Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford

On the back of Tsiolkas’s Barracuda and Pung’s Laurinda (both ‘fictional’) comes Rebecca Starford’s memoir, Bad Behaviour.

Starford recounts her year (at age 14) spent at a school in the bush where she lived in a house with 16 other girls. During her year, Starford experiences bullying (as both a receiver and an instigator) and uses her memoir as a means to explore how this ‘bad behaviour’ impacted her adult relationships.

“…what bothered me the most were all the gaps in the diary. So many things had been left out entirely – arguments, sadness, misbehaviour. On these pages I’d instead pasted in photographs from hikes, to make it look like something else had happened. What, I wondered, was I trying to forget?” Continue reading

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

There should be a special name for books that start out really, really well and then fall in a heap. In the absence of a particular term for such a book, I’ll call it If I Fall, If I Die (by Michael Christie).

It’s the story of Will, a teen who has never been to ‘the Outside’ (at least not since he can remember). His mother, Diane, is an eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door.

“…she taught him that the Outside was built of danger, of slicing edges and crushing weights, of piercing needlepoints and pummeling drop-offs, of an unrelenting potential for suffocation, electrocution, mayhem, and harm.” Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts


1. Did you have hot plans for Valentine’s Day? I did. Literally. My whole family went to the World Cup Cricket match between Australia and England, along with 90,000 others. We baked in the hot sun. Baked. Swear to God I sweated away five kilos.

2. How brilliant is this story about a book group?

3. I think I’ve mentioned that Nick Hornby and I are on thin ice. This might pull him back to safe ground – he’s writing the screenplay for Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. Continue reading

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

In the end notes of Priya Parmar’s book, Vanessa and Her Sister, the author says “It is not easy to fictionalise the Bloomsbury Group, as their lives are so well documented. They were prolific correspondents and diarists, and there is a wealth of existing primary material. The difficulty came in finding enough room for fiction in the negative spaces they left behind.”

It may not have been easy but Parmar makes it appear effortless. Her novel, a fictional diary by Vanessa Bell, painter, and sister to author Virginia Woolf is so convincing, so compelling, that my ‘belief’ never wavered for a moment. The diary entries are interwoven with correspondence between members of the Bloomsbury Group – letters, telegrams and postcards.


vanessa bell and virginia woolf Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts


1. Stella Prize 2015 longlist announced today. I’ve read four of them (Hartnett, Pung, Garner and Laguna) and have a couple of others in my very-near-reading-future.

2. I’d like to see Hartnett win.

3. But can’t believe Favel Parrett’s When the Night Comes didn’t make the longlist. Continue reading

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

What the actual hell, Peter Carey?

No doubt it’s un-Australian of me to begin a review of Peter Carey’s The Chemistry of Tears with that. But honestly… It started well. Then the middle bit… that’s where I started saying words like ‘hell’ and ‘eff it, I have to re-read that bit because what in God’s name was that about…’. And then the end – I’m sure it was terribly clever and studded with meaning. Only problem was that all the clues about the no-doubt exquisite ending were planted in the WTF middle bit.

“I find the notion that mysteries must be solved to be very problematic. You know what I mean? Every curator finally learns that the mysteries are the point.” Continue reading

The Two of Us by Andy Jones

The blurb for Andy Jones’s just-in-time-for-Valentine’s-Day-novel, The Two of Us, is perfectly pitched for a February release – “Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next…

It’s the story of Fisher and Ivy. They’ve known each other for 19 days but both are sure it’s love.

“…anyway, how we met is academic – you don’t ask how the rain began, you simply appreciate the rainbow.” Continue reading