Tag Archives: Australian Literature Month

Australian Authors…

A fairly quick post today and one which calls for your recommendations whilst telling you about a lovely reading project from a fellow blogger, who is a favourite of mine, which could also make money for a good literary cause. The ever-so lovely Kim of Reading Matters is hosting her second Australian Literature Month throughout April 2013, which of course is now. What’s more, as well as doing some lovely giveaways, she has said that “for every review of Australian literature posted on Reading Matters — and on other blogs around the world using my logo — during Australian Literature Month (April 1 to 30), I’m going to donate 50 pence to the Indigenous Literacy Fund. That might not sound like much, but if we get 100 reviews posted online that’s an easy £50 right there.”

6a00d83451bcff69e2017ee908e15b970dI think this is a wonderful idea and while I was planning on joining in with Australian Literature Month anyway (as it is a project where you can read by whim whichever books you like by Australian authors) it has given me the added incentive to read a few more than I was planning in order to raise some money for charity, via Kim and I thought some of you might like to aswell?

Of course now the question is which blinking books do I read, because I am actually a bit hopeless on knowing where authors come from and when I was trying to think of some Australian authors my mind just went blank. I have thought of Tim Winton, Thomas Keneally, Kate Grenville and Peter Carey… then I got a bit stuck, and I fancy some quite different authors this year, I have a plan to read one massive Rapunzel based book for the end of the month if I can squeeze it in, but I would like some others along the way. I am hoping a parcel from Australia containing one of Ruth Parks books might make it across the pond in time, we will see.

Who would you recommend as your favourite Australian author and which of their books should I read? Do you have one particular favourite Australian novel of all time (in fact I must pop and check The ABC Book Group – my fav book show ever – to see if past shows can give me any inspiration) that you would recommend? I would love your thoughts and inspiration.

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Bereft – Chris Womersley

Sometimes a book arrives here unsolicited and just reaches out to me. It is likely that I haven’t heard anything about it prior to its arrival and yet it just tempts me to read it. This is what happened with ‘Bereft’ by Chris Womersley, it arrived and the cover seemed to constantly catch my eye and call out to me (I am wondering if this is because it looks a little like Catherine Hall’s ‘The Proof of Love’ which you know I adored). The quote from Evie Wyld, ‘I hammered through Bereft in a day; I didn’t want to be away from it’, was the final clincher especially after the success I had with her recommendation of ‘The Hunger Trace’ by Edward Hogan. It is interesting that its arrival made me think of these two books because in some ways it is of their ilk. It also fitted in perfectly with Kim’s Australian Literature Month, it all seemed aligned.

Quercus Books, trade paperback, 2012, fiction, 264 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

The year is 1919 and Quinn Walker is returning to his hometown of Flint in New South Wales after fighting in WWI. This is not going to be some happy emotional family reunion as the reason Quinn left was that ten years earlier he was found seeming to have raped and murdered his sister, he fled. His return seems timely as Australia is in the grips of the Spanish flu epidemic, in fact many believe it is the end of the world, and when the end is nigh you have very little to lose.  Now returning, undecided if he will face his accusers or not without proof it wasn’t him, sheltering in the hills around Flint he meets Sadie a young girl living in secret like him and as these two outsiders form a bond of friendship they both realise her present and his past are more linked than either of them could have imagined.

I am aware that the last line in that paragraph above is a little bit clichéd and sounds rather melodramatic, yet in essence that is how the plot goes, it isn’t a melodramatic book however and that is what holds me back from giving it the ‘gothic’ label that I have seen in reviews since finishing the book and mulling it over. It does have elements of the gothic but despite the nature of the tale it tells this novel is rather quiet and understated until it leads to its climax. It has also been labelled as a crime novel and in some ways it is, there is a mystery at the heart of the book and yet it is never a whodunit, in fact that aspect of the book is really bubbling away in the background as we look at the effects of war and epidemic on people at the time.

It is this combination that I think makes this book such a brilliant read. You have the war and its effects, and in many ways the understated element of the horrors we read of and see in Quinn himself are the reasons they hit home, a country and its people believing the world may be ending, you even get some séances in Victorian London thrown in and yet it never feels too much, nothing seems out of place. Its historical, thrilling, has some magical elements (in fact while I loved the séance and how that worked into the story, there was an animal sacrifice that I just didn’t see the rhyme or reason for, small quibble) and most importantly is beautifully written. It’s understated but highlights the drama of the time; it’s to the point yet descriptive and wonderfully builds the brooding atmosphere and heat before the storm, a metaphoric aspect if ever there was one and one which again made me think of ‘The Proof of Love’, it’s writing that quietly holds you and takes you away to a calm darkness.

‘That night, Quinn lay back, snuggled into the curve his shoulders had made in the pine needles and stared up at the darkness. The moon hove into view. The forest spoke in its secret tongue, and if he turned his head and pressed his ear to the ground he fancied he might hear the millions of dead rustling in their mass, unmarked graves on the far side of the world. Sarah had always claimed to understand the language of animals and trees, the growls of possums and wallabies. But what of the dead?’

Since finishing the book I have been off finding out more about it and the author. It seems this book was pretty much long listed for every book award in Australia last year and I can certainly see why. ‘Bereft’ is one of those books that is set very much in its time and yet asks you to look back and put the pieces together. I like this effect in books as it makes me feel a little bit clever. It also makes this book nicely merge the divide between literary and thriller in many ways. The prose it beautiful, the characters fully drawn, there is also a mystery at its heart giving it that page turning quality, yet never at the expense of any of its other winning factors. It also covers a very interesting period in a countries history I knew nothing about yet came away with the atmosphere still lingering with me long after finishing the book. Highly recommended.

I am really glad I read this book, I have instantly started wondering if its eligible for a certain award this year but wouldn’t want to jinx it, it is only January after all. I am saddened to see that you can’t get his debut novel ‘The Low Road’ in the UK as yet, as I would definitely like to read more of his work. Has anyone else read that? Who else has read this one? I would love to know if readers in Australia have heard as much about this book as I imagine you might.

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I read this book as part of Australian Literature Month,    which runs throughout January 2012. The idea is to simply read as  many   novels as I can by writers from my homeland and to encourage  others to   do the same. Anyone can take part. All you need to do is  read an   Australian book or  two, 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 —  you just need to be willing  to  read   something by an Australian writer  and maybe comment on other   people’s   posts. You can find out more here.

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Filed under Books of 2012, Chris Womersley, Quercus Publishing, Review

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.

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