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Naama Amram reviews 'Useful' by Debra Oswald

Naama Grey-Smith
Friday, 27 March 2015

What makes a person useful? What gives them worth and value in the world? And who gets to decide? These are some of the questions Debra Oswald explores in Useful, a novel set in suburban Sydney.

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‘My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter.’ With those opening words in The Sportswriter (1986), Richard Ford introduced one of American literature’s more unlikely protagonists. In his fictional début, Bascombe is a former short story writer-turned-journalist, aged in his thirties, navigating suburban life in Haddam, New Jersey, after the death o ...

Catriona Menzies-Pike reviews 'The Ash Burner' by Kári Gíslason

Catriona Menzies-Pike
Thursday, 26 March 2015

Midway through Kári Gíslason’s début novel, The Ash Burner, Ted, his dreamy, curious narrator, watches Anthony paint Claire. As she strikes angular poses for him, Ted reflects on how he would paint her: ‘I would have waited for the moments when she relaxed that pose and when her outline, the shape of her waist, was allowed to stand uncorrected by art o ...

Judith Armstrong reviews 'Goodbye Sweetheart' by Marion Halligan

Judith Armstrong
Thursday, 26 March 2015

Marion Halligan is a prolific writer, and this is not the first time I have reviewed one of her books. Once, when she branched out into the genre of lightweight crime – The Apricot Colonel (2006) and Murder on the Apricot Coast (2008) – I commented on the problem faced by Cassandra, the novel’s narrator. An editor-turned-author, she turns out boo ...

Doug Wallen reviews 'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro

Doug Wallen
Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Fitting for a novel about a patient quest, we only fully grasp Kazuo Ishiguro’s precise intentions with The Buried Giant at the end of its final page. Until then, the reader primarily follows the elderly married couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they journey through a memory-dulling fog that hangs heavily over the land. The presence of such magical elements, inc ...

Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'A Madras Miasma' by Brian Stoddart

Francesca Sasnaitis
Monday, 02 March 2015

Brian Stoddart is a scholar and expert in the history of modern India, with sixteen works of non-fiction to his credit. His first novel, A Madras Miasma, is set soon after World War I. The body of an Englishwoman is found with her head buried in the rancid mud of the Buckingham Canal, behind Chepak Palace. Superintendent Christian Jolyon Brenton Le Fanu, head ...

Two aggrieved Islamic men follow a foreign cause and wage jihad on their fellow Australians. Shouting Allahu akbar, they stage an ambush, raise a home-made flag and open fire on hundreds of men, women and children. They escape and die in a final shoot-out. They leave four dead and seven wounded.

It could be ripped from today’s headlines – except i ...

It is 1932 and as the SS Mokambo steams into Sydney Harbour with Archie Meek on board, the Australian Museum’s young anthropologist is about to discover that he has committed a terrible faux pas. After five years away in the Venus islands studying the customs and culture of its head-hunting inhabitants, Meek is eager to be reunited with Beatrice Goodenough, ...

Amy Baillieu reviews 'Clade' by James Bradley

Amy Baillieu
Thursday, 26 February 2015

Set in an unsettlingly convincing near future, James Bradley’s fourth novel, Clade, opens with climate scientist Adam Leith walking along an Antarctic coastline reflecting on the state of the world and on his relationship with his partner, Ellie. After six years together, their relationship is under pressure as Ellie undergoes fertility treatment. Adam is a ...

Morag Fraser reviews 'Can't and Won't' by Lydia Davis

Morag Fraser
Thursday, 26 February 2015

Reading Lydia Davis’s stories is akin to getting new glasses – or glasses for the first time. Suddenly the world shifts into sharp, bright focus. Disturbing. Disorienting. What you see, or understand, won’t necessarily gladden your heart. It may pique it, but you may not want to be brought so close to life, to the poignancy of it all. Not at first, anyway.

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