Fiction

Fiona Wright reviews 'Common People' by Tony Birch

Fiona Wright
Thursday, 24 August 2017

The characters who populate Tony Birch’s Common People are striking not so much because they are the ordinary people, the commonplace or everyday people that the title would suggest – they are, mostly, people living in or with extremity and trauma – but because the thing that unites them in these stories are discoveries of small moments of common huma ...

James Ley reviews 'The Choke' by Sofie Laguna

James Ley
Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Choke is full of holes. I mean that literally, which is also to say (since we are talking about a novel) symbolically. It contains any number of insinuating references to wounds, ditches, gaps, and voids. The primary implication of these can be grasped if one recalls that ‘nothing’ was Elizabethan slang for female genitalia. Sofie Laguna’s narrato ...

Alan Bennett once wrote of Franz Kafka: ‘One is nervous about presuming even to write his name, wanting to beg pardon for doing so, if only because Kafka was so reluctant to write his name himself.’ Even so, Bennett gave us Kafka’s Dick (1986), which – alongside a sputtering stream of demythologising critical interventions into Kafka studies ...

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Miriam Cosic reviews 'On the Java Ridge' by Jock Serong

Miriam Cosic
Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A rich vein of political writing runs through Australian fiction. From the early days of socialist realism, through the anti-colonialism of both black and white writers, to tough explorations of identity politics today, we have struggled with concepts of justice and equality since Federation ...

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Tony Hughes-d’Aeth reviews 'Taboo' by Kim Scott

Tony Hughes-d'Aeth
Tuesday, 25 July 2017

When a new novel from Kim Scott appears, one feels compelled to talk not only about it as a work of fiction by a leading Australian writer, but also about its cultural significance. In this sense a Kim Scott novel is an event, and Taboo does not disappoint ...

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Robert Dessaix reviews 'House of Names' by Colm Tóibín

Robert Dessaix
Tuesday, 25 July 2017

House of Names is a grim book, as any retelling of Aeschylus’s Oresteia is bound to be. It is a tale to harrow up your soul, to make your two eyes start from their spheres – or at least, it is until ten pages before the end, when Elektra cracks the book’s first joke and the tone becomes a touch mellower.

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The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ L.P. Hartley’s now proverbial observation at the start of The Go-Between (1953) functions as a statement of fact and a warning. The writer who wishes to traverse the terrain between a nation’s present and its past must navigate a minefield – linguistic, cultural, and historical. Therefore, when you attempt to navigate not only across time but across nations ...

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Piri Eddy reviews 'Closing Down' by Sally Abbott

Piri Eddy
Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Closing Down is about survival and the rituals that allow it; those that keep the fraying edges of life and society together, that stop a relationship disintegrating, that stave off insanity. In her début novel – which won the inaugural Richell Prize for Emerging Writers – Susan Abbott asks: how do you survive when your world is breaking into pieces?

Sara Dowse is a fine observer of politics and power. Her new novel, As the Lonely Fly, traverses three continents over fifty years and contains a multitude of characters, but its focus is honed in on three sisters, of sorts. While Chekhov’s play of that name is typified by waiting, Dowse’s story is of continuous flux and upheaval. Clara-later-Chava, Man ...

Naama Grey-Smith reviews 'Gravity Well' by Melanie Joosten

Naama Grey-Smith
Monday, 29 May 2017

Gravity Well opens with Carl Sagan’s famous ‘mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’ quote, suggesting themes of astronomy, loneliness, and humanity’s cosmic insignificance. Though I was immediately smitten with the cover design (a nebula-coloured orb, its top and bottom halves depicting mirrored but not identical female silhouettes amid a sea of cosmi ...

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