Fiction

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Laurie Clancy reviews 'A River Town' by Thomas Keneally

Laurie Clancy
Friday, 07 February 2020

The river town is Kempsey on the north coast of New South Wales, 300 miles from Sydney. It is the new year and, we soon learn, just around the turn of the century, immediately before Federation. Once more Keneally has plundered Australian history in order to explore his concern with Australian identity.

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Veronica Brady reviews 'Towards Asmara' by Thomas Keneally

Veronica Brady
Friday, 07 February 2020

Tom Keneally used to be a fashionable writer, but not anymore, at least not with the critics, though readers continue to read him. Critical concern today is with aesthetics rather than ethics, theory rather than practice. Towards Asmara is therefore not likely to get a great deal of serious attention. This is a pity because it raises some weighty issues, and the loss is the critics’!

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Owen Richardson reviews 'The Bride Stripped Bare' by Anonymous

Owen Richardson
Friday, 07 February 2020

You have to sympathise with Nikki Gemmell. When she described her sense of liberation on deciding to publish The Bride Stripped Bare anonymously, she seemed to have in mind only a desire not to offend people close to her. She would also have liberated herself from the literary celebrity machine. But, once the game was up, she got even more of it than she would otherwise have done. It doesn’t seem to have bothered her too much. The profile in The Age and the appearance on Andrew Denton’s television show didn’t suggest that she was determined to salvage what she could from her original plan to stay invisible. Some of my more cynical friends have suggested that that was what she had in mind all along. But the book is written with a candour that confirms her avowals.

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Susan Sontag has identified in contemporary fiction what she calls an ‘impatient, ardent and elliptical’ drive. These are features, above all, of the well-wrought story, and they are also adjectives that well describe its inherent paradox: the story is contained but somehow urgent, intensified but working in a system of concision, suggestive but employing referential exorbitance. Four pages might betoken an entire world.

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Jennifer Dabbs reviews 'The Tivington Nott' by Alex Miller

Jennifer Dabbs
Friday, 07 February 2020

Don’t be put off by the cover of Alex Miller’s most recent novel, where a stag-at-bay is invoked, rather reminiscent of an early century front parlour picture. Although this novel is firmly set in period and place, it simply cannot be understated as the definitive deer-hunting tale. There is also the powerful universal sub-theme of the outsider searching for meaning and identity in a society firmly entrenched in a rigid and outdated class system.

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Terri-Ann White reviews 'Modern Interiors' by Andrea Goldsmith

Terri-ann White
Friday, 07 February 2020

Andrea Goldsmith’s second novel, Modern Interiors, is about a family, and marked out by its goodies and baddies. This is a moral novel about capitalism and the choices open to people within its system. Goldsmith uses outrageous caricatures to represent the baddies – those seduced and corrupted by the family’s damned money. And all of the goodies have an interest in and strenuously pursue the higher knowledges – poetry and fiction, philosophy and philanthropy. They are all good, and fair-minded people, if sometimes with too much sweetness and light.

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Dinny O’Hearn reviews 'Velvet Waters' by Gerald Murnane

Dinny O’Hearn
Friday, 07 February 2020

I have walked long and often with this writer man, travelled with him on trains, listened to him give exact references on the Melways map, noted him noting his whereabouts and those places about and abutting his whereabouts, and I am still uncertain why his work interests me so much, unless it be that the geography of the imagination is the first and the last landscape of grasslands to be explored and that the inland of an island such as ours will always be an ambiguous place which may display a real sea and a centre or mirages of either.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Geography' by Sophie Cunningham

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Friday, 07 February 2020

The first book of fiction is a little sub-genre with a number of readily recognisable features. It’s loosely structured and tends to be episodic, without much of a plot. It’s at least partly about love and sex, preferably of an obsessive or otherwise significant kind. And it’s at least partly autobiographical. If it’s already a bad book, then these things do tend to make it worse, but if it isn’t, then they don’t necessarily detract; it’s not a value judgement, just an observation.

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Cassandra Pybus reviews 'The Blue Guitar' by Nicholas Hasluck

Cassandra Pybus
Friday, 07 February 2020

In the wake of the spectacular collapse of Rothwells and unsavoury revelations about Western Australian entrepreneurial enterprise, it is very apposite for Penguin to have republished Nick Hasluck’s 1980 novel, The Blue Guitar. This novel, as relevant now as nine years ago, deals with the world of entrepreneurship with its illusory money, fast talk, and duplicity. It is a world of the corrupt and the corruptible, where principles and moral certainties give way before glib notions of innovative thinking and flexibility.

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Helen Daniel reviews 'Under Saturn' by Michael Wilding

Helen Daniel
Friday, 07 February 2020

Often collections of stories seem to me idle gatherings of chance acquaintances, sometimes uneasy with their companions. While the random can offer pleasures of its own, it can mean narrow-minded stories offended by their wilder and noisier neighbours, together a matter of squabble and disharmony. The four long stories that comprise Michael Wilding’s new work, Under Saturn, have instead a creative discord. Each one is self-contained, yet the movement of counterpoint among the four brings to Under Saturn the unity of a single composition, a quartet of variations on a theme.

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