Gilian Best’s début novel, The Last Wave, is a thoughtful narrative that charts the intricacies of one family’s experiences and relationships across three generations, from the postwar period to the present. It makes use of the iconography of the coast and the unpredictability of the sea almost as a dramatis personae that motivates, consoles, and potentially threatens the characters in their proximate lives. Set on the coast of southern England, Best’s imagery is beautiful and evocative: windswept, shingle beaches, the White Cliffs of Dover, Vera Lynn’s haunting song.

Martha and John Roberts live by this grey and unruly sea; for Martha, a swimmer, it has always been an immersive experience of challenge, providing her with a sense of purpose beyond the roles of wife and mother. Her desire to swim the Channel, to feel salt on her skin, is life-defining, offering both independence and emotional connections.

The story is told in multiple voices within the family. This shifting of perspective does allow us to see into the various cross-currents of family life – its rifts as well its opportunities. However, it is also a rather wooden strategy, as it somewhat heavy-handedly stitches together its themes and symbolisms, providing no real rationale as to why we might be privy to each character’s point of view. In narrative terms, these varying currents are brought to a head in the novel’s present in which John descends into a fog of dementia, Martha is dying from cancer, and unspoken things surge and press.

Best nevertheless conveys a powerful sense of the emotional tides sweeping her characters. Her poignant portrayal of the enduring bonds between John and Martha, even in the face of such unravelment, gives insight into how we might all face that last wave when it inevitably comes.

Rose Lucas

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews The Last Wave by Gillian Best
  • Contents Category Fiction
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    Gilian Best’s début novel, The Last Wave, is a thoughtful narrative that charts the intricacies of one family’s experiences and relationships across three generations, from the postwar period to the present. It makes use of the iconography of the coast and the unpredictability of the sea almost as a dramatis personae ...

  • Book Title The Last Wave
  • Book Author Gillian Best
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 304 pp, 9781925773378

Michelle Cahill and Amanda Joy have produced two engaging and proficient collections of poetry. In their different ways, each revels in worlds of perception, imagination, and poetic craft.

Amanda Joy’s first full-length collection, Snake Like Charms comes out of UWAP’s new poetry series and marks the emergence of an important voice in Australian poetry. In her work, Joy, who won the 2016 Peter Porter Poetry Prize for her poem ‘Tailings’, highlights an intensity of almost ecstatic perception. We see this perception ranging across the specificity of place, in particular West Australia, notions of myth, the intimacy of relationships with lovers, children, and, at the core, the relationship between the individual human and the natural world. These ideas are woven together through the trope of the snake – both as a recognition of the power of the external world and as part of an imaginative engagement with that world. The snake – creature and metaphor – can be part of an Australian ecosystem, beautiful, dangerous, even a mythic go-between the worlds of the spirit and the body. In the poem ‘Synecdoche’, Joy writes: ‘Can’t say – / poor snake / Your strangeness is maybe / what we can’t imagine / living without.’

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Snake Like Charms' by Amanda Joy and 'The Herring Lass' by Michelle Cahill
  • Contents Category Poetry
  • Book Title Snake Like Charms
  • Book Author Amanda Joy
  • Biblio UWA Publising, $22.99 pb, 113 pp, 9781742589404
  • Book Title 2 The Herring Lass
  • Book Author 2 Michelle Cahill
  • Biblio 2 Arc Publications, $18 pb, 70 pp, 9781910345764
  • Book Cover 2 Small Book Cover 2 Small
  • Author Type 2 Author
  • Book Cover 2 Book Cover 2
  • Book Cover 2 Path images/ABR_Online_2017/June_July_2017/The%20Herring%20Lass_400.jpg

When snow falls, it blurs the line of sight. Sometimes it covers the world with a soft blanket, dampening everything else; sometimes it chills to the marrow, taking a vulnerable human body to the limits of freezing. In Julia Leigh's moving memoir, Avalanche: a love story, the movement of snow correlates both to the clinical specificities of the IVF process which she experiences, and to the emotional undulations which accompany it, always threatening to overwhelm.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Avalanche: A love story' by Julia Leigh
  • Contents Category Memoir
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    When snow falls, it blurs the line of sight. Sometimes it covers the world with a soft blanket, dampening everything else; sometimes it chills to the marrow ...

  • Book Title Avalanche
  • Book Author Julia Leigh
  • Book Subtitle A love story
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Hamish Hamilton $24.99 pb, 133 pp, 9781926428758

In their very different ways, these three collections attest that contemporary Australian poetry is alive, robust, and engaging.

Puncher and Wattmann have delivered a generous collection of Martin Langford's most recent poems, Ground ($25 pb, 158 pp, 9781922186751). As we have come to expect from Langford, the voice we find here is strong – passionate and intellectual, intense and political. The collection begins with a section titled 'Achronicas' – meaning out of time, or pulling in a different direction to the chronological impetus of story. However, the evocative lyricism of the opening poem 'Dragonfly', where the 'layers of rock to the southwest of Sydney / were tilted and raised in as long as it takes / for a dragonfly's flight to change tack', initiates the collection's movements between the lateral suggestiveness of the lyric and the linear impetus toward narrative. Langford boldly uses poetry to segue in and out of time, challenging us with story while also creating a non-temporal thinking-feeling space.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Ground' by Martin Langford, 'Eating my Grandmother' by Krissy Kneen, and 'Now You Shall Know' by Jennifer Compton
  • Contents Category Poetry

The Lost Swimmer is a novel full of movement, colour, and complex plot threads. Although this is her first novel, Ann Turner’s experience as a significant Australian film director and screenwriter has given her a tight grasp on the unfolding of narrative in sharply realised locations. The Lost Swimmer, an expertly scripted psychological thriller, deftly takes its multiple characters and possibilities through a dizzying array of twists and turns.

