Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany

Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany is a brutal and intense novel about the abuse of a teenage girl.

The unnamed narrator focuses on her family – her mother, her brother and her mother’s new partner, referred to as ‘father man’. The man runs an unlicensed mechanic’s workshop in the backyard. The girl shows her resistance with the only weapons she has at her disposal – silence and sabotage. She slips out at night to remove bolts, sever pipes and loosen screws in the engines the man is working on. Continue reading

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

For how do you walk towards your father without being a son? How do you leave home without realising where you’re from?

This book… it’s a 568 page poem about brothers, running, fathers, a bridge, mistakes, Homer’s Odyssey, mothers, stories, dying, legacies, horses and a mule, clay, painting, David and the slaves, reading, Pont Neuf, grief, refugees, an engraved lighter, a piano, a typewriter, a peg…

…there was always a bulkiness to us. A bursting at the seams. Whatever we did, there was more: More washing, more cleaning, more eating, more dishes, more arguing, more fighting and throwing and hitting and farting… It didn’t matter how in control or on-top-of-things were, there was chaos a heartbeat away. We could be skinny and constantly agile, but there was never quite room for all of it – so everything was done at once. Continue reading

The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham

I savoured what I’m sure will be a once-in-a-lifetime thing – a fabulous, darkly humorous novel about water entitlements.

The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham centres on farmer Mitch Bishop. Mitch comes from a long line of sheep and wheat farmers, however, Mitch fears the family’s farm, Bishop’s Corner, will end with him – a drought; the departure of his childhood sweetheart and his subsequent marriage to the scheming Mandy; his ageing father; and the ever-increasing demands of the State Water Authority, are all taking their toll. But water politics, new owners at the local pub, and Mitch’s closest friends have a way of changing things. Continue reading

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

The Chamberlain case was the background to my entire childhood. Outside, we had smiling Safety House signs screwed to each letterbox in the street. Every house safe. Every house a refuge. While inside, the court case of a mother alleged to have murdered her child played out each night, in prime time, in the lounge room.

Yes, this is my memory too. And that adults all had an opinion about Lindy Chamberlain. However, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean is not an account of the Chamberlain case. Instead, the case provides an interesting parallel to the fictitious part of this book –  the disappearance of the three Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth. Continue reading

Some Tests by Wayne Macauley

A few years ago, I decided to get to the bottom of my frequent migraine headaches. It was the beginning of an eight month process of tests (mostly ‘ruling things out’), visits to four doctors, and various medications and procedures. My experience ended with an iron infusion which ultimately made all the difference to my migraines, however, there were moments on this medical merry-go-round when I thought I was wasting my time and money.

Wayne Macauley captures this exact situation in his strange novel, Some Tests. Continue reading

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

Time heals all wounds… Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it… History repeats itself… Give me a child before the age of seven and I’ll give you the woman… You can’t enter the same river twice…

The sayings might be familiar but everything Maria Tumarkin does in Axiomatic to explore them, is not. In five loosely linked chapters, Turmarkin uses stories about suicide, a child’s kidnapping, Holocaust survival, crime, and past relationships to challenge our understanding of these well-worn axioms.  Continue reading

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Five truly wonderful elements of Little Gods by Jenny Ackland (a book about a girl called Olive; her complex family; dams, a country town and silos; and a bird called Grace).

01. The character of Olive is superb. She’s gutsy, clever, impulsive, bossy, curious, and cares about some things but definitely not others. In terms of child narrators, she’s made my top five.

Olive went through her wishes: to get a pony two hands taller than Snooky’s friend Megan’s, to find a baby owl and to be magic.

She, Olive Lovelock, child sleuth, smart kid, adventuress, reader. Imaginer, cryptologist and conqueror of high places. Keeper of bones, rocks and feathers. She would show everybody how clever she was and they’d say to each other: ‘Here comes Olive Lovelock. Did you know she solved the case of her sister who drowned? She’s going to meet the Queen.’ Continue reading

Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau

In the nineties, I had a flat mate who worked for an arts festival. She was an excellent flat mate to have because we were both on tight just-moved-out-of-home budgets and one of the perks of her job was tickets to all kinds of concerts and performances – and I was often her ‘plus one’. However, I soon realised that she was wasting a ticket by taking me to any kind of interpretive dance. I appreciated the skill and athleticism of these performances but I simply didn’t enjoy it.

I’m afraid Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau was the reading equivalent of interpretative dance for me. Continue reading

The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo

There would be few Melbournians who cross the West Gate Bridge without a slightly heavy heart – the 1970 bridge collapse and the horrific tragedy of Darcey Freeman in 2009 weighs on us collectively. It is perhaps why Enza Gandolfo’s novel, The Bridge, resonates so deeply.

There are two stories in this book, linked by the Bridge. The first tells of 22-year-old Italian migrant Antonello, newly married and working as a rigger on the West Gate Bridge in 1970. When the Bridge collapses one October morning, killing 35 of his workmates, Antonello’s world crashes down on him.

Another jolt; the span was almost vertical now. A stiff-legged derrick loosed from its mooring catapulted toward the river, its long metal arms flaying violently, a giant possessed. And now the men: the men were falling, falling off, falling through the air and into the river below. They were screaming, but their cries were muffled by the bridge’s own deathly groans. Continue reading