Australian Literature Month

I said yesterday in my ‘Reading Resolution’ post that I wouldn’t be starting or hosting any reading challenges in 2012, however that doesn’t mean that I can’t join in with some does it? Already there is one particular challenge of sorts that has attracted me, in fact it attracted me the moment it was announced, and that is the Australian Literature Month that Kim of Reading Matters is hosting throughout January, naturally of course this leads me to wanting some of your book recommendations etc. I also thought some of you might be tempted.

What really attracts me to Kim’s Australian Literature Month (apart from the fact that I love a lot of things Australian) is that there are no limits or levels to the books that I can or can’t read. The aim is simply “post about Australian literature on your own blog or simply engage in the conversation on this blog. If you don’t have a blog, don’t worry” and that is me sold as by chance, and all based on whim, I have about six or seven books on the periphery which are from Oz (do Australians find their country being called Oz rude, I do hope not and if they do I apologize) and three in particular that I am very keen to read sooner rather than later should the mood take…


Tim Winton’s ‘Cloudstreet’ is a novel that Kim actually gave me last year, so that seems like a sign, and is deemed as one of the modern Australian classics. I enjoyed his last novel ‘Breath’ which is the first and only of his books I have read so far and managed to make me interested in surfing which I really wasn’t expecting.  Anyway, ‘Cloudstreet’ has also had ‘The Slap’ treatment and the TV series is coming to the UK this month, be it on Sky One, and so I might read and watch, or just read – we will see.I have to admit I have been dipping into Marieke Hardy’s collection of memoir essays ‘You’ll Be Sorry When I Am Dead’ since Christmas but I think I will be finished by the end of the weekend (I am trying to drag the utter joy that this is out for as long as possible) and though its not Australian fiction she loved her Australian Literature as she proves on ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’ most months, so that’s a given read. ‘Bereft’ by Chris Womersley is an unsolicited proof that Quercus have sent and appealed first because of the cover image, before the cover hooking me again when I noticed Evie Wyld had a given it a great quote too (and we know the success I had with the last recommendation I heard Evie making) and has been hovering on the bedside table urging me to open it since.

So those are the books I might dip into first but I wondered if there were any others I should really be looking out for? I would love your suggestions (as it’s a mutual relationship this reading recommendation malarkey on this blog I will have you know) please, and do let me know if you are planning on joining in with this too and what you might read.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

57 responses to “Australian Literature Month

  1. Oh my, oh my… an Australian Lit challenge?? I’m in! I moved to Oz (I don’t think it’s offensive!) 8 years ago and still learning a lot about their (make that ‘our’ seeing as I am now an Aussie Citizen) authors. From what I can gather, amongst their favourites are Tim Winton (clearly, you’ve heard of him. I loved ‘Dirt Music’ but despised ‘Cloudstreet.’ All the Aussies rave about that book but me? Bleurgh, not so..) Kate Grenville – she’s very popular and her most famous book, ‘The Secret River,’ is used as a set text in universities and high schools to educate students about the conflicts between the white people (exported from countries like the UK for their crimes) and the Aboriginals. The book is actually dedicated to ‘the Aboriginal people of Australia: past, present and future.’ A really interesting story based on historical fact – Geraldine Brookes (her Caleb’s Crossing is fantastic!) and my personal fave, Markus Zusak (‘The Book Thief’ is one of my all-time favourite books.)

    • Don’t worry BryOak, I’m an AUssie born and bred and I’ve never understood the fuss about Cloudstreet either 🙂 Have you tried The Messenger by Zusak? It was one of the first books I read in 2011 and it was just as good as The Book Thief (although very different)

    • I habe read Brookes Year of Wonders, really liked it but never read more. Maybe I should though there arent any in my TBR! I have read The Book Thief and I Am Messengerbut his other books arent as easy to get in the UK.

      Grenville is a highly likely contender. Probably ‘The Idea of Perfection’.

  2. Oh, and I can’t talk about Australian authors without mentioning Bryce Courtenay. His books are huge best-sellers over here. He writes big rambling sagas and writes them well. They may not win any Booker prize but they are great stories that really draw you in, such as The Family Frying Pan which tells of Mrs Moses, one of the few survivors from her Russian village which was ambushed. She travels round helping free various refugees and each of their story is added to the ‘frying pan’ she carries round to use to feed and keep them warm. He has also written a book, ‘April Fool’s day’ about his son, Damon, who died of Aids which he contracted through a contaminated blood transfusion. It is such a sad story but one of my favourite books.

    PS) Marieke Hardy is awesome!

