Opening a review with a book’s first line allows a critic to thieve the author’s momentum for themselves. I am in a thieving mood. For the first line of Elena Ferrante’s new novel, The Lying Life of Adults, carries an enviable wallop: ‘Two years before leaving home my father said to my mother that I was very ugly.’ It’s the kind of line – charged, discomforting, and vicious – that makes Ferrante so electrifying to read. Ferrante’s novels are whetstones; her narrators are knives. When we meet twelve-year-old Giovanna Trada in this novel, she is a meek and dutiful creature – clever but incurious; a dewy-eyed admirer of her affluent parents and their hermetic life. Four years later, when Ferrante is finished with her, Giovanna’s heart is a shiv. Here is womanhood, Ferrante shows us once again: a relentless abrasion, a sharpening.... (read more)
Louise Erdrich would never write again. The National Book Award-winning author was bereft of ideas and exhausted by a tenacious winter virus. She surrendered to sleep, heavy with the certainty that her literary career was over. ‘Hours later, I was jolted awake by some mysterious flow of information,’ Erdrich explains in the afterword of her new novel, The Night Watchman, a glorious rebuke to her fever-addled defeatism. A message beat in her brain: go back to the beginning. ‘I made myself a shaky cup of tea,’ she writes, ‘and then, as I’ve done so many times in my life, I began to read letters written the year I was born, my grandfather’s letters.’... (read more)
There was never any question that The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s coda to The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), would be a gargantuan blockbuster, a publishing Godzilla. Giddily hyped and fiercely embargoed, bookshops across the world counted down the minutes until midnight on September 10 (GMT), when the envy-green volume ...... (read more)
Beejay Silcox reviews 'Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege' by Mike Thomson
A rebel stronghold on the southern edge of Damascus, the Syrian suburb of Daraya, was violently isolated by the Assad regime for almost four years – a ruthlessly protracted attempt to starve out the city’s pro-democracy insurgency. Power and water supplies were cut, crops were burned, and humanitarian aid was barred. There was no food, no medicine, and no way out.... (read more)
When truth is stranger than fiction, fiction is a potent source of truth. In the first week of the Trump administration, sales of 1984 increased by 9,500 per cent, catapulting George Orwell’s sexagenarian novel to the top of global bestseller charts. As Kellyanne Conway recast White House lies as ‘alternative facts’ ...... (read more)
I am a girl who knows how to hold a gun. On weekends, Dad drives me out to the pistol club, while Mum pulls white-sapped weeds from the garden. She plants natives that can handle the salt in the air; angular, bristling plants with angular, bristling names: banksia, grevillea, bottlebrush. A line of Geraldton Wax along the verge to replace some mean and blighted ...
ABR News: Giveaways to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , Slaughterhouse Five, and The Chaperone; Story of the Month; submissions open for fortyfivedownstair's Emerging Artist Award 2019; the ABR 2020 European tour; Vicki Laveau-Harvie wins the $50,000 Stella Prize 2019; applications open for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award; and more!... (read more)
To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser... (read more)
Inspirational Memoirs, Painful Lives, Real Lives – these were the polite terms, the labels you might find on bookshop shelves, but the term that stuck was Misery Literature. The books had plaintive titles like Tell Me Why, Mummy, and Please, Daddy, No, or single-word gut-punches like Wasted, Fractured, and Damaged ...... (read more)
‘Creative writing is, in sum, as American as baseball, apple pie and homicide.’
Mark McGurl, The Program Era (2009)
My rejection from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop arrived by mail. Iowa was steadfastly old-fashioned: there were no online portals or login codes at the near-mythical mothership of American fiction; no emails or text ...