June-July 2015, issue no. 372

Ceridwen Dovey's 'Only the Animals'

Sam Cadman

One of the animal narrators in Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals, a dolphin named Sprout who is writing to Sylvia Plath, quotes Nobel Prize-winner Elias Canetti: ‘whenever you observe an animal closely, you feel as if a human being sitting inside were making fun of you.’ The ten animal souls whose thematically interwoven stories Dovey recounts do not si ... More

Emilo Bitto's 'The Strays'

James Tierney

Lily, the cautious girl at the heart of Emily Bitto’s début novel, The Strays, is befriended on the first day of school by Eva, the daughter of artists Evan and Helena Trentham. Lily’s deep connection with her ‘leg sister’ (so called because their limbs often become entangled in sleep) places her on the periphery of a colony of unconventional artists ... More

Felix Calvino's 'Alfonso'

Patrick Holland

Félix Calvino’s short novel tells the story of a young man who moves to Australia to escape Franco’s Spain. The strange thing about the book (given that its author has spent so long in Australia) is how unlike contemporary Australian literature it is. David Malouf has championed Calvino, but then there has always been something essentially Mediterranean ... More

Siri Hustvedt's 'The Blazing World'

Doug Wallen

A quote from Oscar Wilde in Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World crystallises the novel’s central study of adopted guises: ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.’ The book’s protagonist, underappreciated New York artist Harriet Burden, dons a trio of masks when she puts forward her art as ... More

Elizabeth Harrower's final novel

Bernadette Brennan

Almost 50 years after she wrote it (and withdrew it from publication), Elizabeth Harrower’s last novel, ‘In Certain Circles’, is finally published.

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Ben Smith reviews new short stories by Abbas El-Zein

Ben Smith

‘Fields of Vision’, the first story of Abbas El-Zein’s collection, introduces us to a world in which tragedy is swift and often arbitrary, and if not arbitrary, at least stems from motivations so obscure as to appear so. The sniper protagonist of this story, perched atop his Beirut rooftop, picks off citizens at random, revelling in his having ‘a place in th ... More

Sara Savage reviews 'The Train to Paris'

Sara Savage

Lawrence Williams is a twenty-year-old New Zealander about to commence studying art history at the Sorbonne. Stranded at a deserted train station in the French town of Hendaye after a less-than-perfect holiday in Madrid with his girlfriend, he is suddenly arrested by the sight of a woman twice his age who saunters past him in a white leopard-print dress. A few pages ... More

Jo Riccioni's 'The Italians at Cleat's Corner Store

Alex Cothren

During World War II, billeted Axis POWs were deemed such a threat to the morals of British women that theBritish government enacted legislation proscribing amorous fraternisation. Although these laws were rescinded in the conflict’s aftermath, Jo Riccioni’s début novel demonstrates that the appeal of the foreigner endured, as a family of Italians arrive to disr ... More

Suzanne McCourt's The Lost Child

Carol Middleton

This début novel by Melbourne writer Suzanne McCourt is a coming-of-age story set in the wild coastal landscape of the Coorong in the 1950s. Writing from the point of view of a child, McCourt captures the heightened sensibility of her narrator, Sylvie, to portray a family in devastating close-up and a natural world teeming with smells and sounds and sights.

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Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'Cicada'

Francesca Sasnaitis

Moira McKinnon practised as a community doctor in Halls Creek, in the Kimberley, where her first novel Cicada is also set. She was joint winner of the 2011 Calibre Prize for her essay ‘Who Killed Matilda?’, the story of an Aboriginal woman whose audacity and traditional ... More

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