  3. Sorry, sorry, sorry… but do you know of Melburnian author, Kerry Greenwood? You may like her 1920’s amateur sleuth, Phryne Fisher –

  4. David

    Funnily enough, I’m in the middle of reading ‘Bereft’ right now – I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
    ‘Cloudstreet’ I read maybe ten years ago and loved it (the copy I have describes it as being like Neighbours as scripted by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and John Steinbeck, which sounds about right), though it is perhaps Winton’s least typical book. It set me off reading lots of his and I think there are now only a couple I haven’t read, though to be honest the only one of his I’ve loved as much is ‘The Turning’, a collection of linked stories. ‘Breath’ was very good too.
    I’d love to read much more Australian literature as that which I have read I have for the most part enjoyed, however a quick glance over my shelves reveals a paucity of it, particularly compared to the number of Indian, American and Canadian (loads of Canadian) books.
    Of the Australian authors I’ve read, without question my favourite is David Malouf – ‘Harland’s Half Acre’ and ‘The Great World’ stand out amongst his novels for me, though I think his best work is his short stories – ‘Dream Stuff’ and ‘Every Move You Make’ are both stunning collections.

    • I love how books about suburban australia always get compared to Neighbours (which I used to be hooked on in the Kylie Minogue days), this happened with The Slap – in fact I might have also used this addage hahaha.

      David Malouf has always been an author I have been tempted to read and yet not. I think its because I think he will be too high brow for me?

      I think that a few people are reading Bereft at the moment. My views are up next week.

  5. Ruthiella

    Put on some Midnight Oil while you read…one of the greatest bands ever…from Australia naturally! I have two mysteries by Australian Peter Temple on my shelves to be read. They are supposed to be good, but I haven’t opened them yet. I recently read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I wasn’t too keen on it, but you may feel otherwise, as BryOak and hundreds of people on goodreads love it.

  6. I m reading bereft as well simon I m not sure if I ll do any other books just yet depends on time as I ve some henry greens to read ,all the best stu

  7. Bet

    I second the recommendation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River; a thumping good read! I have had a novel of Janet Frame’s here for a while and I need to read it. I love her bio and the movie made of it (“Angel at My Table”). Her life story is touching, sad and yet triumphant.

  8. A first-time blogger here Simon but I have followed your interesting blog for some time. I just wanted to thank you for the help your blog has given me. My favourite, and under-valued, Aussie novel is “The Devil’s Advocate” by Morris West. Cheers. Norman.

  9. I JUST finished The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and it’s partly set in Australia! I’ll review and join in. Thanks.

    • Ruthiella

      I read The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and liked it a lot. Good gothic lit. Didn’t realize she was Australian, since the book is set in England. I plan to read both The Forgotten Garden and the House at Riverton by Morton as well at some point.

    • I read the first Morton years ago, kinda liked it but didn’t want to rush and read another. Look forward to seeing your thoughts!

  10. I think I’m the only person ever who wasnt that impressed with Cloudstreet, it was alright. I have yet to put a review up as I think I’ll be banned from ever entering Australia if I do.

  11. I am Australian (from Sydney) and would second a lot of the recommendations that have already been mentioned. I enjoyed Breath by Tim Winton but haven’t reall y enjoyed any of his others. Peter Carey is another incredibly famous Australian author, but the only book of his I have enjoyed is The True History of the Kelly Gang which I LOVED and would highly recommend.

    My favourite Australian author (who is also a big champion of the Australian literary/publishing industry) is Richard Flanagan. His books are incredibly amazing. Beautiful writing, beautiful stories, really emotional. Everything wonderful.

    Kerry Greenwood is also brilliant if you want to try something light and fun. If you wanted to try a real Australian classic I would recommend Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey.

    If you are interested, I have a section in “Reviews by Genre” page dedicated to Australian works of fiction which has lots of different suggestions for Australian books, I could go on forever!

    PS. Oz isn’t offensive, but you would probably find that most Australians would spell it Aus 🙂

  12. On Bryce Courtenay, I used to love him but then he started putting out a book every Christmas which really annoyed me. It made me feel like he was just pumping them out rather than writing because of any particular passion he has.

    If you are going to try him, I would recommend either The Power of One (his best work I think) or April Fools Day which is non-fiction but truly heartbreaking

  13. Hi Simon, thanks so much for the shout-out!! 🙂
    Interesting to read people’s comments here. Once-upon-a-time (say 20 years ago) I loved Bryce Courtenay and thought “Power of One” and “April Fool’s Day” were superb, but the stuff I’ve read since has been woeful. He’s phenomenally successful in Oz (no, the term’s not offensive) for reasons I fail to understand.

    I second Becky’s nomination of Richard Flanagan — he’s one of my favourite Australian authors — and am hoping to read his debut novel, Death of a River Guide, during this month.

    Be interesting to see what you make of Cloudstreet. It’s very quirky and nostalgic, and I do think you need to be Australian to appreciate it. I have very fond memories of reading it in my early 20s but am too scared to re-read it in case I discover it’s actually not very good! 🙂 Would love to see the mini-series but don’t have access to SKY.

    • I think you and Kim have inspired me to pick up Cloudstreet today (the strong opinions in comments have inspired me too).

    • Not a problem Kim, I am really excited about the month of Oz lit, it fits in nicely with my reading and am hoping will open my eyes to more wonderful books tnd authors that I have missed. This post alone in response has opened my eyes to some great new authors.

