review Calibre Prize for Outstanding Essay. Rachel’s essays and short fiction have been published in anthologies and journals such as Griffith Review, Island, Life Writing, Westerly, and Best Australian Essays 2008. She is the author of Reaching One Thousand: A Story of Love, Motherhood and Autism (2012) and co-editor of Purple Prose (2015).

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