Anna MacDonald

To survey concurrent works of art is to take the temperature of a particular time, in a particular place. And the temperature of the time and place in these four début Australian novels? It is searching for a sense of belonging, and, at least in part, it’s coming out of western Sydney in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla riots. All four novels are set in New South Wales, three of them in suburban Sydney. Each is concerned with who is entitled to land and the stories we tell while making ourselves at home in the world, sometimes at the expense of others.

... (read more)

Rivers seem to be something of a preoccupation for Melbourne writer Anna MacDonald. They feature prominently in her 2019 essay collection, Between the Word and the World, and are both setting and centrepiece to her first novel, A Jealous Tide.

... (read more)

Besides a capacity to write well, critics need to be well-informed. I sometimes get exasperated by reviewers without sufficient expertise in the topics they are considering. On the other hand, academic pedantry can also be off-putting, particularly when couched in a clunky style. In general, I’ve found the most memorable pieces to be those which say something about the reviewer as well as the author under review, like portraits which work through a kind of double vision, offering insights into the painter as well as the sitter. There was a very good essay on Les Murray by J.M. Coetzee in the New York Review of Books a few years ago which had this double-edged quality.

... (read more)

In her essay On Beverley Farmer, Josephine Rowe recounts a 2013 visit to Melbourne’s Heide Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s Late Works. Among the drawings and sculptures on display was The Waiting Hours, described by Rowe as ‘a series of twelve small oceanscapes’ each of which shifts fluidly, a ‘darkening whorl around the small white axis of a singular source of light shrunk to a pinhole … at once a pivot point and a vanishing point’. The effect on Rowe of this encounter was ‘one of powerful undercurrent. I felt not much and then, abruptly, disconsolate. Swept out of depth. A plunge, a plummet: the inrush towards that oceanic sense of recognition experienced most commonly in dreams, but sometimes spilling over into waking life – encounters in art and music, in nature or, more rarely, in meeting (as though hello, again).’

... (read more)

Honeybee, Craig Silvey’s highly anticipated new novel, his first since Jasper Jones (2009), chronicles the coming of age of fourteen-year-old transgender narrator Sam Watson, who was assigned male at birth. This is a story of desperate loneliness and fear, of neglect, family violence, betrayal, and self-disgust. But it is also one of love and solidarity, a celebration of the kindness of strangers who become family and friends.

... (read more)

Favel Parrett’s tender new novel, There Was Still Love, explores what it means to make a home and how a person might be free in a world ruptured by political as well as personal upheavals. Moving backwards and forwards in time (from 1981 to 1938) across vast distances – from Prague to Melbourne, via London – between first- and third-person narrators, past and present tense, Parrett beautifully captures one family’s complicated twentieth-century inheritance.

... (read more)

Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

by
October 2018, no. 405

Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s novel Beautiful Revolutionary chronicles the decade leading up to the Jonestown massacre in Guyana when Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple, orchestrated the ‘revolutionary suicide’ and murder of more than 900 members of his congregation ...

... (read more)

This speculative novel is of the Zeitgeist. S.A. Jones imagines a civilisation of women – the Vaik – committed to ‘Work. History. Sex. Justice.’ Although they live apart, in ‘The Fortress’, there is a history of exchange between the Vaik and the outside world. All women are entitled to Vaik justice if they have been violated and ...

... (read more)

Set in England during the Big Freeze of 1962–63 – the coldest winter in nearly 300 years – Robert Lukins’s first novel tells the story of Radford, who is sent to live at Goodwin Manor, ‘a place for boys who have been found by trouble’. The Manor is overseen by Teddy, a charismatic depressive, who resists ...

... (read more)

A Scandal in Bohemia: The life and death of Mollie Dean is Gideon Haigh’s engrossing account of the circumstances surrounding the unsolved 1930 murder in Elwood of primary school teacher, aspiring journalist, and bohemian, Mollie Dean. Less true crime journalism than an interrogation of the genre, Haigh’s ...

... (read more)
Page 1 of 2