When Australian Prime Minister Adrian Fitzwilliams decides to throw a snap election he feels secure that another Liberal victory is a done deal. His Cabinet is functional if mediocre, the Greens are in receivership after losing a billion dollar defamation case, and the Labor opposition party has emerged from the…
Stark, the small west Australian coastal town which is the setting for Sam Carmody’s debut novel, The Windy Season, is fictitious. But as anyone who has travelled off the tourist track to the more remote parts of Australia can attest, it exists under a number of aliases. It’s just the kind of town which might, to the outsider, at first seem attractively unusual. But it doesn’t take long to reveal its real character, an undercurrent of menace that makes you look over your shoulder when walking down the road, even on a sunny day.
Stark is the kind of town where society’s flotsam and jetsam turn up. A human gyre. The wounded and the wounders. This is a place where people really do just disappear. Because they want to. Or sometimes because someone else wants them to.
I read Sarah Maine’s debut novel The House Between Tides over a couple of days while enjoying Fiji’s balmy climate. It’s a credit to her ability to create a deep sense of place that the winds whistling through the Outer Hebrides island lost none of their chilly bite, nor the wild seas their temper. It’s 2010 and when the last of her relatives dies and bequeaths her the ancestral home, Hetty Deveraux leaves her troubled relationship and travels to Scotland. She has dreams of restoring the house and potentially opening a hotel on the magnificent rocky outcrop where it is perched.
But when she arrives she find it is less a house than a tumbling down neglected memorial to the brilliant but troubled artist Theo Blake who had lived there until his lonely death. Then a skeleton is unearthed beneath what’s left of the floorboards and Hetty finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery surrounding Theo, his young wife Beatrice and Cameron, the charismatic son of Theo’s estate manager.
Punishment, the latest offering from Anne Holt, dubbed the “godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction” by international Scandi Noir author Jo Nesbo, introduces a new fiction team to her readers. Holt has achieved great acclaim with her Hanne Wilhelmsen series, including the recent Dead Joker and Punishment is the first of the series featuring Superintendent Adam Stubo and psychologist Johanne Vik to be translated into English.
Holt draws on her experience working for the Oslo Police, as a lawyer and during a period as Norway’s Minister for Justice, to provide a compelling authenticity to her books, not just of the police and judiciary but also their often fraught intersection with the political system. Couple that with intriguing often (as in this case) fairly complex plotting, you can understand why she’s so popular.
Novels and collections of short stories including work by Elizabeth Harrower, Charlotte Wood and Amanda Lohrey dominate the long list $50,000 annual Stella Prize which celebrates great books, fiction and non-fiction, by female Australian authors. The only non-fiction book to make the list is Small Acts of Disappearance : Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright. The full long list is:
Ten young women awake after being drugged and kidnapped, to find themselves prisoners at a remote property somewhere in rural Australia, corralled behind a high electric fence. From the second they arrive they are systematically de-humanized; Shorn of their hair like the sheep that once occupied the run-down sheds, forced to wear old-fashioned Amish style clothing, leashed together, deprived of the most basic sanitation. And all the time subject to misogynistic rants and abuse by two enforcers the brutish Boncer and Teddy the narcissistic yoga addict.
The girls have little in common except that they have been the subject of
Sofie Laguna has won Australia’s $60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award for her book The Eye of the Sheep (Allen & Unwin) about a young boy trying to cope as his family implodes under the pressures of alcoholism and domestic violence. She beat other shortlisted writers Sonya Hartnett’s for Golden Boys, (Penguin Books Australia), Christine…
Some of the finest writing this year is showcased in the shortlist for the Kibble Literary Award for established authors and the Dobbie Literary Award for a debut published author, both just announced. The shortlisted authors for the Dobbie, which carries a $30,000 prize are: Sophie Cunningham for Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy (Text Publishing), Helen Garner, This House of Grief (Text Publishing) and Joan London (left), The Golden Age (Vintage Australia). The shortlist for the Dobbie Literary Award which has a $5,000 prize are Emily Bitto The Strays (Affirm Press); Ellen van Neerven (right) for Heat and Light (University of Queensland Press) and Christine Piper After Darkness (Allen & Unwin).
Australia’s support for its community of vibrant young writers has received another boost with the launch by Hachette Australia of a new prize for emerging writers to be run in conjunction with The Guardian Australia and the Emerging Writers Festival. The winner of the Richell Prize, named after Matt Richell, the former CEO of Hachette Australia who died suddenly last year, will receive $10,000 in prize money plus one year’s mentoring with one of Hachette Australia’s publishers.