There were several occasions while reading Inga Simpson‘s new novel, Where The Trees Were, when I would close my eyes and feel the sensual complexity that vividly conjured up the landscape of rural Australia. From the raucous cacophony of flights of cockatoo to the, the rasping cadences of the wind in the beautiful gum trees, the taste of red earth dust in your mouth, the tantalizing anticipation of pregnant rainclouds. The novel opens in 1987 in a small rural community in the Lachlan Valley in Australia’s New South Wales. Jay and her friends Kieran, Josh, Ian and his younger, tagalong brother Matty, lead a near idyllic existence, disappearing at sunup roaming extensively across the wide although before returning tired and dust caked at dinner time.
Harry Fox Talbot has become famous recasting local folk songs to create spectacular new classical musical works. But emotionally crippled by the loss of his wife, he exists in miserable solitude in Hartgrove Hall, the Dorset home in which he and his brothers had grown up. One day, desperately trying to entertain his troublesome four-year-old grandson, Robin, he opens his piano and the boy reveals an extraordinary inherent understanding of the complexity of music, and a prodigy’s dexterity in playing. Teaching Robin breathes new life into Harry, reconnecting him with the world he had abandoned and forcing him to face long passed demons.
Solomon transports the reader back and forth in time between the present and the post-war years when the three Fox-Talbot brothers had first returned to Hartgrove Hall ”submerged in lonely and silent anxiety at the prospect of our reunion.” They find the historic house, which had been
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.
Women writers dominate the short list for the Miles Franklin, one of Australia’s most prestigious awards which was announced tonight. Only one man, Craig Sherborne, who wrote Tree Palace, made it through. The short list for the $60,000 prize which celebrates “Australian life in all its glories” is:
- Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett, Penguin.
- The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, Allen & Unwin (reviewed here).
- The Golden Age by Joan London, Random House.
- After Darkness by Christine Piper, Allen & Unwin.
- Tree Palace by Craig Sherborne Text Publishing.
The judges’ spokesman, Richard Neville, said the shortlisted novels had “a rich cast of unforgettable characters, and themes ranging from childhood
Everything in Aron’s life is about making do. A young Jewish boy growing up within the ever tightening noose that had been placed around the Warsaw Ghetto he’s unhappy and morose. He is struggling to fit in, within his own family and within the wild sometimes brutal networks of children frequently left to their own devices on the streets.
Jim Shepard‘s The Book of Aron takes us deep into the organised misery that was the ghetto. Aron and his gang, particularly his friend Lutek, steal and scavenge, at first to be rebellious in a world where the normal constraints of childhood have all but disappeared. But eventually it becomes a necessity to help their families, and particularly themselves, survive. They learn to operate within, and sometimes successfully manipulate, the brutal hierarchy that administers and enforces life in the ghetto.
Australian literary heavyweights Joan London, Liane Moriarty, Peter Carey and Helen Garner are all included in the shortlists for the 2015 Australian Book Industry Association awards announced today. There are 11 categories this year including two new ones specifically targeting small publishers.
The full list is:
One of my favourite books of 2013 was Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson, a gentle fable about loss and family set in the stone-fruit heart of rural Australia. It was Simpson’s debut novel so it was with a mixture of anticipation and some trepidation (was Mr Wigg a quirky, one-off success?) that I read her follow-up, Nest, recently released.
Sticking with what she obviously knows intimately Nest is again set in rural Australia. Jen, an artist and teacher, has been drawn back to her roots and bought a remote, dilapidated house deep in the forest near the small town where she grew up. For days on end, the only human she sees is Henry, a local schoolboy who she is tutoring in sketching and art. Whilst welcoming his cheerfulness and haphazard enthusiasm, solitude for Jen is no hardship. The native birds, her “forest orchestra” are the most welcome and intimate of neighbours infiltrating every
Just as some people have their “summer reading”, those books that are immediately identified as being perfect for the beach or by the pool, I find there are books which say “winter” or “wet afternoon”: these are the kind of books you want to curl up with in front of a fire, clutching a glass of Shiraz. The Collected Works of A.J.Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (released in America as The storied life of A.J. Fikry), is one of those books. It is sentimental (OK, a bit mushy) but ultimately charming.
A.J. Fikry is the staid and slightly uptight owner of Island Books, the less than imaginatively named bookshop on Alice Island, off fashionable Hyannis, in Massachusetts. It’s highly dependent on the annual summer influx of well-heeled tourists. Fikry has retreated further into his shell after the death of his wife,