In Coal Creek, Alex Miller’s latest book, he takes the reader back to the ruggedly sparse Stone country of Central Queensland’s, Australia, where he had himself worked as a stockman. This is the setting for his earlier books Landscape of Farewell and Journey to the Stone Country and it’s an area he knows well and in the harshness of which he is comfortable.
Bobby Blue is the son of a stockman and has spent all his life in the small town of Mount Hay “the end of the line then, and still, as far as I know that country”. This is his environment and he seeks no other. He is the cipher through which the reader views the land, and the ensuing events. After the death of his father, a gentle, knowing, man of that land, he goes to work for the new local constable Daniel Collins. Collins had been a volunteer with the Australian forces in New Guinea and then joined the Queensland Police Service. And he arrives with his wife, Esme, and his two daughters.
For the first time I kept a list of the books I read during past year and looking back over the months, 2013 was a rich year for literary pleasure. In total I read 76 books. That averaged out at about six books a month I only managed three in June yet nine in May (that’s the luxury of holidays). Apart from reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist there was no particular rhyme or reason to my selections. Sometimes I would just see a book in a book shop, other times it was the book selected by my book club. Sometimes it was a review or a news item in a newspaper or magazine or because an author was appearing at a literary festival I was attending (Dublin, Hay-on-Wye in England and Byron Bay in Australia).
Despite all that, I when I read other people’s end-of-year Best Of book lists I was stunned at the number I had not even heard of let alone all those wonderful authors whose books are sitting on my bedside table or in my e-reader but which I haven’t got around to reading yet. I did live up to the promise I made myself to read more collections of short stories and was richly rewarded. I read a pathetically small number of non-fiction which I hope to remedy in 2014. There were one or two which, if it were not for the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” rule, would have immediately been relegated to the bottom of the book pile but thus is the delicious serendipity of reading.
So, before the clock ticks over to a new day and new year, here is my top ten for 2013
Donal Ryan has taken out the Guardian First Book Award 2013 with The Spinning Heart, a picture of rural life in post-crash Ireland. I haven’t read The Spinning Heart (which was long-listed for The Booker Prize) but I have read (and have reviewed here on Stillnotfussed) two of the other…