Fiona McFarlane

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Review: The High Places by Fiona McFarlane is a stunning collection of short stories

FionaOne of the literary highlights of 2015 for me was the number of superb collections of short stories published (Adam Johnston’s Fortune Smiles and Colm McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking being two standouts). Now Australian author Fiona McFarlane has given me hope that this year is going to be as good.

McFarlane’s collection, The High Places, brings together thirteen stories that are highly original, often haunting and occasionally slightly disturbing. Although I wanted to race through them in long hit, I soon forced myself to leave a gap between each to allow time for their substance to settle, the frequently tantalizing ambiguity to be fully appreciated.

Fiction dominates Stella Prize long list 2016 for great books written by female Australian author

StellaLonglist pix

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:

Longlist for Miles Franklin Award announced

Congratulations to friend and colleague Nicolas Rothwell whose novel ­Belomor has been long listed for the $60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize. The list, announced this week, includes some of the country’s most respected authors such as Tim Winton, up for a record fifth Miles Franklin for Eyrie, Alexis Wright, who won in…

My Top Ten books for 2013: A wonderful year of reading

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

Review: The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

Ruth lives alone in an isolated beachside house she and her late husband, Harold, had bought for their retirement. Her two sons are both a long-distance phone call away, one in New Zealand the other in Hong Kong. Near enough to maintain an appropriate level of interest and care.

One night Ruth awakens to the presence of a tiger in her house, “a vibrancy of breath that suggested enormity and intent.” The unsettling orange presence that leaves her aware of how vulnerable her solicitude makes her but also thrilled at the potential danger.

At the same time a stranger arrives at her door. Frida Young is a large woman whose hair colour changes with her moods. She has been assigned to Ruth by the Government to provide her with daily assistance around the home in what her son Jeffrey believes is a


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