Allen & Unwin

Sea Hearts  by Margo Lanagan

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May 2012, no. 341

Sea Hearts takes place in an intensely wrought setting, both unnerving and thrilling – in propinquity to our world, yet enchantingly different. We journey, with a series of intriguing characters, through brutal landscapes where the wind is ‘swiping like a cat’s paw at a mousehole’.

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For many years I have looked forward to the ongoing exploits of Kerry Greenwood’s sassy heroine Phryne Fisher – the marvellous descriptions of period detail and fashion, the historical background of her ripping yarns – and have wilfully ignored occasional anachronisms of language or behaviour.

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As of writing, Australia has six living ex-prime ministers – not quite a record. Of these, one, of course, is still in parliamentary harness, and may still aspire to the top job. Of the remaining five, all but one have provided us with voluminous accounts of their stewardship. The exception is our twenty-fourth prime minister, Paul Keating (1991–96). Not that he has not promised, or rather threatened, such an account, telling his great rival Bob Hawke, ‘if I get around to writing a book, and I might, I will be telling the truth; the whole truth ... [of] how lucky you were to have me to drive the government during your down years, leaving you with the credit for much of the success’. One can imagine how his publishers must salivate at the prospect.

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Currawalli Street is Christopher Morgan’s second novel for adults. Set in a suburb north of Melbourne, the novel is divided into two parts. It follows the lives of the street’s residents on the brink of World War I, then skips to 1972, when one of the grandsons of the original residents returns from the Vietnam War.

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Comeback by Peter Corris

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February 2012, no. 338

Peter Corris’s Comeback, the thirty-ninth or some such book in his Cliff Hardy series, is yet another to be plucked from the apparently bottomless ocean that is the crime fiction genre. Ageing private detective Hardy – as adept with his fists as he is tactful with the ladies – skulks around a Sydney crammed with scabrous cops, fat-cat entrepreneurs, hired muscle, slinky prostitutes, and myriad other shady types. Misogyny at times bubbles uncomfortably close to the surface, there is no ailment physical or emotional that cannot be alleviated by alcohol, and the outcome conceals an Ian McEwan-ish twist so inevitable that it ultimately manifests as anything but.

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In the past, a twenty-something could exemplify le dernier cri without having to dispense with his bicycle gears, reflectors, and brakes. Worry not. An infinitely cooler trend – less prone to vehicular mishap – is doubtless on its way to erase fixed-gear bikes, or ‘fixies’, from the palimpsest that is sub-cultural fashion. HipsterMattic, blogger Matt Granfield’s amusing début memoir, records his entrée into the fickle world of sartorial politics, organic produce, and National Bike Polo Championships.

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Early in Charlotte Wood’s previous novel The Children (2007), one of Stephen Connolly’s sisters describes him as lost; she says he carries within him ‘a bedrock of resentment … never articulated and never resolved, but which has formed the foundation for his every conversation, every glance from his guarded eyes’. Readers may disagree with this harsh assessment as they read Wood’s new novel, Animal People, in which Stephen is the primary focus – this time more anxious than resentful. He is an inherently difficult character, but not a bad man. Wood unpacks him – sometimes ruthlessly – to reveal a person bewildered by the demands of all kinds of relationships.

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Many Australians are hungry for answers to Indigenous disadvantage. In recent years, anthropologists have been among those who have proposed solutions. This latest offering is from Diane Austin-Broos, professor emerita at the University of Sydney and long-time ethnographer of the ...

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This bold book, with its lucid prose and vivid illustrations, will be discussed for years to come. It is not original in the narrow sense of the word, but it takes an important idea to new heights because of the author’s persistence and skill. Bill Gammage, an oldish and experienced historian of rural background ...

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Beatrice May Ross (Bee) is a list-maker, an amateur detective, a taxidermy assistant, and a regular teenage girl. She falls in love, fights with her best friend, and hates her mother’s new boyfriend, like plenty of adolescents. But she does so while stitching together a dead koala and trying to solve the ever-developing mystery surrounding the death of her mentor.

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