Fiction

In his fiction, Steven Carroll stretches and slows time. He combines this with deliberate over-explaining and repetition, the echoing of memories and ideas, coincidence, and theatricality. A distinctive rhythm results: when reading his work, I often find myself nodding in time to the words. Occasionally – and it happens now and again in his new novel, A New En ...

Susan Midalia reviews 'Pulse Points' by Jennifer Down

Susan Midalia
Friday, 25 August 2017

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 ...

Patrick Modiano’s most recent novel, published just before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2014, is his twenty-sixth to date, though one of a great number to arrive almost all at once in the English-speaking world. In the post-Nobel flurry to translate Modiano into English, the past two years have marked a shift in the author’s status from practically unknown ...

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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