Fiction

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Liam Davidson reviews 'Movie Dreams' by Rosie Scott

Liam Davidson
Monday, 23 December 2019

There’s a line in the film Out of the Past: ‘I think I’m in a frame, I’m going in there to look for the picture.’ Reading this book is a bit like that. Not that Scott necessarily writes with one eye on the film rights (though Movie Dreams may well translate effectively to film), but because the book is largely an exploration of the influence of popular movies on the imaginative life – especially the imaginative life of a troubled adolescent who once had film school aspirations.

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More than anything else, The Secret of Hanging Rock is an exercise in marketing strategies and packaging. The real question, what happened to the girls, is in the midst of this finally of little importance, although it could have been very important. Indeed, the final, previously unpublished chapter of Picnic at Hanging Rock is only one of four pieces of writing in the publishers’ package, each of which tries to be as important as the next.

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Laurie Clancy reviews 'Harland’s Half Acre' by David Malouf

Laurie Clancy
Friday, 20 December 2019

Apart from the theme of growth and adolescence (with which it often merges), perhaps the most common preoccupation of Australian novelists is the progress of a young man (usually) or woman towards artistic achievement and fulfilment. Frequently the field of art is pictorial. Patrick White’s The Vivisector, Thea Astley’s The Acolyte, Tony Morphett’s Thorskeld, and Barbara Hanrahan’s The Scent of Eucalyptus and Kewpie Doll, to name only those, all deal in some form or other with a painter of either actual or potential genius. It is, of course, one of the classic themes of twentieth-century fiction everywhere, but its pervasiveness among our writers suggests a self­conscious need to articulate the Australian experience and identity. Who better than the great artist to do it?

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The time is always four o’clock in the morning when Night Sister M. Shady (unregistered) is on duty at The Hospital of St Christopher and St Jude. The punctual milkman is swearing as he falls on the broken step, the elderly patients are having a water fight or an altercation or a game of cards. Whatever may or may not be going on, Mrs Shady will record with confidence ‘nothing abnormal to report’.

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Veronica Brady reviews 'Moonlite' by David Foster

Veronica Brady
Friday, 20 December 2019

I’ve always had a terror of one day having to explain a joke. And now it’s happened. Moonlite is one of the jokiest books since Such Is Life which in its turn reminds us of the even jokier Tristram Shandy and behind that no less than Rabelais himself. The best way to talk about Moonlite, then, is perhaps to say that it is bouncing, bewildering, wilful and – very occasionally – boring, just as these books are.

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David English reviews 'Minimum of Two' by Tim Winton

David English
Friday, 20 December 2019

A little puce head slipped out, followed by a rush of blood and water. Jerra saw it splash onto the gynaecologist’s white boots. Across Rachel’s chest the little body lay tethered for a moment while smocks and masks pressed hard up against Rachel’s wound. He saw a needle sink in. Someone cut the cord. Blood, grey smears of vernix. The child’s eyes were open. Jerra felt them upon him. From the little gaping mouth, pink froth issued. They snatched him up.

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There nine stories in this volume are rich in people, satire, compassion, and humour. And set like ambushes, unexpected and surprising, are several cameos. It is a captivating, ensnaring book, but to call it a book of short stories would be so inadequate as to be misleading. There is an uncommon coherence, slender but powerful enough to raise it above that easy classification.

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Gerald Murnane reviews 'Holden's Performance' by Murray Bail

Gerald Murnane
Friday, 20 December 2019

As I write these words, I have just read the first forty-five pages of Murray Bail’s novel. Those pages are mostly about the Shadbolt family of Adelaide.

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Terri-ann White reviews 'The Golden Dress' by Marion Halligan

Terri-ann White
Friday, 20 December 2019

Marion Halligan’s new novel has as its centrepiece, shiny and assertive, flagged by its title, a dress made with loving care but, nonetheless, improvised just so that the fabric will go far enough. A dress that Molly Pellerin wears to a party at the laundry where she works, an event that becomes a defining moment in her life, the dress a legacy, offering an image of Molly as dazzling, beautiful, and loved. The photograph sustains her memory, potently, permanently.

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Veronica Brady reviews 'The Sitters' by Alex Miller

Alex Miller
Friday, 20 December 2019

Intimacy, someone has said, is ultimately unintelligible. Yet this novel suggests that intimacy, to the self and to others, may well be all we have. Miller’s three previous novels move in a similar direction. But in them there was a good deal still of the world of the likeness, of the external world as it seems to be. The Sitters, however, is about drawing a portrait of an ‘art of misrepresentation’, which interrupts our historical consciousness and unmasks the pretentions of rationality, taking us out into the dark beyond common sense, touching something else beyond words.

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