Fiction

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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 ...

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 ...

‘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
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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'Lola Bensky' by Lily Brett

Francesca Sasnaitis
26 September 2012

It is no secret that Lily Brett has mined her past and her family history in her fiction. Her parents, like those of her current alter ego, Lola Bensky, were survivors of the Łódź ghetto and Auschwitz concentration camp; Lola, like the author, was born in a displaced persons’ camp before her family emigrated to Australia. Lola, a chubby baby, was possibly the o ...

Alice Melike Ülgezer’s début novel is both exotic and familiar: a story of journeys, physical and philosophical, of a family with its roots in Istanbul and Melbourne. The first of these is a short ferry crossing of the Bosporus taken by Ali, a young woman (or is she a young man? gender seems immaterial here) from Melbourne who is in Istanbul to visit her father ...

The Midnight Promise, Zane Lovitt’s début novel, is billed not as a detective story, but as a detective’s story. It is a minor grammatical change that makes for a major shift in the focus of the tale. Here there is no major dramatic revelation – no car chase, forensic science, femme fatale. Instead, the reader is offered a character study of a m ...

Venero Armanno’s latest novel begins implausibly. A young man is troubled by a recurring dream about a faceless, one-armed, blob-like creature being throttled by someone wearing a pale blue shirt. This troubled dreamer is Mark Alter (the unsubtle last name underlines one of the book’s central concerns), a university drop-out estranged from his parents and now le ...