Hamish Hamilton

Astrid Edwards reviews 'Grand Union: Stories' by Zadie Smith

Astrid Edwards
Monday, 25 November 2019

Zadie Smith’s commanding collection Grand Union puts our contemporary lives and mores under the microscope. She sets her sights on the insanity (and inanity) of social media, the internet, and ‘call-out culture’, but leaves room to consider the tensions inherent in post-colonial nations, including race, gender, and sexuality.

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In his latest novel, Everything I Knew, Peter Goldsworthy uses this famous quotation. Indeed, it is so apposite that it might well have provided the epigraph. Everything I Knew is, in part, a self-conscious reworking of Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953). The first-person narrator, Robert Burns, is a naïve fourteen-year-old boy in desperate thrall to a young woman. But where the emotional life of Hartley’s boy protagonist is destroyed by the precipitate arrival of sexual knowledge, Everything I Knew subverts this notion.

The year is 1964 and the setting is Penola, a country town in South Australia. Robbie is a Year Seven schoolboy, precociously intelligent, restlessly pubescent. His father is the town policeman and his mother a well-meaning but stolid housewife. The community is narrow; everyone knows everyone else. At the beginning of the novel, Robbie is beginning to outgrow Billy, his best friend from primary school, an Indigenous boy with a reputation for getting into trouble that Robbie, to a lesser extent (being white), shares.

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Underland is English nature writer Robert Macfarlane’s longest and, by his own admission, deepest and strangest book. It took almost a decade to write. From the remote mountain peaks of his first book,

Unlike an autobiography, which tends to be time-bound and inclusive, the memoir can wander at will in the writer’s past, searching out and shaping an idea of self. Although Geoffrey Blainey’s memoir, Before I Forget, is restricted to the first forty years of his life, its skilfully chosen episodes suggest much more ...

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Ellen van Neerven reviews The Yield by Tara June Winch

Ellen van Neerven
Monday, 29 July 2019

Wiradjuri writer Tara June Winch is not afraid to play with the form and shape of fiction. Her dazzling début, Swallow the Air (2006), is a short novel in vignettes that moves quickly through striking images and poetic prose ...

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James Ley reviews Breath by Tim Winton

James Ley
Friday, 21 June 2019

One of the intriguing things about Breath, Tim Winton’s first novel in seven years, is that it has a number of affinities with his very first book, An Open Swimmer (1982). Both are coming-of-age novels that attempt to capture some of the confusion and melancholy of youth ...

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Jack Callil reviews Spring by Ali Smith

Jack Callil
Friday, 17 May 2019
Uncertainty is the new norm. Nationalist rhetoric is rife. Donald Trump is running for the US presidency. It’s June 2016 and the Brexit referendum has dazed the international community, heralding the start of the United Kingdom’s glacial extraction from the European Union. Amid the turmoil, Irish novelist Ali Smith releases Autumn ... ... (read more)

Louise Swinn reviews The Boat by Nam Le

Louise Swinn
Tuesday, 23 April 2019

At a time when some fiction writers are busy defending their right to incorporate autobiographical elements, and some non-fiction writers are being charged with fabrication, it seems timely of Nam Le to begin his collection of stories with one that plays with notions of authenticity in literature ...

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Memoirs of illness are tricky. The raw material is often compelling: dramatic symptoms, embarrassing public moments, and unavoidable relationship pressures. The challenge is to share that raw material in a new way. Not every memoir needs to turn on the conceit that illness is an obstacle that must be overcome ...

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Chris Murray reviews Fusion by Kate Richards

Chris Murray
Friday, 25 January 2019

Fusion is the fiction début from the author of the acclaimed Madness: A memoir (2013). It draws on Australian gothic and older gothic traditions. With the meditative possibilities of walking alpine ranges, it also portrays claustrophobia and compulsion. Its drama centres on a small and wounded cast ...

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