Somebody somewhere once said, “Time is like toothpaste – squeeze it here and there and there’s always some left.” Not sure how you are going, but I am squeezing really hard here. Ten minutes before midnight is all the time I have to read these days. And even as my TBR book pile grows taller, our publishers keep pumping out new and attractive titles every month. So many awesome female authors across Australia are worthy of our attention, and I am sure many of you would not mind reading a male author or two from time to time. Not to mention books from other Anglophone markets, and foreign authors translated into English…
Anyway, in March and April, our faithful and hard-working readers produced 159 reviews of 89 books by 87 authors. Only one book was published before 2000 – Catherine Helen Spence’s A Week in the Future (1987), which was featured in our January & February Round-Up. As for books published between 2001 and 2010, only four were reviewed.
Jennifer Cameron-Smith reported that Gail Jones’ Black Mirror (2002) is “one of those novels where the pleasure of reading is in the journey through the pages: the ending is less important. Or is it?” In comparison, Amy @ Lost in a Good Book described Liane Moriarty’s The Last Anniversary (2006) as having no Big Mystery that is found in the author’s other books. But: “It’s not all little mysteries; Moriarty also covers important topics like poverty, family commitment, and post-natal depression. These are the storylines that make the book interesting, not the mystery, though that is fun in itself.”
Meanwhile, Kate Murdoch praised Louisa Deasey’s Love and Other U-Turns (2010) as being “both light-hearted and series, examining the tension in even the most loved-up couples when there is a lack of personal space and, indeed, any time apart from each other”. As for Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (2009), Bill Holloway had this to say in her review:
Indigenous Lit. has an element of looking at white middle class life from “underneath’…which gives a new aspect to our view of ourselves in general and to the myths of the Australian bushman in particular. Not just the casual, and not so casual, violence, but the self-interested decision making. Terra Nullius has an entirely new meaning when seen from the point of view of the people of whom the Land was supposedly Empty… But Indigenous Lit. also has elements which are entirely its own. Country which lives. Fauna seemingly sentient and effective… The most important part of [Carpentaria] is the writing, which is outstanding, but it [is] also a confronting, unmissable story of love and eco-terrorism and life in the far north.
Our readers reviewed 42 books by 41 authors that were published between 2011 and 2017. Among these are several winners and short-listers for major literary awards, including — but not limited to — Josephine Wilson’s Extinctions (2016), Jane Harper’s The Dry (2016), Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love (2016), Sofie Laguna’s The Choke (2017), Michelle De Kretser’s The Life to Come (2017), Shokoofeh Azar’s The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (2017), Mirandi Riwoe’s The Fish Girl (2017), Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck (2017), Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day (2017), and Krissy Kneen’s An Uncertain Grace (2017).
Two titles particularly stand out:
Lois Murphy’s Soon (2017) is the winner of the Tasmanian Premier’s Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript and then the Aurealis Award as the Best Horror Novel. In her review, Kim Forrester @ Reading Matters said this “deliciously creepy debut novel” compelled her to “keep turning the pages long into the night”. In her words:
There’s something about Murphy’s literary prose style that makes the whole idea of a menacing mist, alive with the town’s dead people, seem totally authentic… And the tension and suspense that builds up is almost unbearable, as the taut narrative races towards a heart-palpitating climax that had me waiting to bolt my front door and draw all the curtains against the night… If you haven’t guessed already, Soon is a terrifying tale that will make your heart race. It’s atmospheric, spine-chilling, dark and twisted, and probably the most original novel I’ve read in a long while. But it’s more than just a macabre horror story: there’s commentary here about what happens to country towns when industry comes to an end, how society treats those without money to fall back on, and the importance of friendship and a shared purpose as the glue that holds communities together.
Then we have Elizabeth Tan’s Rubik (2017), which was shortlisted for the 2018 Mascara Avant-garde Awards. In her review, N@ncy mentioned this collection of short stories has its weak points. But she further argued:
These stories are filled with millennial’s mischief and creativity. It is a sign of the times. These stories offer the reader a new perspective in creative writing. The collection of interconnected narratives mimics the shifting planes of a Rubik’s Cube. Characters appear and disappear. Clever… The cover is a great viual that reflects the twisting/turning of events and characters in these stories. It is quite an achievement to stay in control of the narrative and cast of characters (in different forms) as is done by Elisabeth Tan.
Finally, among the 42 titles published so far in 2018 that were reviewed by our readers, I would like to highlight two here.
Michelle McLaren described Tracy Sorensen’s The Lucky Galah (2018) as “a novel about luck – or, to put it slightly differently, it’s a novel about privilege, and the kind of people who take their privilege for granted”. In her words:
The Lucky Galah isn’t exactly a simple novel. Sorensen’s narrative shifts backwards and forwards between time periods; it’s interspersed with transmissions from a giant satellite dish. Her characters pop from the page in all their ridiculous, sordid glory and Port Badminton, swathed in red dust and racism, feels so real that you’ll find yourself waving imaginary flies away from your face. There’s a lot going on at once in this novel, but Sorensen takes care not to overwhelm her reader. She’s in control at all times, guiding her audience with the grace of an accomplished storyteller. The Lucky Galah is an irrepressible squawk of a novel that’s a pure joy to read. It’s hilarious, wildly clever… and almost certain to ruffle a few feathers.
Meanwhile, Maureen Helen was curious how Wittenoom, a ghost town 1,106 kilometres north-north-east of Perth in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, is depicted in Michelle Johnson’s Dustfall (2018). In her words:
A once thriving town, Wittenoom carries the horrendous burden of asbestos mining. The ever-present lethal dust billows over the town. Tailings from the mines spread liberally to make paths and playgrounds form the backdrop of residents’ lives. Unacknowledged deaths from asbestosis and mesothelioma of miners and their families cast deep shadows over the history of Western Australia… In a sense, the beleaguered town portrayed by Michelle Johnston itself becomes a character. I cared, deeply, about their lives and what would happen to them. In spite of the dark themes that run through this novel, I thoroughly recommend Dustfall to people interested in the recent social and health history of Western Australia. People who like love stories and mysteries will also enjoy it. And finally, it would make a good book club choice.
So, there we go – just several more awesome books to add to our TBR pile…
If you, too, enjoy these titles, then why not check out some of these reviews and discover what other readers think and feel about them? Simply go to our public “Books Reviewed” page (filtered for the genres and dates covered) and input the title.
About Christine Sun: Christine is a bilingual writer, translator, reader and reviewer based in Melbourne. She reviews books by emerging and established authors, male and female alike, both traditionally and independently published, in Australia and overseas, via her blog Voices under the Sun. Via her website eBook Dynasty, she also helps emerging and established English-language authors, literary agents and publishers to translate, publish and promote their titles as digital and print books in the Chinese World.