January-February 2016, issue no. 378
Over the last year, Italian enigma Elena Ferrante has become one of the most passionately advocated literary sensations of our time. Enigma, because 'Elena Ferrante' is a pseudonym and no one other than her publisher knows her identity, Ferrante had published several novels before the Neapolitan series, but it is this cycle of four novels, culminating in The Sto ... More
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
Set in Melbourne’s cafés, under its bridges, behind its laundromats, and within its zoo, Leap is a contemporary Australian novel about love and loss. It entwines the narratives of Joe, whose guilt over the accidental death of his high-school girlfriend drives him to work dead-end jobs and train furiously in the art of Parkour, and Elise, a recently s ... More
It is not difficult to see why the publisher expects Relativity to find a wide readership; centred on Ethan its eccentric, physics-obsessed young protagonist, this is a touching portrayal of a fractured family.
Claire has always known her son is special, with his talent for numbers and precocious knowledge of astronomical facts. At school, his peers c ... More
In one of the reflective essays that complement her new collection of stories, My Hearts Are Your Hearts, Carmel Bird likens short story writing to the art of the conjuror who takes ‘coloured silk handkerchiefs, pull[s] them all in to make a ball, and then, with a flourish, open[s] them up as a full-blown rose’. This charming me ... More
The Heart Goes Last is set in a not-so-distant future in which the economy of the United States has collapsed. In the wake of a major financial meltdown, those rich enough to flee have taken up residence in floating offshore tax havens, leaving the rest of the population to cope with a society ravaged by spiralling unemployment, drug addiction, and crime. The ... More
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
There was a moment around the time of the release of the final Harry Potter novel when I began to suspect the hype had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It wasn’t an event because of the book any more, it was an event because everybody knew it was an event.
I have to confess to feeling a little bit the same about the build-up to the new Jonathan Franzen. ... More