Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

If you’ve coming looking for a thorough and comprehensive review of Claire G. Coleman’s debut, Terra Nullius, move along. I, like others, are saying nothing about what happens in this book for fear of spoiling it. Continue reading

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The Stella Prize 2018 – longlist predictions

With just hours before the Stella Prize 2018 longlist is announced, I thought I’d take a stab at what I think will appear.

Apparently the judges had to work through more than 170 entries (look at that ace pic below!). Unlike the judges, I’ve only read a handful of eligible books but I’m aware of a bunch that keep crossing my radar. On that rather flimsy basis, I’m predicting the longlist*.

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In My Mother’s Hands by Biff Ward

I have fiddled around with this review for weeks and it’s only today that I realised what was bothering me – other reviews (settle down, I won’t name names).

Biff Ward’s memoir, In My Mother’s Hands, describes her life growing up in the 40s and 50s. Biff has a younger brother, Mark, but there was also baby Alison, who drowned in her bath before Biff was born. The drowning occurred because Biff’s mother was ‘distracted’  – it was an event that would have a deep effect on their lives in many ways and would continue to haunt Biff for decades. Biff’s father, historian Russel Ward, was charismatic, strong and outspoken. He was also short-tempered and frequently unfaithful to his wife.

We may not have had ideas we could voice but we breathed it in, the irrational in her, the grief in him and the unpredictability all around. Continue reading

The long and the short of it…

If previous longlists are anything to go by, you’d have to say that short story collections get a fair crack at the Stella Prize. And because I’m going to have a go at predicting the Stella longlist this year, I figured I should read as many eligible books as I can before making a call –

Pulse Points by Jennifer Down Continue reading

An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

This book is bananas.

I didn’t ‘like’ it but it’s hard not to be impressed by something that is so incredibly creative and thought-provoking.

But before I go on, it should be noted that Krissy Kneen’s An Uncertain Grace comes with a big bunch of trigger warnings (rape, sex crimes against children, treatment of paedophiles). Continue reading

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Stink. Bloody. Rotting. Decay. Putrid. Stench. Rancid. Filthy. These are the words that dominate Sarah Schmidt’s historical gothic novel, See What I Have Done. There’s also lots of sweat, bits of brains, vomit, decapitated pigeons, decomposing flesh, and blood spattered walls.

It’s the story of the 1892 axe-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Massachusetts. Forensics wasn’t what it is today – the murderer left little evidence. Eventually, the youngest daughter, Lizzie Borden, was arrested, spent ten months in jail and stood trial but was ultimately acquitted (due to a technicality and inconclusive evidence from witnesses).

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the case, nor the accuracy of the detail as presented by Schmidt (there are hundreds of reviews of this book and others related to the murders, if that’s your thing). I should point out that I am apparently the only person in the world who knew nothing about this case until reading See What I Have Done. Absolutely nothing. So again, it’s pointless commenting on accuracy but I do have thoughts on Schmidt’s writing style and the way she tells the story. Continue reading

The Museum of Words by Georgia Blain

There’s a saying that truth is stranger than fiction and Georgia Blain’s exquisite posthumous memoir, The Museum of Words is testimony to this.

We often expect reality as we experience it to be less dramatic than fiction, and most of the time it is. But this was a perfect storm: a confluence of dark clouds gathering, all lined up in the horizon, every one of them heading my way. Continue reading

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

Homesickness is a peculiar thing. Unpredictable and urgent or gently tugging and constant. I have never really experienced homesickness (even as a 16-year-old exchange student in Germany) – not as an overwhelming sensation, anyway. But my brother would, even on our month-long family summers at McCrae – he just wanted his own bed and his usual routines. I was thinking a lot about people’s different experiences as I was reading Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World. Continue reading

The Mint Lawn by Gillian Mears

Phew. I found The Mint Lawn by Gillian Mears intense. And dense. I was expecting to become completely absorbed (as I did with Foal’s Bread) but instead, I got bogged down in heavy prose, the shifting timeline, and emotionally taxing characters.

The story is set in the fictional town of Jacaranda, on the north coast of New South Wales (I believe Jacaranda is based on the town of Grafton). Clementine, aged twenty-five and married to her high-school music teacher, Hugh, is still living in the place where she grew up, bound by memories and her inability to make sense of past events. Told from Clementine’s point-of-view, the story rotates around her sisters, her parents (Ventry and Cairo), her grandmother, Hugh and her lover.

But it is one of those memory stories that has accumulated colours and meanings more potent than the event itself. Continue reading

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Unbearable Lightness is de Rossi’s story of her eating disorder (she suffered both bulimia and anorexia). Much of the book is focused on the ‘physical’ elements of her experience – dieting to fit into the modelling world that she became a part of from age 12, constantly under the scrutiny of a camera, the stress of wardrobe fittings. She goes into great detail about her exercise regime and what she ate (and vomited). The details are horrifying –

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