Book Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

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As I was rushing out the door to the airport on my way to a holiday in Cairns, I grabbed this book from my “To Be Read” pile and I didn’t realise until I was on the plane and turning the first few pages that the story was set in… Cairns!

Crimson Lake is the fictional setting not too far from Cairns where Ted Conkaffey has just moved. There’s humidity (check), crocodiles (check), snakes (check), rednecks (check) and an assortment of colourful characters (check) so it feels somewhat real (at least to an outsider), even though it’s not, which is a credit to Fox.

The main character, Ted, is a former vice police detective from Sydney whose career was cut short when he was accused of abducting and raping a teenage girl. He was never convicted but he lost his wife, his child, his career and all his friends and everywhere he goes, he’s accused of being a monster. So he’s driven to the furthest place he could get and settled into a rented house where nobody knows who he is. Continue reading

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Book Review: From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage – How Australia Got Compulsory Voting by Judith Brett

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This is the latest book in my year of reading Australian female writers.

*****

There’s a famous quote from Winston Churchill that says democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the others. This is the book that proves Australia’s electoral system is the worst form of voting… except for all the others.

Compulsory registration, a perpetual electoral roll, universal suffrage (all citizens aged over eighteen excluding those currently jailed for a term of three years or more), compulsory voting, postal, absentee and pre-poll voting, preferential voting in the lower house, proportional voting in the upper house, secret ballots, an independent electoral commission (not controlled by political parties), everything Australia does is designed to ensure everyone has a say and the majority is reflected while the minorities are protected. Continue reading

Book Review: A Year Rewritten by Andrew Rogerson

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I’m pausing my year of reviewing Australian female writers to sneak this one in and will return to the promised reviews in August.

*****

I saw Andrew Rogerson at an open mike night where he read two poems (performed them from memory actually) and as soon as I got home, I bought this book (which he had spruiked). It’s a high concept book of poems where he wrote a haiku a day for an entire year. For those who don’t know, a haiku is a Japanese poem composed of three lines with the first line containing five syllables, the second line containing seven syllables and the third line containing another five syllables for a total of seventeen.

Sounds easy, right? Not even seventeen words, just seventeen syllables a day. (If all writers could get away with this kind of workload, they’d probably be a much happier lot.) But, of course, there’s very little about poetry that is easy, writing it or reading it.

A Year Rewritten is a very short book, necessarily because of the concept. It took less than hour to read and it’s a little like a verse novel with one obvious difference: I had no idea what the story was. There were hints of love and loss and illness but the haikus were quite obscure. Poetry like this is often difficult to interpret, so attempting to string it all together in my understanding as a linear story proved impossible. Continue reading

Book Review: In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones

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I feel like the subtext of this book can be summed up by these lyrics: “You love her, but she loves him, and he loves somebody else, you just can’t win. And so it goes, till the day you die. This thing they call love, it’s gonna make you cry.”

Cate and her husband, Bass, seemed to have had what everyone wishes for: shared goals, shared love, a true partnership. Everyone around them, however, is embedded in various stages of unrequited or inappropriate infatuation and relationship struggles. And part of the reason for this is that Cate is dead. I’m not giving anything away. She narrates the whole book and reveals this in the first sentence. Continue reading

Book Review: The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

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Oh, dear. My year of reading books by Australian female writers isn’t improving.

Deb, Trina, Eden and Joni have been friends since the start of high school and they’ve managed to stay friends through careers, husbands and kids. Once a year, they get together for a few days away from their families. This year, they have decided to write anonymous letters to reveal their deepest and darkest secrets without having to be judged. Except when the letters are finished, there are five. And the fifth letter is a doozy. One of the women harbours a murderous grudge against one of the other women. Continue reading

Book Review: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

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This book won the Stella Prize in 2016. I should know better by now. I am consistently disappointed by award winners. I’m going to blame it on being a Gemini. I need to know who, what, where, when, how and why. Not all at once but slowly revealed to show a complete picture by the end of the book. And The Natural Way of Things is distinctly lacking in most of these respects. What it does have is terrific writing and an intriguing concept but it’s not enough to completely make up for the other things it’s missing. Continue reading

Book Review: Cleave by Nikki Gemmell

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The Australia in this book is the Australia that all Australian novels are supposed to be about: set in the outback, full of indigenous characters, not appropriating their culture but living in harmony with them, battling the elements and inner demons. The problem with that is most Australians don’t live lives anything like what is described here and are made to feel less Australian than those living a supposedly more authentic life. Continue reading