Susan Midalia

Susan Midalia is a Perth-based author of three short story collections, all shortlisted for major Australian literary awards, and a novel called The Art of Persuasion (2018). Her new novel, Everyday Madness, will be published early in 2021. She is also a freelance editor and mentor, and has been a judge of the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards and the T.A.G. Hungerford Award, as well as numerous short story competitions.

Susan Midalia reviews 'Bodies of Light' by Jennifer Down

October 2021, no. 436 23 September 2021
Susan Midalia reviews 'Bodies of Light' by Jennifer Down
Australian novelist and short story writer Jennifer Down has been rightly acclaimed, with an impressive list of awards to her name, including the Jolley Prize in 2014. Her new novel, Bodies of Light, is both much more ambitious in scope than her first and an altogether more harrowing read. Spanning the years from 1975 to 2018, and traversing many different locations in Australia, New Zealand, and ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'All That I Remember About Dean Cola' by Tania Chandler, 'Catch Us the Foxes' by Nicola West, and 'Spring Clean for the Peach Queen' by Sasha Wasley

July 2021, no. 433 23 June 2021
Three recent novels by Australian women deal with current and increasingly urgent political questions about female identity and embodiment. They each use the conventions of popular realist fiction to provoke thought about the causes of female disempowerment and the struggle for self-determination. Coincidentally, they are also set, or partially set, in Australian country towns, although their loca ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'The Road to Woop Woop and other stories' by Eugen Bacon

January–February 2021, no. 428 17 December 2020
Susan Midalia reviews 'The Road to Woop Woop and other stories' by Eugen Bacon
Eugen Bacon’s début short story collection, The Road to Woop Woop, plays with the genres of speculative fiction and magic realism. Using familiar tropes such as time travel, shapeshifting, and prescient characters, the stories typically refuse formulaic outcomes. The title story, for example, confounds expectations about the horror of bodily disintegration. The ominous angel of death in the sto ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'Ordinary Matter' by Laura Elvery

September 2020, no. 424 17 August 2020
Susan Midalia reviews 'Ordinary Matter' by Laura Elvery
Laura Elvery’s second short story collection, Ordinary Matter, shows the same talent for precise observation, pathos, and humour as her accomplished début collection, Trick of the Light (2018). It differs in its creation of a greater range of narrators and voices, and in its use of a specific ideological framework through which to unify the collection: each of its twenty stories is prefaced by ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'Wild Fearless Chests' by Mandy Beaumont, 'No Neat Endings' by Dominic Carew, 'Shirl' by Wayne Marshall, and 'A Couple of Things Before the End' by Sean O’Beirne

April 2020, no. 420 20 March 2020
The American writer Jack Matthews had no time for what he called ‘a discontent’ with the brevity of the short story. ‘Ask a coral snake,’ he declared, ‘which is as deadly as it is small.’ The claim for ‘deadliness’ certainly applies to four recent début collections; in the tight spaces of the short story, each one presents confronting ideas about contemporary Australia. Wild Fear ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'Melting Moments' by Anna Goldsworthy, 'The Light After the War' by Anita Abriel, and 'Wearing Paper Dresses' by Anne Brinsden

March 2020, no. 419 24 February 2020
Three recent début novels employ the genre of the Bildungsroman to explore the complexities of female experience in the recent historical past. Melting Moments by Anna GoldsworthyBlack Inc., $29.99 pb, 240 pp Anna Goldsworthy, widely known and admired as a memoirist, essayist, and musician, has now added a novel, Melting Moments, to her list of achievements. Set mainly in Adelaide from the 1940 ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'The Sea and Us' by Catherine de Saint Phalle

January–February 2020, no. 418 16 December 2019
Susan Midalia reviews 'The Sea and Us' by Catherine de Saint Phalle
Catherine de Saint Phalle already had an impressive publication history – five novels written in French and one in English – when her elegantly written, often heart-breaking memoir Poum and Alexandre was shortlisted for the 2017 Stella Prize. Her new novel, The Sea and Us, is her third book written in English since she came to Australia in 2003. Its title works both literally and symbolically. ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'Pulse Points' by Jennifer Down

September 2017, no. 394 25 August 2017
Susan Midalia reviews 'Pulse Points' by Jennifer Down
Barbara Kingsolver, praising the skill required to write a memorable short story, described the form as entailing ‘the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces’. Her description certainly applies to Jennifer Down’s wonderful début collection, Pulse Points. Using the typical strategies of suggestion, ambiguity, and inconclusiveness of those ‘tight spaces’, Down’s ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'My Hearts Are Your Hearts' by Carmel Bird

October 2015, no. 375 30 September 2015
Susan Midalia reviews 'My Hearts Are Your Hearts' by Carmel Bird
In one of the reflective essays that complement her new collection of stories, My Hearts Are Your Hearts, Carmel Bird likens short story writing to the art of the conjuror who takes ‘coloured silk handkerchiefs, pull[s] them all in to make a ball, and then, with a flourish, open[s] them up as a full-blown rose’. This charming metaphor suggests not only Bird’s understanding of the subtlety an ... (read more)

Susan Midalia reviews 'Foreign Soil' by Maxine Beneba Clarke

June–July 2014, no. 362 26 May 2014
Susan Midalia reviews 'Foreign Soil' by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Maxine Beneba Clarke is already a well-known Melbourne voice: a fiction writer and slam poet with an enthusiastic following. Now we have her first collection of short stories, Foreign Soil – the winner of the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript – and it is a remarkable collection indeed. While its ten stories, ranging in length from fifteen to fifty pages, are unasha ... (read more)