Here Until August by Josephine Rowe

According to the publishers, the short stories in Josephine Rowe’s collection, Here Until August, explore the point of change in people’s lives. And yes, the collection delivers that – the ten stories examine thresholds, internal and external boundaries, and points-of-no-return. But there’s also a theme of belonging in each of these carefully crafted stories, explored through memory; through people being in foreign places; and people returning ‘home’ (but not necessarily ‘belonging’).

The collection opens with Glisk, a story about the return of the narrator’s older brother to a small town. There’s a past trauma and a deceit, and when the deceit is revealed, it tips everything the narrator has known sideways.

I’m waiting behind the flyscreen, feeling everything I’d neatly flat-packed springing up in me. Continue reading

Monkey Grip by Helen Garner

We’ve all known a couple that breaks up and gets back together over and over again. As teenagers, that sort of relationship drama seems to be part of the adolescent experience, but once you’re in your twenties and thirties the debriefings and speculation over what has been said and done wears thin.

Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip unpicks the relationship between Nora and Javo. It’s predominantly a story of addiction – Javo has a drug habit and Nora has a ‘Javo-habit’. As frequently as Javo says he is giving up drugs, Nora says she’s done with Javo. Neither stop and that is essentially the beginning and end of the story. Continue reading

The 2020 Stella Prize Longlist

Every year my kids’ school has a vital information night on at the same time as the Stella Prize longlist announcement. So, while I would have preferred to be at the Melba Spiegeltent for the announcement, I was instead in a school hall, pretending to listen to VCE study tips and surreptitiously looking at Twitter as the longlist was revealed.

I’m home now and I’m ready to start reading. Continue reading

Joan Smokes by Angela Meyer

I rarely write standalone reviews for novellas, but Joan Smokes by Angela Meyer, has lingered in a way that I didn’t quite expect.

The story begins in Vegas, where ‘Joan’, is starting over – she buys a new dress; dyes and curls her hair; and begins smoking – all suited to a woman named ‘Joan’, she decides. She finds a job waitressing; allows herself to be distracted by the neon lights of Vegas; and does her best to forget the past, notably her relationship with a man named Jack.

She refuses to feel sad… but something happens to her physically. Ache is too soft a word. Continue reading

Three Aussie Audios

I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to reviewing audiobooks – without being able to easily note favourite passages, I get to the end of the book with little ‘evidence’ of what I liked (or didn’t like).

I guess it’s worth mentioning narrators – in the case of these three, Perlman and Gilmore read their own work (I like hearing an author read their own work), and the Jordan is read by Caroline Lee, whose narration is always enjoyable.

Any thoughts on reviewing audiobooks? Continue reading

Unlike the Heart by Nicola Redhouse

When I was studying counselling, I had frequent debates with one of my lecturers about the intersect of the mind and our biological instincts – I am a scientist at heart; I have always listened to my instinct or ‘gut feeling’; and believe that although our mind can be powerful, sometimes biology drives what we do. It’s a huge topic, with many facets (for example the links between gut health and mental health, and the study of epigenetics in terms of inherited trauma), and one that goes well beyond the scope of a blog post, but it’s why I was drawn to Nicola Redhouse’s Unlike the Heart (a book billed as a ‘memoir of brain and mind’).

Redhouse wrote the book in response to her experience of postnatal anxiety. Prior to pregnancy, she had been devoted to psychoanalysis –

What use would it be to spend more years patching up where the cracks were by using the putty of another person’s positive affirmation and kindness? Psychoanalysis with Dr Parkes served the purpose of an engineering surveyor: it felt out the cause of the cracks to begin with. Continue reading