CategoryReviews of Australian Literature

True North by Jill Ker Conway

Jill Ker Conway’s second autobiographical book follows The Road from Coorain and recounts her experience upon arrival from Australia as a graduate student at Harvard through her time at the University of Toronto. It ends with the beginning of her presidency at Smith College in 1975. She tells the charming, sometimes quite touching stories of her life in this period beginning in 1960. The...

A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

Peter Carey is one of the great Australia writers, though he has lived in New York for 25 years. Anyone who can immerse himself completely in both 1950s automotive Australia and the horrifying connections between Europeans and the indigenous population and intertwine these two strands, well, maybe only he can do that. And he did it with this book published in 2017. The story is told in chapters...

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

This 1989 autobiography tells the story of a truly rare person, a brilliant academic born in Australia who came to the US to study when she was 25. She was the first woman to be president of Smith College. This is the story of her childhood on the family’s 32,000-acre sheep station in western New South Wales, her teenage years in Sydney, and college years at the University of Sydney. Her...

That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott

Kim Scott won his first Miles Franklin Award in 2000 and was the first indigenous writer to win that prize. I listened to his winner of the 2011 Miles Franklin as an audiobook, then bought it for my kindle. And I was amply rewarded for each way of experiencing the book. This is the story of interactions between the Noongar people and the early arrivals of Europeans in the area of Albany, Western...

First Person by Richard Flanagan

Early in his career the 2014 Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan ghost-wrote a book about Australia’s greatest con man John Friedrich and this book is a fictional retelling of that experience. The narrator Kif is a long-time drinking buddy/friend of Ziggy Heidl’s body guard Ray and through this connection he gets the job. He is in dire need of money to support his family, and accepts...

Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish

This unconventional ramble through the life of the author of two popular history books that I dearly loved (The White Nile and The Blue Nile) was a pleasant walk indeed. It was a few months before our trip to Australia that I read another of his books, Cooper’s Creek, about the ill-fated exploration of the interior of Australia. He was an ambitious journalist who left Australia as soon as...

The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes

I have had in mind to read this weighty book (600 pages) about the arrival of Europeans in Australia written by an art historian for a long time. Between the original landing of Captain Cook in Botany Bay in 1770 and the arrival of the first wave of transported convicts in 1788, no British ships came to the area. The Botany Bay area would not have supported them; if Captain Phillip hadn’t...

Mr. Hogarth’s Will by Catherine Helen Spence

Thanks to Lisa at ANZ LitLovers I have spent a happy week reading a book with the writing style of Jane Austen and the political sensibility of Ezra Klein. Remarkable, given that Catherine Helen Spence wrote the book in 1865. Financial difficulties caused her family emigrate to Australia from Scotland when she was 14; her father died a few years after their arrival and she had to support the...

A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

This is my (and her) third novel and what a satisfying experience it was to listen to it.  It centers on a modest house in Brisbane and the two families that lived in it sequentially. First was Elsie, Clem, and their twins. After the twins were grown, had children of their own, and Clem had been dead for nearly 40 years, Elsie was moved into a facility a short walk away. The house was...

Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

I do like books with multiple storylines and setting them in different centuries is appealing. A woman working in a London museum of clocks and other mechanisms learns her long-time lover died suddenly. Catherine must grieve secretly as he was married and had children. Her boss who knows the secret finds a project for her that will isolate her from colleagues as she recovers. The project comes...

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