Fiction

Cassandra Atherton reviews 'The Conversation' by David Brooks

Cassandra Atherton
Friday, 26 October 2012

The epigraph from Plato’s Phaedrus cleverly introduces the Socratic dialogue on which David Brooks’s new novel turns. This makes for a brilliant foray into the contradictions at the heart of the truths that both characters are seeking in The Conversation. This question-and-answer exchange is presented as a kind of Scheherazadian dégustation of nar ...

Anthony Lynch reviews 'Like a House on Fire' by Cate Kennedy

Anthony Lynch
Friday, 26 October 2012

Cate Kennedy’s fine second collection of short stories, Like a House on Fire, is of a determinedly realist bent. Metafictional play does not generally form part of Kennedy’s armoury, and the mostly low-rent settings and struggling characters reprise what in the 1980s and early 1990s was briefly known as dirty realism, though Kennedy’s prose is not as re ...

The Marmalade Files is a novel by Canberra press gallery veterans Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann. Set in 2011, it is a fast-paced political thriller with decidedly modest ambitions. Probably intended as a thriller or a light-hearted romp through Canberra’s back rooms, The Marmalade Files fails on both counts. It is a sort of bastard potboiler, weirdly ...

Denise O'Dea reviews 'We All Fall Down' by Peter Barry

Denise O'Dea
Friday, 26 October 2012

Hugh Drysdale, thirtyish, appears to have it made. An ambitious account manager with a Sydney advertising agency, he seems poised for a dazzling career. Confident of future success, he has installed his wife and son in a palatial house by the sea – with a palatial mortgage to show for it.

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 The Rest is Weight, by Jennifer Mills, is a restless collection of short stories. Its settings include Russia, remote parts of Australia, Mexico, and China. The stories are densely packed; there are no ‘snapshots’ or ‘sketches’, only well-made narratives populated by plausible, complicated characters. Nor is there any decorative writing; no show ...

Sophie Splatt reviews two new children's fiction titles

Sophie Splatt
Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Craig Silvey’s The Amber Amulet is a deceptively simple tale that hides many classic themes within its layers. By night, twelve-year-old Liam McKenzie patrols Franklin Street in the guise of super-hero the Masked Avenger, aided (and sometimes hindered) by his sidekick, Richie the Powerbeagle. The prime belief underpinning the Masked Avenger’s doctrine is ...

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Watch Tower' by Elizabeth Harrower

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Thursday, 27 September 2012

‘Too many vampires,’ wrote Patrick White. The year was 1980; the document was a letter to Shirley Hazzard; the subject was their friend and fellow novelist Elizabeth Harrower, who had published nothing but a handful of uncollected short stories since 1966. ‘Elizabeth keeps her principles,’ he wrote. ‘Whether she is also writing, I have given up aski ...

James Ley reviews 'The Voyage' by Murray Bail

James Ley
Thursday, 27 September 2012

Murray Bail’s fiction has often been interpreted in light of its explicit rejection of a prevailing tradition of Australian realism that someone once described as ‘dun-coloured’. This rejection has manifested itself in his willingness to appropriate some of Australian literature’s hoariest tropes – the harsh beauty of the landscape, the issue of national i ...

Melinda Harvey reviews 'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

Melinda Harvey
Wednesday, 26 September 2012

In Overland back in 2006, Ken Gelder singled out Michelle de Kretser’s first novel, The Rose Grower (1999). as evidence of a contemporary Australian literature in crisis. Its foreign and historical setting, horticultural fetish, focus on private manners and primped prose, he argued, flaunted a rarefied and élitist aesthetics that wanted nothing to d ...

Kate McFadyen reviews 'The Engagement' by Chloe Hooper

Kate McFadyen
Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The first time The Engagement’s narrator, Liese Campbell, sees the family homestead owned by her lover, Alexander Colquhoun, she is struck by its imposing physical presence: ‘We turned a corner … The second storey came into view: eight upstairs windows and each chimney intricate as a small mausoleum.’ As she surveys the isolated Victorian mansion, wit ...

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