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
This could easily have been a true story (in fact, I sought out the statement at the front of the book that declared it was fiction just to make sure). It has an awful sense of realism about it and maybe that’s why the story itself ends up being almost inconsequential. More than anything else, this is a character study, an extraordinary character study presented in beautifully simple writing by a very fine writer.Continue reading
This year, I’m doing twelve reviews of books written by Australian female writers, starting with See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. Some would say writing by Australian women is having a renaissance but that’s assuming it was ever this good before. There are so many stories getting a lot of attention, some rightfully, some less so.
I wish I could say this is one of those Australian female writers who deserves all the attention the category has been receiving but I found the book disappointing. On the back it says, “You know the rhyme. You don’t know the story.” I knew the story and this book doesn’t add anything to it. Not to the real story anyway. In fact, it adds a lot of fictional elements that just muddy the waters.Continue reading
This is one of those books that was always destined to succeed. The publishing company wouldn’t have allowed anything else. Most writers hide themselves, plugging away solitarily, swallowing the loneliness until finally a book is produced. And then a select few people assist in polishing the manuscript before it is finally accepted or rejected. There are over one hundred people listed in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. Ergo, this is one of those books that was always destined to succeed. Whether the readers liked it or not. Thankfully, it does have some merits. But maybe not as many as we would have preferred.Continue reading
I finished reading this book over two months ago. Normally I rush to the computer to write my review, eager to capture the way I was feeling as I closed the back cover. Not this time. Possibly because the way I felt at the time was exactly the way I feel now: meh.Continue reading
Helen Garner could write a book about painting one wall of her living room and it would still be fascinating, that’s how good a writer she is. But having now read three of her books, I’m seeing a theme: she is baffled at why everybody doesn’t think like her and more baffled when people won’t take the time to try to convince her to think otherwise, then give her the opportunity to do the same.
The First Stone is creative non-fiction, meshing tales from Garner’s own personal life, particularly emphasising her and her friends’ experiences with feminism and unwanted male attention, with the story of two accusations of sexual harassment at the University of Melbourne by two students against the head of Ormond College, one of the residences. It comes to her attention when she reads about it on the front page of The Age newspaper, as the students have taken their complaint to the police after being unsatisfied with the university’s handling of the matter.Continue reading
Full disclosure time: in 2016, this book was shortlisted for the Text Prize for Unpublished Children’s and Young Adult Writing along with a book I’d written and three by other writers. Clearly, my book and those three others didn’t win and this one did. I was always going to read Beautiful Mess because 1) it won a writing prize and that’s a pretty great endorsement, 2) I wanted to know what Claire Christian had done better than me and use it as a learning process, and 3) I’m a little masochistic (but mostly the first two). I’m very pleased to report that it’s an amazing book because 1) it justifies that it won the Text Prize and 2) I get to write a glowing book review and avoid looking like a sore loser.Continue reading