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Jennifer Down

Australian novelist and short story writer Jennifer Down has been rightly acclaimed, with an impressive list of awards to her name, including the Jolley Prize in 2014. Her new novel, Bodies of Light, is both much more ambitious in scope than her first and an altogether more harrowing read. Spanning the years from 1975 to 2018, and traversing many different locations in Australia, New Zealand, and America, the novel confronts us with child sexual abuse, a suicide attempt, a series of fractured relationships, allegations of infanticide, recurring social alienation, and a serious drug addiction. But it is also, and mercifully, a story of a woman’s remarkable resilience, the possibility of human kindness, and the necessity of hope. Bodies of Light thus has affinities with the feminist Bildungsroman popularised in the 1960s and 1970s; a genre that championed a belief in productive self-fashioning by women in the face of systemic misogynistic oppression.

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Barbara Kingsolver, praising the skill required to write a memorable short story, described the form as entailing ‘the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces’. Her description certainly applies to Jennifer Down’s wonderful début collection, Pulse Points. Using the typical strategies of suggestion, ambiguity, and inconclusivene ...

Jennifer Down's first novel, Our Magic Hour, is notable for its stylistic individuality. The novel's opening is disorientating at first: Audrey wears a shirt whose 'sleeves swallowed her hands'; spaghetti bolognese 'spatters' on a stove; a football match 'bellows' from a television. This is an object-rich terrain, in which the details provide cues to interp ...

The Sleepers Almanac X edited by Zoe Dattner and Louise Swinn

December 2015, no. 377

In more than ten years on the scene, Sleepers has positioned itself as both champion of the small press sector – the natural home of the short story – and a canny player in the broader publishing landscape; its Almanac has been a reliable litmus test for the direction of new Australian writing.

In this instalment, several absurdist and satirical works are stacked into the c ...

I phoned my father when I arrived.

He said ‘Your mum’s just round at Aunty El’s’ in such a way that I knew she wasn’t; that she’d left the room with her hand to her mouth when he’d first said hullo, love, and I felt so sorry for us all.

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