A good novel can use personal drama to humanise history. A small story becomes powerful because of the ideas it represents, and the political, removed from the realm of theory and made concrete, has a tangible impact that can foster empathy and understanding. When done poorly, as it is here, the reverse occurs and the large concepts are reduced, lessened into trivia ... More
From the opening page of this her second collection of stories, Susan Midalia propels her uncertain and wavering female character into an alien environment. Enter the concrete world of Moscow airport, its people who think you are simple if you smile at them, its ‘prowling men straight out of gangster movies’, tension as the blank, unblinking woman at immigration ... More
A young man wakes up in an unfamiliar world, with almost no knowledge of his previous life. He remembers committing suicide, but doesn’t remember why. This isn’t heaven or hell, though: as Aden explores his new surroundings, he soon realises that he has ended up in the fictional world created by his grandfather, an aspiring but unpublished author of epic fantasy ... More
he Darkest Little Room, Patrick Holland’s latest novel, looks at sexual slavery and obsession in South-East Asia. The protagonist is Joseph, an Australian reporter travelling in Vietnam. Intent on finding a beautiful woman glimpsed briefly, he receives word that she may be working in a brothel known as ‘the darkest little room’. In pursuing ... More
Ashley Sievwright’s second novel has several of the hallmarks of his Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-nominated début novel, The Shallow End (2008). At the heart of each is a mystery that slowly unfolds while never overwhelming the story. It is not the dénouement in either book that is important, but the effect that gradual revelations have on the main chara ... More
David Foster’s earlier Dog Rock novels came out of his experience as a Bundanoon postman in the 1980s. A recent brief return to his old run has provided irresistible material for a further comic foray into rural life. Dog Rock: A Postal Pastoral (1985) and The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover (1988)observed the changes in a country village under th ... More
In his Introduction to The Seaglass Spiral, Finlay Lloyd reveals that an earlier version of this novel won an award for ‘best rejected manuscript’. It is a curiously back-handed compliment for a publisher to pay his author, and it is typical of an Introduction that seems cautious, even diffident, about its product.... More
The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer is a novel that manages to be absolutely itself, with a wholly idiosyncratic voice, while at the same time acting as a veritable echo chamber of earlier writers. The first page, with its lofty insistence about what ‘should not surprise the world’ in the behaviour of a young woman with the surname Ward, immediately ... More
In the opening pages of The Casual Vacancy, a man named Barry Fairbrother collapses and dies in the car park of the Pagford Golf Club. For the next seven chapters, news of his premature demise spreads through the small English town. Reactions vary.
‘Fairbrother’s dead? … Good God … He wasn’t much past forty was he?’
‘Gavin ... More
Midnight Empire, the second novel by Canberra author Andrew Croome, depicts political intrigue and acts of violence that play out against the backdrop of the so-called ‘war on terror’.
The protagonist is Daniel Carter, a young Australian computer programmer who arrives in Las Vegas for business purposes. Daniel develops a taste for cards and has a ... More