Kate Holden

Landholders are cutting, crushing, scraping, spraying, bulldozing, and burning native woodlands and grasslands. Displaced koalas are shot, their bodies dumped in smouldering stacks. Land values double. In 2012, the Turnbull family of Croppa Creek, in north-west New South Wales, bought a property knowing that clearing would be prohibited. Under the direction of patriarch Ian Turnbull, they started clearing before the contracts were signed. They cleared when they were prosecuted, they cleared the areas ordered to be remediated, they cleared as they awaited decision on a second set of charges. They were clearing on the day Turnbull shot and killed government compliance officer Glen Turner. Against this turmoil, Kate Holden forges a sanctuary for contemplation in The Winter Road, which raises questions about our relationships and responsibilities on this continent.

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'That was the summer ...' begins Josephine Rowe's début novel, A Loving, Faithful Animal, and with this classic overture she evokes that most common of literary tropes, the summer in adolescence that changes everything. But this is the summer, she continues, when a sperm whale washes up dead at Mount Martha, and all the best cartoons go off the air, replac ...

Books of the Year is always one our most popular features. Find out what our 41 contributors liked most this year – and why.

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In Linda Jaivins’ new novel, the protagonist is a Jaivinesque Australian expat shivering in a Beijing butong room. Kate Holden follows the twists and turns of The Empress Lover, with certain reservations. ... (read more)

Memoir, it seems, is proliferating ever more furiously in Australia, filling bookshelves and review pages like bacteria in still water. We are insatiable in our appetite to read and write memoir, to feel the ‘real’. As a memoirist myself, I am all too aware of my hypocrisy in feeling uneasy about this rage for introspection. But memoir is most successful when it portrays an extraordinary individual; or gives witness to an important experience (accounts of Holocaust survivors, say); or when the personal resonates with the universal, and one person’s experience becomes a prism for that of many. A memoir that hesitates to claim such reader-oriented ratifications risks being a tedious assembly of anecdotes, a public catharsis, or mere narcissism.

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For a book featuring a lot of sex, The Romantic – whose title could be ironic, acerbic, or hopeful – disgust is not the most obvious predominant motif readers might expect. Yet it punctuates the text, cutting the protagonist, Kate, as she travels through Italy with a stack of Romantic poetry and a desire for freedom – to be ‘a ghost’. Il buon tempo verrà: the good time is coming, she records in her notebook, borrowing words that Shelley had inscribed on a ring. Future tense: Il buon tempo is not part of her present.

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Milan Zorec, protagonist of I Hate Martin Amis Et Al., walks into the London office of a literary agency that has rejected his novel and terrorises the agent before going to jail, where he decides to travel to besieged Sarajevo in order to vent his spleen by assassinating innocent civilians. In the light of this, and for other reasons, a reviewer of this disquieting, artful novel must ...

The Inconvenient Child by Sharyn Killens and Lindsay Lewis

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September 2010, no. 324

Sharyn Killens is no stranger to the spotlight. After a long career as an entertainer, she is used to appearing in make-up and gown, pouring out a song. She is also a veteran of interviews and media stories, with a different song: that of her own extraordinary life. In The Inconvenient Child, written with her friend Lindsay Lewis, Killens (known on the stage as Sharyn Crystal) relates a wrenching and finally satisfying story of abject misery and triumphant emotion. In the paradigm of classic Australian memoir, her tale needs no bells and whistles to ring true. It is a transfixing performance.

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Melbourne woman Kate Holden’s memoir of being a heroin user and of working as a prostitute to fund her habit opens with a quote from Virgil: ‘To descend into hell is easy. But to return – what work, what a labour it is!’ The quote is at odds with the life story Holden constructs in this brave, explicit, and extremely well-written book ...

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