Miles Franklin Literary Award Winner

In a 1954 letter to his niece Pippa, artist-nomad Ian Fairweather lamented that he could not write with sufficient analytic detachment to look back at his life and ‘see a pattern in it’. (Ian Fairweather: A life in letters, Text Publishing, 2019). The irony – that one of Australian art’s most profound, intuitive pattern-makers should be ruefully unable to ‘see’ the formative structures and repetitions of his fraught life – would not be lost on Amanda Lohrey. Labyrinth, her haunting new novel, is a meditation on fundamental patterns in nature and in familial relations, and our experience of them in time. But this is a novel, not a treatise, its narrative so bracing – like salt spray stinging your face – that one is borne forward inexorably, as if caught in the coastal rip that is one of the novel’s darker motifs. It is a work to read slowly, and reread, so that its metaphorical patterns can come into focus, and the intricate knots of structure loosen and unwind.

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Just Relations by Rodney Hall & North Wind by John Morrison

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August 1982, no. 43

These two works of fiction at first seem to offer only a contrast in literary style and method. John Morrison’s book is a collection of stories ranging from the title story, published in his first collection, Sailors Belong Ships (1947), to four not previously published in book form ...

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Do not attempt to judge this book by its amazingly beautiful but iconographically confusing cover. A close-up photograph of a single leaf shows its veins and pores in tiny detail. The colours are the most pastel and tender of creamy greens. Superimposed over this lush and suggestively fertile image is the book’s one-word title: Drylands ...

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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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Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

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October 2018, no. 405

A stranger rides into a one-horse town on a shiny new motorbike. Cue Ennio Morricone music. Except it’s not a stranger, it’s that skinny dark girl Kerry Salter, back to say goodbye to her Pop before he falls off the perch. The first conversation she has is in the Bundjalung language ...

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The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser

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October 2017, no. 395

Humans are narrative creatures. We tell stories to make sense of ourselves, but our stories – be they historical, political, fictional, or personal – shape us as much as we shape them. In the service of narrative expediency, we often sacrifice nuance. We turn chance to prophecy, and accidents into choices. We justify and excuse ourselves. We anoint heroes and vi ...

Extinctions takes its time giving up its secrets, and there are some we will never know. One of its most persistent enigmas is what kind of book it is. I wondered ...

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In Overland back in 2006, Ken Gelder singled out Michelle de Kretser’s first novel, The Rose Grower (1999), as evidence of a contemporary Australian literature in crisis. Its foreign and historical setting, horticultural fetish, focus on private manners and primped prose, he argued, flaunted a rarefied and élitist aesthetics that wanted nothing to do with the ‘political realities’ of ‘ordinary life’. With Questions of Travel, it is as if de Kretser is responding to this charge. This is a novel whose ambitions, which are considerable, are driven by a desire to engage with, not retreat from, both the wider world and the common reader. What we have here is a quite different type of Australian literary novel from the one that Gelder identified, though one that seems to be gaining ascendancy – one that is less arch, more cosmopolitan, and more seriously engaged with the larger events and problems of our times.

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The heroine of All That I Am reflects that an author’s published books ‘preserve the fossil imprint on the world of that particular soul at that particular time’. In her début novel – based on real characters and events – acclaimed non-fiction author Anna Funder (Stasiland, 2003) has preserved the imprint of a particular group of souls at a vitally important historical moment. A beautifully executed blend of historical fiction and psychological thriller, it follows the lives of a London-based network of activist refugees from Hitler’s Germany.

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Kim Scott noted in 2001 that the biographical notes accompanying his first two novels (True Country, 1993, and Benang: From the Heart, 1999) changed ...

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