Carol Middleton

Elizabeth Stead’s fifth novel is set in 1948, when newly independent women, who kept the wheels of industry turning during World War II, were resuming full-time household duties. Stead, who married a naval officer in the 1950s, would have seen this domestic dynamic played out around her. The Sparrows of Edward Street tells the story of a family – a widow and her two teenage daughte ...

The language of wallpaper is entrancing: a velvet flock, a Réveillon arabesque, a Dufour panoramic. After ten years’ research and writing, Lyn Hughes’s fourth novel, Flock, is rich with the texture and imagery of wallpaper.

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Set in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Swimming is an impressive début novel by Melbourne academic Enza Gandalfo. Kate Wilks, a childless writer in her early sixties, is a strong swimmer, and images of the sea texture the narrative. Now happily married for a second time, Kate encounters her first husband, and the ensuing flood of memories, regret and guilt provides the driving force of the novel.

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Susan Varga’s latest novel, Headlong, is set in Australia in the opening years of the twenty-first century, with the Tampa episode and detention camps as background. This setting reflects Varga’s own work with refugees and the Nazi camps of her family’s Hungarian past. Headlong relates the downward spiral that the previously indomitable Julia undergoes after the death of her husband. Her two children – the narrator, Kati, and her brother – try everything to restore their mother to physical and mental health, but Julia is adamant: life is hell. The fact that she escaped the Holocaust with her daughter and survived the horror of those years makes the story all the more poignant and distinct from similar stories of grief. Why has this loss defeated her, when she has met every other challenge in life? Has it unlocked the hidden pain of earlier years? This question, and Kati’s ensuing grief and sense of guilt, sustain the novel.

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The popularity of his ABC radio program WordWatch gives Kel Richards the licence to publish a second volume of definitions of words and phrases and ‘terse verse’. Word of the Day 2: Wordwatching reads like an exact transcript of Richards’s radio program, complete with off-the-cuff comments.

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