Australian Literature

Susan Lever reviews 'The Natural Way of Things' by Charlotte Wood

Susan Lever
27 October 2015

In an isolated hut in the countryside, a young woman wakes from a drug-induced sleep to discover that she is dressed in a nineteenth-century smock. She soon finds another young woman in the same condition, and both are forced to submit to the shaving of their heads. It is contemporary Australia: kookaburras cackle outside. Are they in a prison, or a religious cult, ... More

Josephine Taylor reviews 'Westerly 60.1' edited by Lucy Dougan and Paul Clifford

Josephine Taylor
30 September 2015

Issue 59.2 marked Westerly’s sixtieth year of publication and the retirement of its co-editors. Issue 60.2 will be the first with Catherine Noske in charge. Unsurprisingly the editors describe this issue as ‘a bridge between two distinct eras’. There are links to the past in previousl ... More

Morag Fraser reviews 'The Secret Chord' by Geraldine Brooks

Morag Fraser
24 September 2015

Geraldine Brooks credits her son, Nathaniel, with sparking the idea and title for her latest novel. For his bar mitzvah, Nathaniel chose to play an arrangement for harp of Leonard Cohen’s famous ‘Hallelujah’. It begins with these lines: ‘Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord / That David played, and it pleased the Lord.’

Music is crucial to Bro ... More

Gillian Dooley reviews 'A Guide to Berlin' by Gail Jones

Gillian Dooley
25 August 2015

I sit in a safe room with the winter sun on my back and read of violence and menace in an icy city. Gail Jones’s Berlin is so bleak and the novel’s dénouement so shattering that I need that brief benign warmth. This is not, I hasten to protest, a spoiler: the book begins by foreshadowing a scene of guilt, shoc ... More

'Like a Thief in the Night' by Michelle de Kretser (Afterword to the Text Classics edition of The Suburbs of Hell by Randolph Stow)

Michelle de Kretser
25 August 2015

My copy of The Suburbs of Hell (1984) is a handsome Heinemann first edition salvaged, like so many treasures, from a remainder tray. The dust jacket features a golden hourglass and type on a sky-blue ground: the colours Fra Angelico favoured for the vaults of heaven. A travel card that served as my bookmark is still tucked away in its pages; the date-punch ... More

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Thea Astley' by Karen Lamb

Kerryn Goldsworthy
24 August 2015

‘If there are going to be any more of her novels, perhaps we should come right out and promote her as an utter bitch?’

So wrote Alec Bolton, the London manager of Angus & Robertson, to his senior editor John Abernethy in Sydney. The novelist in question was Thea Astley, and the book was A Boat Load of Home Folk (1968). Bol ... More

The missing novels: our critics nominate some overlooked classics

Debra Adelaide et al.
24 August 2015

Early success is no guarantee of a book’s continued availability or circulation. Some major and/or once-fashionable authors recede from public consciousness, and in some cases go out of print. We invited some writers and critics to identity novelists who they feel should be better known.

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Laurie Steed reviews 'When There's Nowhere Else to Run' by Murray Middleton

Laurie Steed
29 July 2015

Our national literary landscape would be seriously depleted without The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award. It jump-started the careers of Tim Winton, Julienne van Loon, and Andrew McGahan, authors who have been willing to explore the harsher aspects of ... More

Brian Matthews reviews 'Archipelago of Souls' by Gregory Day

Brian Matthews
29 July 2015

An official account of a naval battle off the coast of Crete on 22 May 1941 includes reference to a ‘friendly fire’ incident when ‘HMS Orion was … repeatedly hit by 40mm shots from HMS Dido, which, in the maelstrom, ended up shooting at her comrade’. A few days later, during the evacuation from Heraklion, the crippled HMS Imperial had ... More

Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'Crow's Breath' by John Kinsella

Francesca Sasnaitis
29 July 2015

Recently I drove east from Perth through wheat belt country to the Helena and Aurora Ranges, past Cunderin, Kellerberrin, and Koolyanobbing, towns whose names echo the rhythms of the landscape; past the shimmering salt pan that was once Lake Deborah East; down rutted tracks which changed abruptly from red earth to yellow sand; past the ravages of iron ore mines to t ... More

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