CategoryReviews of Australian Literature

Restless Dolly Maunder by Kate Grenville

The Australian Kate Grenville is one of my favorite authors; I especially love her books The Lieutenant, The Idea of Perfection, and One Life:  My Mother’s Story. This one is a fictionalized account of her grandmother, Dolly Maunder Russell. In 1881, the year Dolly was born, a new law required that children remain in school until they were 14 years old. That is how it came to be that her...

Salonika Burning by Gail Jones

Reading this book made me feel as though I were experiencing the fog of war, or perhaps the fog of an aging brain. That was especially the case when the focus was on the character who barely survived malaria, so I like to think that feeling was the result of skillful writing. This is my fifth Gail Jones book. Though the setting of the book was Salonika (now Thessaloniki) during World War I in a...

Locust Summer by David Allan-Petale

It was Kim’s recommendation in Reading Matters that took me to this book set in the mid-1980s in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia north of Perth. The town of Geraldton that is mentioned in Tim Winton’s great work Cloudstreet is nearby. The narrator is Rowen, the younger son of wheat farmer Bryce and his wife Justine. Rowen left the farm as soon as he could and as the story begins...

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

The Australian writer of this book describes a carefully planned trip a woman takes with her mother in Japan. It is narrated by the daughter who tells in precise terms what she planned for the trip and how it unfolds. The mother grew up in Hong Kong and while Australia is never mentioned by name, that is where the mother raised the narrator and her sister. The father is not mentioned and in fact...

On Tim Winton by Geraldine Brooks

In the series called “Writers on Writers” Australian Geraldine Brooks wrote about Tim Winton; a writer I greatly admire wrote about one of my very favorites. What a treat. To prepare for the memorable trip we made to Australia in 2009 I read some of the books on Reading Matters’ list of 10 of her favorite novels from Australia. I recall vividly how much I loved the ones I read...

Limberlost by Robbie Arnott

This book called to me because of its title. A limberlost is a swampy region and was best known to me as the title of a book both my mother and my daughter loved,  A Girl of the Limberlost, referring to a large swampy area in northeastern Indiana that has now been drained. After moving to Virginia, I was surprised to find there’s a trail near Skyline Drive called the Limberlost Trail which...

Montebello by Robert Drewe

What a treat this audiobook memoir by Robert Drewe is! I loved his previous memoir, The Shark Net and especially his novel The Drowner. In this one published in 2012 he ranges around his life recounting moments that are enlightening, or nostalgic, or revelatory. Interspersed throughout is his description of a visit to the Montebello Islands with scientists who were reintroducing some species to...

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

The backdrop of this book is the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary with a mix of fictional characters and historical figures. It begins when the fictional Esme was a child spending hours under a work table in the building where James Murray and others worked to create the dictionary. They reviewed words suggested by volunteers for the dictionary, wrote definitions, and verified the...

The Dry by Jane Harper

Jane Harper’s first novel is a police procedural set in rural Australia a few hundred miles west of Melbourne in an area that had been beset by a drought of several years duration. The main character is Aaron Falk, returned to the town after 20 years absence for the funerals of his high school friend Luke, his wife, and son. Aaron and his father had moved to Melbourne when he was a teenager...

Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn

It is hard work to read a biography of a liar, a person who works to create myths about themselves. My previous experience of this was with Calamity Jane, that denizen of the Wild West who is buried near Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, S.D. When I read a short academic take on her life, I found it was an unsatisfying effort to separate facts and myth with no charm. This author, by contrast, is...

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