CategoryReviews of Australian Literature

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...

Stories of Perth by Alice Grundy

This collection of 12 short pieces are connected by Perth, the most isolated city in the world. I came to read it thanks to Reading Matters who returned to Australia after 20 years in London. Having lived on the east coast she was new to the area, so she picked up this book. I’m mighty glad she did. Much as I want to remember and write about all of the selections, I will focus on just a few...

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss

Anita Heiss compiled these 50 short pieces by Aboriginal people in Australia and has gathered a pleasingly varied anthology of voices. I read that some of the stories are by well-known figures, but they were all unknown to me. Some were successful in sports, some are musicians, some were quite young. I loved them all and grew addicted to the six readers. Many spoke of their parents’...

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Well, this one is going on my best-of-the-year list for sure. I can’t decide whether it’s best described as a fairy tale or as operatic. The story by Dalton, a newspaper crime writer, was inspired by his beloved mother and stepfather who dealt heroin, by his 70-something convicted murderer babysitter, and by his severely alcoholic father. My question is how it is that these folks inspired such a...

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