CategoryReviews of Australian Literature

The Performance by Claire Thomas

This one will be nominated to my list of favorites for the year. For the duration of the performance of the absurdist play “Happy Days” by Samuel Becket we get to know three women. It begins as one of the women is being seated and ends as the women make their way to the parking lot after the play. Somehow within these limits, a novel emerged with characters we come to know well along...

The Yield by Tara June Winch

The enthusiastic response that I have seen to this book is wholly warranted. Its structure is unique and impressive, the tale it tells is engaging, and it relies on clear factual foundations. The story unfolds through three voices. One is the story of August, a modern-day Wiradjuri woman who after 10 years in the UK, returned to New South Wales on the occasion of her grandfather’s death to...

Our Shadows by Gail Jones

Gail Jones has once again hit on many wonderful moments for me, as she did in three other books of hers that I’ve read. This one is set first in Kalgoorlie, a gold mining area in Western Australia and later in Sydney. It is a busy novel, beginning with the non-fictional Paddy Hannon’s childhood in Ireland, before he spent 30 years prospecting in Australia, culminating in the discovery...

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

I came upon this book in a listing of “beach reads,” and having read two other Charlotte Wood books, I was surprised by that category. The Natural Way of Things is a feminist polemic and very affecting. The Weekend is centered on three women going to a beach north of Sydney over the Christmas weekend (beach weather in Australia). Sounds like a beach read so far. But no. The three have...

Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

When you hear the one sentence describing each of the two main characters you would think this is an unlikely candidate for an uplifting-read book list, but that is where I came upon it. While I would not describe it as “uplifting,” I did find it to be a fine, engaging book. And there’s a bit that is quite timely. Meg is in her 70s and lives in the house where she grew up in a...

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

The story of this book is told mostly from the viewpoint of two children in 1980, one in Melbourne and one in Prague. They never meet but are connected by their grandmothers, twins separated as teenagers during wartime in Prague. Each child lives with their grandmother and experiences hardship, but also great love for their grandmothers. Luděk is a young boy who runs through the streets of...

The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman

As he did in his book Seven Types of Ambiguity, the author depends on coincidences for this 617 page book to work. He begins with the story of a sympathetic character, Lamont Williams, who had just been released after six years in jail. Lamont had agreed to give a ride to his old friend and a man he didn’t know who robbed a store, making Lamont an unwitting get-away driver. He had gotten a...

Hare’s Fur by Trevor Shearston

A book about a 70-year-old potter in mourning for his wife who encounters three kids living in the wild to avoid being taken in by the child protective bureaucracy, well, that story could have some pitfalls. This one successfully avoids them. The book is set on the outskirts of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Russell has a few good friends who live nearby, but his life is largely solitary now...

Yellow Notebook by Helen Garner

Because I loved her book of essays Everywhere I Look so much, I didn’t hesitate to read this book of Helen Garner’s diaries from 1978 to 1987. Many of the personal stories were pretty mysterious to me; everyone is referred to by a single initial. While she records her emotional reactions the end of her second marriage, F didn’t become much more than an initial to me. M was...

Taboo by Kim Scott

I had been looking for this book to become available in the US for more than a year when I learned that Kim Scott was visiting my small city in Virginia. It was wonderful to hear him speak and to be able to buy the book. I should explain that he was here at the invitation of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, the only art museum in the US that is wholly devoted to Aboriginal art. One of...

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