Brian Stoddart is a scholar and expert in the history of modern India, with sixteen works of non-fiction to his credit. His first novel, A Madras Miasma, is set soon after World War I. The body of an Englishwoman is found with her head buried in the rancid mud of the Buckingham Canal, behind Chepak Palace. Superintendent Christian Jolyon Brenton Le Fanu, head ... More
Two aggrieved Islamic men follow a foreign cause and wage jihad on their fellow Australians. Shouting Allahu akbar, they stage an ambush, raise a home-made flag and open fire on hundreds of men, women and children. They escape and die in a final shoot-out. They leave four dead and seven wounded.
It could be ripped from today’s headlines – except i ... More
It is 1932 and as the SS Mokambo steams into Sydney Harbour with Archie Meek on board, the Australian Museum’s young anthropologist is about to discover that he has committed a terrible faux pas. After five years away in the Venus islands studying the customs and culture of its head-hunting inhabitants, Meek is eager to be reunited with Beatrice Goodenough, ... More
Set in an unsettlingly convincing near future, James Bradley’s fourth novel, Clade, opens with climate scientist Adam Leith walking along an Antarctic coastline reflecting on the state of the world and on his relationship with his partner, Ellie. After six years together, their relationship is under pressure as Ellie undergoes fertility treatment. Adam is a ... More
Reading Lydia Davis’s stories is akin to getting new glasses – or glasses for the first time. Suddenly the world shifts into sharp, bright focus. Disturbing. Disorienting. What you see, or understand, won’t necessarily gladden your heart. It may pique it, but you may not want to be brought so close to life, to the poignancy of it all. Not at first, anyway.... More
A prefatory note to this striking novel tells us that it is Richard Kline’s memoir of ‘a strange event that intervened in my life at the age of forty-two’. The following ‘short history’ interleaves sections of first- and third-person narration, shuffling the pieces of a reflective Bildungsroman that charts Richard’s ... More
Crow Mellow, the sixth novel by Julian Davies, centres on a bush retreat where a millionaire couple gathers artists to share around ideas. From an optimistic standpoint, the retreat is a salon. Viewed differently, all parties are engaged in a status grab: artists ‘came from the cities of the east coast to score … the kudos of being there when their collea ... More
The authors of the stories in Breaking Beauty are graduates of the University of Adelaide, which Brian Castro (a professor there) reminds us in his introduction is ‘the first and best creative writing college in the country’. However, as an advertisement for creative writing at Adelaide University, this collection has limited success. While the contributo ... More
Anyone who has lived in Sydney’s inner west will recognise the terrain of Springtime: gardens redolent of mystery and decay, shabbiness, unexpected vistas, and streets that Michelle de Kretser describes as running ‘everywhere like something spilled’.
Frances has moved to Sydney with Charlie, who has left his wife and son Luke behind in Melbourne ... More
There is a quality in James Ellroy’s fiction that evades analysis and exceeds his popular status as a successful author in the ‘crime genre’. This quality is in part connected to his demanding narratives, which inevitably leave one with the nagging feeling that there is a great deal one has failed to understand, and which prompt (often multiple) re-readings of ... More