Jennifer Mills

The latest in a new crop of outback gothic fiction, Josh Kemp’s début has everything readers have come to expect from the genre. There’s a messed-up bloke with a past. There’s a lost girl, ten years old and traumatised. There’s plenty of guilt and shame, damaged landscapes, haunted houses, injecting drug use, altered states, brutal acts of violence, and of course, there is the road.

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Australiana opens with a break-in. Lifting away a flyscreen, strangers climb into a man’s house, help themselves to his biscuits. The crime doesn’t feel important – it’s the fourth in a month, we’re told – but the intrusion does. It evokes the entanglements of small towns, the way in which lives intersect, physical proximity breaking down the barriers of class and culture and personal choice that can divide urban populations into subcultures. As a declaration of intent, the image of trespass is pretty clear: there is no real privacy in this town, and as readers we’re about to gain access.

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Jennifer Mills is the author of the novels The Airways (Picador, 2021), Dyschronia (Picador, 2018), Gone (UQP, 2011), and The Diamond Anchor (UQP, 2009) and a collection of short stories, The Rest Is Weight (UQP, 2012).

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There is something, or rather someone, in the air in Jennifer Mills’s dark fourth novel. The Airways represents another leap towards the uncanny for Mills, whose previous book, the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Dyschronia (2018), was already a departure from the more traditionally realist modes of her earlier novels, The Diamond Anchor (2009) and Gone (2011), and short story collection, The Rest Is Weight (2012).

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Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills

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March 2018, no. 399

Recent years have seen the literary novel begin to mutate, its boundaries and subject matter evolving in new and sometimes surprising directions as it attempts to accommodate the increasing weirdness of the world we inhabit ...

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The Rest is Weight by Jennifer Mills & Tarcutta Wake by Josephine Rowe

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November 2012, no. 346

The Rest is Weight, by Jennifer Mills, is a restless collection of short stories. Its settings include Russia, remote parts of Australia, Mexico, and China. The stories are densely packed; there are no ‘snapshots’ or ‘sketches’, only well-made narratives populated by plausible, complicated characters. Nor is there any decorative writing; no showy turns of phrase, only tough, efficient prose, always working in service of a narrative. Style is subordinate to substance for Mills, and the result is a book that will draw in new readers, as well as pleasing those who have already enjoyed her previous two novels.

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Gone by Jennifer Mills

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April 2011, no. 330

Writing in the Guardian late last year, Philip Pullman said this of what he regards as the dominant style in contemporary fiction: ‘What I dislike about the present-tense narrative is...

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The Diamond Anchor by Jennifer Mills & The China Garden by Kristina Olsson

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June 2009, no. 312

It is a common assumption that nothing much happens in small country towns; that they are insular places where people live their entire lives, unchallenged by the outside world. But I never found the towns I lived in to be stagnant: conservative and sometimes small-minded, yes, but never uniformly dull. Individuals and families come and go; people run away or arrive, seeking refuge; people return after years of absence to settle down again.

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