December 2015, issue no. 377

Morag Fraser reviews 'The Secret Chord' by Geraldine Brooks

Morag Fraser

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

James Bradley reviews 'Purity' by Jonathan Franzen

James Bradley

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

Catriona Menzies-Pike reviews 'Fever of Animals' by Miles Allinson

Catriona Menzies-Pike

Where to start with Fever of Animals? The narrator of Miles Allinson’s début novel is hardly certain where to begin his story. Throughout this curious book, the difficulties of composition are paramount. ‘And what is this book I am supposed to be writing? Am I even writing a book or am I fooling myself, as I fooled myself so many times in th ... More

Jane Sullivan reviews 'The Other Side of the World' by Stephanie Bishop

Jane Sullivan

One of the most potent stories we can tell is a story of migration. With the exception of indigenous people, every Australian originally came from somewhere else. Take just one source: the emigrants from England. Kate Grenville writes about her convict and settler ancestry in her More

Susan Lever reviews 'The World Without Us' by Mireille Juchau

Susan Lever

From the opening pages of Mireille Juchau’s new novel, The World Without Us, we know we are in the hands of a poetic writer in control of language and ready to invest every sentence with resonant detail. In this scene, two of the central characters encounter each other at a river above a waterfall:

Now the water was strung with ... More

Anthony Lynch reviews 'The Landing' by Susan Johnson

Anthony Lynch

‘How did you even begin to fit two adult lives together so that they happily resembled a whole?’ Jonathan Lott, the main character in Susan Johnson’s tenth novel, asks himself. It is giving little away to say that by book’s end there are no definitive answers. But Jonathan’s attempts to make sense of his wife Sarah’s defection from their decades-lo ... More

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

Gillian Dooley

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

The missing novels: our critics nominate some overlooked classics

Debra Adelaide et al.

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.


Grace Nye reviews 'The Bird's Child' by Sandra Leigh Price

Grace Nye

This début novel brings 1920s Sydney to life through a fairy-tale lens, highlighting the city’s romance, its magic and its mystery. In alternating point-of-view chapters, the stories of three misfits unfold. Ari is a European Jewish refugee, raised in Sydney by his devout uncle, who wants him to become a rabbi. But Ari has other plans: an admirer of Houdini, he d ... More

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

Laurie Steed

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

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