      I am sure Cloudstreet will come out on DVD once its done. I haven’t picked the book up yet but have looked at it a lot. I am actually debating Elizabeth Jolley next.

  14. Regarding Australian literature, I, too am a fan of “anything Australian.” I would suggest the autobiographical trilogy by Janet Frame, Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River,” and Thomas Keneally’s “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.” (I actually have loved EVERYTHING that these latter 2 authors have written!) QUESTION: Any chance you’ll start reading some Canadian literature?

    • Janet Frame is from New Zealand, but I do want to read her on fellow NZer Stella Duffys recommendations.

      If someone starts a Canadian challenge I could work some in I am sure. See where the whim takes, am keen to read much more Atwood.

  15. Whoops….Janet Frame is from NEW ZEALAND? Oh dear…..

  16. Besides “all of the above”, I would really like to suggest a memoir of some years ago that I loved. Jill Kerr Conway’s The Road from Coorain, which recounts her early years growing up on a remote sheep farm to her eventual position as the first president of Smith College in Massachusetts.

  17. Also, I would add the AMAZING Shirley Hazzard and a novel called “The Great Fire.” Hazzard has lived all over the world but is Australian by birth & one of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITES!!!!

  18. And (can you tell I’ve gone off to check some other books in my library?) I would also suggest Janet Turner Hospital’s novel, Charades.

  19. Yes, that’s a stunning cover on Bereft.

    The emptiness.

  20. Sharkell

    I am an Aussie and a big fan of Australian literature and I’m also using the Aussie literature challenge to catch up on some great Aussie reads. I highly recommend A Fortunate Life by AB Facey, anything by Kate Grenville or Geraldine Brooks (particularly Caleb’s Crossing and A Year of Wonders), Ransom by David Malouf and the debut novel by Rohan Wilson called The Roving Party which I think you would particularly enjoy.

  21. This sounds very interesting. been such a long time since I read an Australian based book. Great idea and I am going to make room to read one title 😉

    • Hey Milo, I think its a great challenge isnt it. It has made me think (and I was talking to Gav about this the other day) that I need to read more widley in general. Not all the countries in the world but more than I do, mind you reading on a whim will it happen?

  22. David

    Well, inspired by this Australian literature month malarky, I went off in search of my copy of Robert Drewe’s ‘The Bodysurfers’ which I’ve had for ages but have never read, only to discover it wasn’t anywhere on my shelves as I’d thought it was. I finally found it in a box in the wardrobe, where I also came across a few other unread Aussie books – Nikki Gemmell’s ‘Cleave’, Nerida Newton’s ‘The Lambing Flat’, Larissa Behrendt’s ‘Home’ and Alex Miller’s ‘Journey to the Stone Country’. I don’t know if I’ll get around to reading any of these this month (other than the Robert Drewe), but they’ve been moved back to the bookshelves at least.

    I finished ‘Bereft’ yesterday, so look forward to reading what you make of it, Simon. The central relationship isn’t entirely dissimilar to the one in ‘The Proof of Love’ so I imagine you may enjoy it. I hadn’t been expecting it all to turn out quite so gothic but it certainly had a powerful atmosphere. I liked it well enough – the writing is very good and there are some really arresting images – but I wasn’t bowled over by it. I had problems with one particular scene towards the end that tested my (admittedly limited) tolerance for supernatural/magical elements in novels, but I won’t spoil things by elaborating!

    • Oooh watch out for spoilers there David with ‘Bereft’, it seems to be a book that lots of people are reading at the mo, have I said that already, theres soooooo many comments on this post.

      You have quite the Aussie selection there. Look forward to hearing about them.

  23. I loved Cloudstreet! An absolute must read. As for others, I enjoy Bryce Courtenay (some others find him a bit soppy though), Peter Yeldham, Barry Maitland (although his novels are set in the UK), Kate Morton, The Shiralee and My Brother Jack.
    Def. not offensive to call Australia Oz – we shorten EVERYTHING 🙂

  24. Tofer

    My favourite Australian-based book, and indeed, my favourite book ever is A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. I’ve read your blog for a while although this is the first time I have posted, and I’m almost certain you were considering reading it at some point. Why not give it a chance now? Don’t be deterred by the length of the book; at no point does it feel like things are dragging. I can honestly say that I never felt any less than completely entertained while reading it. For me, it was the type of book where I had to force myself to stop reading so that I could savour the experience of reading it over a longer period of time, and delay the inevitability of finishing the book and being forced to leave the world and characters that Toltz had created. And isn’t that the type of experience we all hope for as readers? The reason why we love reading?

    Despite my praise, I will submit that our taste in books is very, very different! Why not read 20 pages or so and see if the style of writing appeals to you or not? I’m sure the book is lying around somewhere in that endless jungle of books of yours.

    • A Fraction of the Whole is a book which I really should get my hands on. My worries with it are the length but everyone’s saying that’s not a problem with the book and you just get engrossed in it and that could be great! Especially after your rave review now too! Thank you for that!

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