April 2016, issue no. 380
Is it possible to 'just pack up and go, and all your problems will stay behind?' Nicolette is hoping that's the case when we meet her literally on the road to a new life, troubled partner and toddler in tow. Louis, her grandfather, may well have asked the same; his earlier experiences of geographic and personal change form the alternate strand of the dual narrative ... More
Boccaccio started an avalanche of storytelling with The Decameron. His one hundred tales, told by ten narrators taking refuge from the Black Death in a villa outside Florence, have inspired a horde of copycats over the ensuing 660 years. Most famous of these is The Canterbury Tales. Although Don Aitkin's title echoes Chaucer's, his collection of st ... More
Emily Maguire's An Isolated Incident explores the media's fascination with beautiful, murdered women. The novel also interrogates the experiences of those who find themselves involved in murder cases.
The novel is set in Strathdee, a fictitious rural Australian town. This 'lovely little' hamlet has been unsettled by the slaying of Bella Michaels, a ... More
Not a year passes without someone claiming to have stumbled upon the legendary Tasmanian tiger. A flash of stripes, a tawny blur, strange paw prints in the mud; are these genuine sightings or mass hallucinations suffered by a populace whose grief for the extinct icon is stuck in a state of collective denial? 'Tassie loves the tiger now ... this entire country is goi ... More
It has been two hundred and seventy-six years since Pamela was published, the first piece of writing in English in the novel form; it was a structure designed both to entertain and instruct, and still we are debating if the concept was a good idea.
Inga Simpson is the author of two previous novels, Mr Wigg (2013) and More
Jennifer Down's first novel, Our Magic Hour, is notable for its stylistic individuality. The novel's opening is disorientating at first: Audrey wears a shirt whose 'sleeves swallowed her hands'; spaghetti bolognese 'spatters' on a stove; a football match 'bellows' from a television. This is an object-rich terrain, in which the details provide cues to interp ... More
I first encountered the work of Philip Salom in the pages of The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991). Anthologies, of course, have their limitations, but they can be a great place to meet people. Salom's first poem in that book, 'Walking at Night', includes an image of the urban sky: 'Streetlights glow overhead / Like the teeth of a huge zipper; ... More
Twenty years before Katniss Everdeen competed in The Hunger Games (2008) and dominated the post-apocalyptic landscape, Elspeth Gordie went to Obernewtyn (1987) in her own ruined world. She would grow from orphan outcast to rebel conspirator and community leader, overthrowing religious and secular powers and carrying a darker fate as the Seeker who ... More
Michau-Crawford's accomplished début collection bears comparison to Tim Winton's impressionistic The Turning (2005) and Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge (2008), though Leaving Elvis is properly neither the portrait of place nor of a single character. The place might be any dilapidated small town in the wheat-belt region of Western Australia. Th ... More
Crow is wild. His black eyes glint and his beak seems to smile. Malicious and mischievous, he sits in a living room with two boys and their father wrapped in his wings. The woman who was their mother and wife has died, leaving the family 'like Earth in that extraordinary picture of the planet surrounded by a thick belt of space junk'.
Crow is the titular bir ... More
Michael Hofmann reviews Ted Hughes by Jonathan Bate