Fiction

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Cecily Lockwood’s heart ‘bounced like a trout’. An arresting simile on the first page of a novel is always a good sign, but will this piscatorial comparison mean anything to young readers? No matter, back to those footsteps climbing the dark stairs to twelve-year-old Cecily’s room, where she is quailing under the bed. She pictures her older brother Jeremy in the next room, his ...

In Ruby Moon’s family, the colour red is associated with shame, sin, death, and – much later – love, triumph, and happiness. Creative, introverted Ruby (nicknamed ‘Button’ after swallowing one as a child) is twin to daring Sally. Ruby describes them as one moth: ‘two wings grown from the same beginning.’ Two halves, not yet formed.

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Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Mountain' by Drusilla Modjeska

Gillian Dooley
Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Papua New Guinea doesn’t loom large in Australian literature. As Nicholas Jose says, our ‘writers have not much looked in that direction for material or inspiration’. Drusilla Modjeska is thus entering relatively new territory for Australian fiction with an ambitious epic set in PNG. It is also a new venture for her: Poppy (1990), her only previous ‘novel’, won two non-fictio ...

Christine Piper reviews 'Running Dogs' by Ruby J. Murray

Christine Piper
Monday, 23 April 2012

How much does the average Australian know about Indonesia? Not the tourist version, with its resorts and beaches and lacklustre nasi goreng – but the wider culture, history, and people. At best, Indonesia is a tantalising enigma to most Australians. At worst, it is ignored – a vast nation about which we neither know nor care, despite its importance as one of our closest neighbours.

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Three years after her first novel, The Book of Emmett, which chronicled the trials and tribulations of a troubled family, Melbourne writer Deborah Forster covers similar territory in her second, The Meaning of Grace. It opens with an elderly woman named Grace dying of cancer in hospital, then rewinds several decades, back to when a much younger Grace and her children moved to ...

Joy Lawn reviews 'Dead Heat' by Bronwyn Parry

Joy Lawn
Monday, 23 April 2012

Proudly popular fiction, Dead Heat is a romantic thriller set in a north-western New South Wales National Park. Organised crime in fiction generally operates in a large city or on the coastline, but author Bronwyn Parry sets her plot in the bush. The inclusion of bushland and animals creates unique plot obstacles and possibilities for both the criminals and the authorities, and it is a ...

Maya Linden reviews 'Sea Hearts' by Margo Lanagan

Maya Linden
Monday, 23 April 2012

Sea Hearts takes place in an intensely wrought setting, both unnerving and thrilling – in propinquity to our world, yet enchantingly different. We journey, with a series of intriguing characters, through brutal landscapes where the wind is ‘swiping like a cat’s paw at a mousehole’.

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Peter Conrad reviews 'The Hanging Garden' by Patrick White

Peter Conrad
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

‘Genius,’ as Arthur Rimbaud put it, ‘is childhood recovered at will.’ Rimbaud himself abandoned poetry at the age of twenty and thereafter refused to look back, but Patrick White exemplified the rule in writing The Hanging Garden. He was sixty-eight at the time, and had just completed his rancorous memoir Flaws in the Glass (1981); having d ...

Ronnie Scott reviews 'Blue' by Pat Grant

Ronnie Scott
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Australian graphic novel, being a fairly new phenomenon, has no unifying aesthetic, no identifiable form. While it is possible to group the characteristics of French, American, and Japanese comics, Australia’s finest exponents are stylistically on their own. Nicki Greenberg crafts adult work from a child’s figurative toolkit, Shaun Tan’s comics are drenched in high fantasy draftsmansh ...

Dean Biron reviews 'Closer to Stone' by Simon Cleary

Dean Biron
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

About a third of the way into Simon Cleary’s Closer to Stone, all of the preceding distinctively phrased metaphors and similes, all of the fragrant, lucid imagery – along with some that is rather less than lucid: how, exactly, does one pick up a drink and take a ‘deep sip’? – begin to meld into a compelling whole. Narrator Bas Adams, scouring the immense unknown of the Sahara ...