Australian Fiction

'History always emphasises terminal events,’ Albert Speer observed bitterly to his American interrogators just after the end of the war, according to Antony Beevor in Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (2002). Few events in recent history were more terminal than the Holocaust, it might be urged. Yet the singularity of that ‘terminus’ has been questioned in recent years ... 

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To an outside observer of the Australian literary and cultural scene, the Ern Malley hoax is one of those spin-offs in the Australian experience that keep on conjuring up Mark Twain’s famous dictum of the nature of the country’s history: ‘It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies ... 

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‘Everyone I talk to remembers Tirra Lirra by the River as a wonderful book, sometimes even as a life-changing one. But why don’t we hear anything about it today?’ This was a young journalist who ... ... (read more)

Melinda Harvey reviews 'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

Melinda Harvey
Wednesday, 26 September 2012

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 ...

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Burial' by Courtney Collins

Gillian Dooley
Tuesday, 25 September 2012

 In the cheeky biographical note on the press release for her first novel, The Burial, Courtney Collins expresses a wish that she might one day be ‘a “lady” poet’. If I had read that before reading the novel, I would have been slightly alarmed: with many notable exceptions, poets tend not to make good novelists. It is true that The Burial ...

Peter Craven on Patrick White's 'Happy Valley'

Peter Craven
Thursday, 30 August 2012

Happy Valley is the first of Patrick White’s novels and it is a consistently compelling book, as well as the exhilarating performance of a great writer in the making. Everyone knows the legend, rooted in truth: that Patrick White finds his voice as a consequence of the war and after discovering the love of his life in Manoly Lascaris; and that the first i ...

Donata Carrazza reviews 'Nine Days' by Toni Jordan

Donata Carrazza
Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Toni Jordan’s third novel, after the successful Addition (2009), takes its story from a photograph that graces the cover and that the author tells us she pondered for a long time. It is a romantic wartime scene, a crush of bodies at a Melbourne train station, mostly with soldiers bound for their unknown futures. A woman has been lifted by a stranger on the platform so she can farewel ...

Anthony Lynch reviews 'Dissonance' by Stephen Orr

Anthony Lynch
Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Percy Grainger has been the subject of a number of books (most notably a 1976 biography by John Bird), a play (A Whip Around for Percy Grainger, 1982) by Thérèse Radic, and a feature film, Passion (1999), by Peter Duncan. He was an avid letter-writer, and his correspondence has been anthologised and critiqued. Thanks to his eccentric way of life and sometimes erratic behavio ...

Every migrant has a story. The past two decades have given us accounts of migration to Australia from so many Asian countries, and from so many viewpoints – sad, painful, funny, cynical, mystical – that little more seems left to tell. But now, out of Africa, comes a writer with a new and altogether more terrible tale.

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Milly Main reviews 'Fault Lines' by Pierz Newton-John

Milly Main
Tuesday, 28 August 2012

In this collection of short stories from Pierz Newton-John, the author calls upon the suburban familiarity of a garden weed: couch grass, the fast-spreading pest whose rhizomes grow rapidly in a suffocating network, until the area it covers is ‘strangled’ and the custodian must ‘pull up the entire intractable tangle and start again’. This network of affliction that spreads throughout Ne ...