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 do with the ‘political realities’ of ‘ordinary life’. With Questions of Travel, it is as if de Kretser is responding to this charge. This is a novel whose ambitions, which are considerable, are driven by a desire to engage with, not retreat from, both the wider world and the common reader. What we have here is a quite different type of Australian literary novel from the one that Gelder identified, though one that seems to be gaining ascendancy – one that is less arch, more cosmopolitan, and more seriously engaged with the larger events and problems of our times.
Melinda Harvey reviews 'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser
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Melinda Harvey is a Melbourne-based book critic. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including Australian Book Review, the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Literary Review, and the Canberra Times. She has a PhD in English from the University of Sydney and has lectured on literature there and also at ANU, RMIT, Monash University, and the European College of Liberal Arts, Berlin. These experiences have provided much fodder for a campus novel that she hopes to write by the time she’s seventy-one (and she thanks Mary Wesley for this kindly benchmark).
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Doing a bit of swatting for book club. Yes the review sums up many truths about how and why the book is written. But there is still a gaping holes in the book. As the reader is not pulled into relating or identifying with any of the characters. So in effect daringly poetic prose is useless without any connection.Tuesday, 05 November 2013 14:48 posted by Jenny Esots
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December 2018, no. 407
• Books of the Year: 34 critics and authors, including Michelle de Kretser, Fiona Wright, Beejay Silcox, Gregory Day, and Gideon Haigh, nominate their favourite books of 2018.
• Review of the Month: Glyn Davis on David Marr’s new collection of speeches, essays, and stories, My Country.
• Peter Goldsworthy lauds the Collected Poems of Les Murray.
• Professor Joy Damousi on the controversial vetoing of eleven ARC grants, and brief statements from a further thirteen academics.
• Andrea Goldsmith’s tribute to her late partner and poet Dorothy Porter.
November 2018, no. 406
• Review of the Month: Paul Strangio on Laura Tingle’s new Quarterly Essay Follow the Leader on Australian politics
• Beejay Silcox’s new Fellowship essay on the evolution of misery literature and trauma voyeurism in fiction
• Arts Highlights of the Year: twenty-nine critics nominate their most memorable events across the arts
• Astrid Edwards reviews Clementine Ford’s new book Boys Will Be Boys
• Jane Cadzow reviews the new memoir from Gillian Triggs
• Varun Ghosh on Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump
• Maggie MacKellar on Clare Wright’s new history of women’s progress in Australia