January-February 2016, issue no. 378
'Everything is so sedate you could weep for vexation.' The first novel of literary academic Adrian Mitchell is a strange one. It is a fictional memoir that aims to inhabit the imagined world of the colonial artist S.T. Gill. This is a conceit that should free the narrative from the mundane, but The Profilist is a study in the ordinary.
The novel is ... More
Jenny Ackland, in her fine début novel, re-imagines Australia's historical landscape, exploring a fictional world in which Ned Kelly fathered a son. Delving into relationships that span generations and continents, Ackland merges the stories of James Kelly, a young man who fights at Gallipoli in 1915 but 'won't kill any man' and Cem, a lost young man looking to conn ... More
'I try to imagine going back': so begins a story about a woman remembering her childhood even when it seems she would just as soon forget it. Hope Farm is Melbourne writer and musician Peggy Frew's second novel. Her terrific début, House of Sticks (2011), was about, among other things, contemporary parenthood and the rhythm of conventional and unc ... More
'Freg nisht dem royfe, freg dem khoyle – Don't ask the doctor, ask the patient,' my grandmother says in Yiddish, one of eight languages at her disposal, having grown up in Europe during World War II and migrated as a teenager to the multilingual melting pot of Israel. I smile and ask her for another gem. My grandmother obliges, this time with a juicy-soun ... More
In Jo Case's 'Something Wild', young single mother Kristen is tempted to rediscover 'the thrill of doing what she feels like, just to see what happens'. She could be speaking for characters in many of the pieces in The Best Australian Stories 2015, a collection that features people on the verge of transgression. As Amanda Lohrey writes in her introduction, ... More
Towards the end of Fiona McFarlane's enigmatic collection of short stories, The High Places, we meet the odd, enchanting story 'Good News for Modern Man', which functions as a key to many of the book's concerns. The story centres around Dr Bill Birch, a malacologist undertaking an obsessive study of a colossal female squid, Mabel, which he has trapped in Ne ... More
Devoted fans have been awaiting the sequel to Gregory David Roberts's cult classic Shantaram for twelve years. A bestselling book in Australia and overseas, Shantaram centres on Lin, an escaped Australian criminal who becomes a Bombay gangster. Loosely based on the author's own life, Shantaram encouraged an intriguing frisson between the w ... More
Cloudless is the first verse novel from Christine Evans, a Australian playwright now resident in Washington, D.C., where she is a member of faculty at Georgetown University. Set in Perth in the 1980s, after 'the late seventies / when Bondy ruled the roost', but twenty years prior to the mining boom, Cloudless relates the story of eight characters w ... More
The Wilkie family has farmed cattle at the edge of the desert for 130 years. When catastrophe strikes, three generations of men must wrestle with secrets from the past and the present. The decision whether or not to continue on a failing station becomes critical; definitive action no less testing.
The subtitle juxtaposes elegy and irony: though some characte ... More