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Review: Inga Simpson’s Where The Trees Were gives a vivid evocation of growing up in rural Australia

IngaSimpsonPicThere 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.

Women dominate shortlist for Australia’s Miles Franklin Literary Award

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

Longlist for Australia’s Stella Prize celebrating women authors, is announced


Joan London’s poignant The Golden Age and The House of Grief, Helen Gardner’s harrowing reportage of a crime that shocked the world, are standouts on the longlist for Australia’s prestigious $50,000 Stella Prize, which celebrates women authors, and which was announced yesterday. The longlist for the Prize, which was first awarded in 2013, also includes three debut writers.

Full long list is:

Inga Simpson’s Nest resonates with an infectious appreciation of nature that is becoming her trademark

One of my favourite books of 2013 was Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson, a gentle fable aboutnest 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


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