Astrid Edwards

What a title, and what a début novel. Jessie Tu brings us Jena Lin, a twenty-two-year-old Asian Australian sex addict who was once a violin prodigy fêted around the world. She is a character to remember. The reader knows this from the beginning, and the compelling narrative tension is driven by the slow revelation of an event that occurred seven years before the novel begins.

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Mammoth by Chris Flynn

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May 2020, no. 421

Everything about Chris Flynn’s Mammoth – the characters, plot, and structure – should not work. But it does, and beautifully so. Mammoth is narrated by the fossilised remains of a 13,354-year-old extinct American Mammoth (Mammut americanum), who likes to be addressed as Mammut. On 24 March 2007, the eve of his sale at the Natural History Auction in New York, Mammut finds himself in a room with Tyrannosaurus bataar (who prefers to be called T.bat).

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Below Deck by Sophie Hardcastle

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April 2020, no. 420

Below Deck is a stunning literary novel. This is a poetic work that can be read aloud just as easily as it can be read in silence. Sophie Hardcastle wrote Below Deck in 2018 when she was a Provost’s Scholar in English Literature at Worcester College at the University of Oxford. As she reveals in the acknowledgments, she read a draft aloud to her professor, an experience that no doubt consolidated the flow of her prose.

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Zadie Smith’s commanding collection Grand Union puts our contemporary lives and mores under the microscope. She sets her sights on the insanity (and inanity) of social media, the internet, and ‘call-out culture’, but leaves room to consider the tensions inherent in post-colonial nations, including race, gender, and sexuality.

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Lina. Maggie. Sloane. These are the women – real women, albeit with their names changed – in whose intimate lives Lisa Taddeo invested eight years of her own. She spoke to these women daily, uprooting herself to chronicle and share their worlds. Taddeo’s goal was to reveal the hidden desires and erotic longings of women ...

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Memoirs of illness are tricky. The raw material is often compelling: dramatic symptoms, embarrassing public moments, and unavoidable relationship pressures. The challenge is to share that raw material in a new way. Not every memoir needs to turn on the conceit that illness is an obstacle that must be overcome ...

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To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser

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Clementine Ford’s Boys Will Be Boys is a timely contribution to feminist literature. Her central point is clear and confronting, and it represents something of a challenge. Ford writes, ‘everyone’s afraid that their daughters might be hurt. No one seems to be scared that their sons might be the ones to do it ...

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Dunera Lives: Volume 1: A visual history by Ken Inglis, Seumas Spark, and Jay Winter with Carol Bunyan

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September 2018, no. 404

Dunera Lives: A visual history is a compelling examination of the experiences of Britain’s enemy aliens within Australia’s detention centres in World War II. This evocative visual narrative of primary sources, compiled by the late Ken Inglis with Seumas Spark and Jay Winter, assisted by Carol Bunyan ...

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