The story is told through the first person voice of Bec Wilding, a Professor of Archaeology and Head of her academic department at the fictional Coastal University. Not only is Bec weighed down with the usual constraints and toxicities symptomatic of life in the modern university, but she is becomingly increasingly aware that something else is seriously wrong – in both her professional and personal spheres. Her handsome fellow academic husband, Stephen, is acting erratically, and Bec fears he is having an affair with the Dean of Arts, the ruthless Priscilla, who is simultaneously making her life hell.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'The Lost Swimmer' by Ann Turner
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title The Lost Swimmer
  • Book Author Ann Turner
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Simon & Schuster, $29.99 pb, 346 pp, 9781925030860

Rod Jones’s new novel, The Mothers, works on a number of levels. It provides a social and familial history of life in Melbourne’s working-class suburbs throughout the twentieth century while also telling the often moving stories of individuals connected across generations, usually mothers and children, battling to survive in adverse circumstances.

The novel gives us a rich panoply of characters, places, and issues. The overall effect is rather like that of looking through a box of faded photographs, turning each one in the light, hearing something of their story, bringing lost faces and eras to life. Narrated throughout in a focalising, third-person voice, The Mothers moves between this kind of historical distancing and the light touches of the novelist, working with imagery and nuance to give us insight into these disparate lives.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'The Mothers' by Rod Jones
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title The Mothers
  • Book Author Rod Jones
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 334 pp, 9781922147226
Friday, 31 October 2014 11:33

'Palace of Culture' by Ania Walwicz

Reading the poetry of Ania Walwicz is a little like being drawn into a trance: the density of the prose-like lines; the disorientation of the lack of punctuation; the repetition of certain words, phrases, alliterations. It is not a poetry that can be read in short bursts. Each poem is a commitment to a vision, to a mind-space explicitly shaped by the intensity and demand of Walwicz’s language. Having burst into Australian poetry with her ‘Polish accented’ voice more than thirty years ago, troubling the dominant Anglocentric view of Australian culture, Walwicz’s poetic still works to startle a reader from her comfort zone and to disrupt her expectations about what poetry is and can be.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Palace of Culture' by Ania Walwicz
  • Contents Category Poetry
  • Book Title Palace of Culture
  • Book Author Ania Walwicz
  • Biblio Puncher & Wattmann, $25 pb, 110 pp, 9781922186508
Tuesday, 26 August 2014 11:26

Anne Elvey's new collection of poetry

Kin, Anne Elvey’s first full collection of poetry, brings together a wide range of poems full of light and the acuity of close attention. These poems focus on a world of inter-relationships where tree and water, creature and human, air and breathing, coexist – suggestive of an underlying philo-sophy of humility and acceptance. This is a world which envisions at least the potential of balance and a non-hierarchical sharing, where self and other, the natural world, and the devices and desires of the human might recognise each other.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Kin'
  • Contents Category Poetry
  • Book Title Kin
  • Book Author Anne Elvey
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Five Islands Press, $25 pb, 71 pp, 9780734048974
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 13:42

Tracy Ryan’s new novel

The prolific Tracy Ryan’s new novel, Claustrophobia, is a smart and fast-paced hurtle through lust, obsession, and stultifying patterns of dependency and self-delusion. Written in a low-key, ironic style, Ryan borrows from tropes of crime fiction, in particular the novels of Patricia Highsmith, as well as the double-crossing figure of the femme fatale, to tell the story of Pen, a seemingly ordinary and slightly bored woman from the Perth hills. Pen is married to Derrick, whom she has encouraged to succeed in the world, albeit in modest ways, since the emotional breakdown which preceded their meeting. Ten years on, working part-time at Derrick’s school and unable to have children, Pen’s motivation is running low. Incapable of mustering the energy to clear the house or to complete the renovation which has dragged on for years, Pen’s life is suddenly and explosively changed when she finds a returned letter Derrick had sent to his previous lover – the lover whose rejection had sent him into despair.

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  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Claustrophobia'
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title Claustrophobia
  • Book Author Tracy Ryan
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Transit Lounge, $29.95 pb, 240 pp, 9781921924729
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:33

Jeri Kroll's new collection

In Workshopping the Heart, Jeri Kroll brings us a feast of poetry: selections from her seven previous collections, poems from 2005 to 2012, and excerpts from her forthcoming verse novel, Vanishing Point. From 1982 to the present we are able to witness an evolution towards a mature poetic voice as Kroll negotiates her way through life’s various traverses and the poetic explorations that both describe and reflect upon them.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Rose Lucas reviews 'Workshopping the Heart'
  • Contents Category Poetry
  • Book Title Workshopping the Heart
  • Book Author Jeri Kroll
  • Book Subtitle New and Selected Poems
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Wakefield Press, $24.95 pb, 216 pp, 9781743051283
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