The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

It’s taken me more than two weeks to order my thoughts about Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things and I’m quite sure I’m not finished. It’s a book that demands discussion and debate. It’s a book that prompts reflection. It’s a book that might make you feel angry, as well as uncomfortable. It’s a book that is beautifully written. It’s a book that will still be talked about in ten years time. It’s a bloody good book.

The story centres around two women, Verla and Yolanda, who wake from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property somewhere in rural Australia. There are eight other prisoners and the women soon discover what links them – in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal. Continue reading

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The Anti Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland

Is there are special sub-section in the misery-memoir genre for stories told with self-deprecating humour? I think there is and Rosie Waterland’s The Anti Cool Girl is the latest addition.

Like Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors and Liam Pieper’s The Feel Good Hit of the Year, Waterland takes you through her childhood, one filled with addict parents, overdoses, stints in rehab with her mother, butchers’ knife attacks, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, bullying, abusive foster parents, suicide attempts and periods of homelessness. And she’s only 28. Continue reading

Prick With a Fork by Larissa Dubecki

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Well, isn’t it fun to review a reviewer?!

Larissa Dubecki, restaurant reviewer, tells of her time when she was at the other end of the waiting game, in her memoir, Prick With a Fork.

Before dining at over 1400 restaurants (and  having “…an ongoing battle with 5 kilograms that came along for the ride uninvited…“), Dubecki claims she was the world’s worst waitress. Dishing the dirt on ‘waitering’, she shares stories from her time working at various restaurants and cafes, including a dodgy Mexican joint (which sounded even worse than Tacky-Bills); gastro-pubs (it was the nineties); and an internet cafe/bar (see previous point re: gastro-pubs). Continue reading

Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht

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The problem with Hannah Kent’s debut, Burial Rites, is that it set the bar for historical fiction very high. Really, so high you can barely imagine. Look up into the sky, as far as your eye goes, and then look a little a further – Burial Rites is somewhere a bit further than that again.

And so I sat down with Eleanor Limprecht’s Long Bay, a fictionalised account of the life of Rebecca Sinclair, a woman who was sent to Long Bay Women’s Reformatory in 1909 after she was convicted of manslaughter for a botched abortion. Rebecca was sentenced to three years hard labour, but less than six months into her prison term she gave birth to a child, who she kept with her in prison. Continue reading

Reading the Stella Prize shortlist – The Golden Age by Joan London

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“What had been temporary had become settled. What had seemed like the end of the world had become the centre.”

I described Joan London’s The Golden Age to a friend as a ‘quiet’ book. And it is. Quietly brilliant.

This isn’t a book with a plot that knocks you over or language that demands your attention. Instead, the characters creep into your heart, win your admiration. London’s words are plain but poetic – I found myself re-reading passages and thinking, “Isn’t that just perfection?”.

“His parents had stood like this at the railing on the deck of the ship to Australia, backs turned to him, slender drifts of smoke curling up above the horizon like the thread of their own thoughts. There was something lonely yet resolute about the way they stood there. It was not quite hope.” Continue reading

Reading the Stella Prize shortlist – The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna

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I reviewed Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep last year. Actually, it wasn’t a review… just a little lament. And my position remains unchanged. This is a brilliant and heartbreaking story about a family and a boy named Jim Flick.

4/5 Laguna has created an unforgettable character in Jim. Prepare to cry.

Will it win the Stella Prize? Front-runner.

Reading the Stella Prize shortlist – Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke

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I hardly feel qualified to review Maxine Beneba Clarke’s collection of short stories about refugees and immigrants, Foreign Soil, given my white-bread, picket-fence life. Anything I say, will (to my ears at least), sound off-hand in light of the horrors and the deep sadness that Clarke exposes in her fine stories. Continue reading