Fiction

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Ceridwen Dovey's 'Only the Animals'

Sam Cadman
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

One of the animal narrators in Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals, a dolphin named Sprout who is writing to Sylvia Plath, quotes Nobel Prize-winner Elias Canetti: ‘whenever you observe an animal closely, you feel as if a human being sitting inside were making fun of you.’ The ten animal souls whose thematically interwoven stories Dovey recounts do not si ...

Emilo Bitto's 'The Strays'

James Tierney
Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Lily, the cautious girl at the heart of Emily Bitto’s début novel, The Strays, is befriended on the first day of school by Eva, the daughter of artists Evan and Helena Trentham. Lily’s deep connection with her ‘leg sister’ (so called because their limbs often become entangled in sleep) places her on the periphery of a colony of unconventional artists ...

Patrick Holland reviews 'Alfonso' by Felix Calvino

Patrick Holland
Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Félix Calvino’s short novel tells the story of a young man who moves to Australia to escape Franco’s Spain. The strange thing about the book (given that its author has spent so long in Australia) is how unlike contemporary Australian literature it is. David Malouf has championed Calvino, but then there has always been something essentially Mediterranean ...

Siri Hustvedt's 'The Blazing World'

Doug Wallen
Monday, 28 April 2014

A quote from Oscar Wilde in Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World crystallises the novel’s central study of adopted guises: ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.’ The book’s protagonist, underappreciated New York artist Harriet Burden, dons a trio of masks when she puts forward her art as ...

Elizabeth Harrower's final novel

Bernadette Brennan
Sunday, 27 April 2014

Almost 50 years after she wrote it (and withdrew it from publication), Elizabeth Harrower’s last novel, ‘In Certain Circles’, is finally published.

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‘Fields of Vision’, the first story of Abbas El-Zein’s collection, introduces us to a world in which tragedy is swift and often arbitrary, and if not arbitrary, at least stems from motivations so obscure as to appear so. The sniper protagonist of this story, perched atop his Beirut rooftop, picks off citizens at random, revelling in his having ‘a place in th ...

Sara Savage reviews 'The Train to Paris'

Sara Savage
Friday, 28 March 2014

Lawrence Williams is a twenty-year-old New Zealander about to commence studying art history at the Sorbonne. Stranded at a deserted train station in the French town of Hendaye after a less-than-perfect holiday in Madrid with his girlfriend, he is suddenly arrested by the sight of a woman twice his age who saunters past him in a white leopard-print dress. A few pages ...

Jo Riccioni's 'The Italians at Cleat's Corner Store

Alex Cothren
Thursday, 27 March 2014

During World War II, billeted Axis POWs were deemed such a threat to the morals of British women that theBritish government enacted legislation proscribing amorous fraternisation. Although these laws were rescinded in the conflict’s aftermath, Jo Riccioni’s début novel demonstrates that the appeal of the foreigner endured, as a family of Italians arrive to disr ...

Suzanne McCourt's The Lost Child

Carol Middleton
Thursday, 27 March 2014

This début novel by Melbourne writer Suzanne McCourt is a coming-of-age story set in the wild coastal landscape of the Coorong in the 1950s. Writing from the point of view of a child, McCourt captures the heightened sensibility of her narrator, Sylvie, to portray a family in devastating close-up and a natural world teeming with smells and sounds and sights.

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Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'Cicada'

Francesca Sasnaitis
Thursday, 27 March 2014

Moira McKinnon practised as a community doctor in Halls Creek, in the Kimberley, where her first novel Cicada is also set. She was joint winner of the 2011 Calibre Prize for her essay ‘Who Killed Matilda?’, the story of an Aboriginal woman whose audacity and traditional ...