Fiction

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It is a pleasure to read a collection of short fiction in which every story is a work of elegant and meticulous craft. Catherine Cole has brought her significant observational and lyrical skills as a poet, novelist, and memoirist to bear on these stories, and the narratives unfold with cool, restrained style. However, this ...

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Anna MacDonald reviews 'Her' by Garry Disher

Anna MacDonald
Friday, 22 December 2017

In this dark historical novel, Garry Disher imagines a world in which small girls are sold by their desperate families and enslaved to men such as the brutal ‘scrap man’ – ‘a schemer, a plotter, a trickster’ in whom ‘nothing ... rang true except rage and self-pity’ and who profits from the labour of womenfolk known as Wife, Big Girl ...

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Lisa Bennett reviews 'The Art of Navigation' by Rose Michael

Lisa Bennett
Thursday, 21 December 2017

Conceptually, The Art of Navigation is as intriguing as it is ambitious. The narrative is part near-future time travel, part historical drama, part nostalgic Australian Gothic – and all slipstream fiction. The novel braids, unbraids, and rebraids three main threads of time and place: suburban Melbourne in 1987; the royal courts ...

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Given that the unnamed narrator–protagonist of Mariana Dimópulos’s All My Goodbyes (Cada despedida) has difficulty putting together and understanding her own fractured, nomadic life, it is perhaps not surprising that we readers have to call on all of our faculties to reconstruct her narrative – but it is well worth the effort ...

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In her Introduction to The Best Australian Stories 2017, Maxine Beneba Clarke describes how the best short fiction leaves readers with ‘a haunting: a deep shifting of self, precipitated by impossibly few words’. Many of the stories here achieve this, inserting an image or idea into the reader’s mind and leaving it there to worry ...

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Lisa Gorton reviews 'Dunbar' by Edward St Aubyn

Lisa Gorton
Wednesday, 20 December 2017

‘Leir the sonne of Baldud, was admitted ruler over the Britaines, in the year of the world 3105’ (Holinshed’s Chronicles, 1577). Shakespeare’s play King Lear is set in the long ago, the age of ballads and folktales. ‘Amongst those things that nature gave ...’ goes the ballad ...

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Brenda Niall reviews 'Mrs Osmond' by John Banville

Brenda Niall
Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The last page of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady (1881) leaves its heroine, Isabel Osmond, with an ambiguous choice. To go back into the cage of her wretched marriage might be an exercise of will for duty’s sake, or an evasion, based on fear. Readers have been disputing Isabel’s motives ever since her creator so ...

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Beejay Silcox reviews 'Border Districts' by Gerald Murnane

Beejay Silcox
Friday, 24 November 2017

There is a whiff of mythology about Gerald Murnane. He is quietly infamous for who he isn’t: for the things he’s never done (travel by aeroplane); the things he’ll never do (live outside of Victoria, wear sunglasses); the things he’ll never do again (watch movies or a Shakespeare play); the books he won’t read (contemporary fiction); the books he won’t write ...

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Barry Reynolds reviews 'Bad to Worse' by Robert Edeson

Barry Reynolds
Friday, 24 November 2017

You can’t help but smile while reading Robert Edeson’s Bad to Worse, his second book featuring Richard Worse, polymath, conversationalist, fighter, and resident of Perth. The mirth may have something to do with the Dickensian names Edeson uses throughout – not just Worse, but an aeronautics engineer called Walter Reckles, the Norwegian–British logician ...

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Fiona Wright reviews 'Drawing Sybylla' by Odette Kelada

Fiona Wright
Friday, 24 November 2017

Drawing Sybylla is a wonderfully unusual book, narrated in parts by a modern-day Sybil – one of those ‘mad mouthpieces’ of prophesy and poetry from Ancient Greece. This Sybil springs to life from an elaborate doodle in a notebook, drawn by a Sydney Writers’ Festival panelist who is listening to another writer on her panel. This writer is describing to ...

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