2015 – salt creek – lucy treloar

Salt Creek Lucy Treloar

It has been closer to me of late, its outlines growing clear again. Not two weeks ago letters and an old tin trunk crammed with items from the past arrived from South Australia. It was dented, dusty still, and a finger drawn across its skin left a smudge on my fingers. Could it be the grime of the Coorong after such a journey? On a whim I licked it from my fingers – salt – and swallowed to keep it safe.

Earlier this month, I reviewed Lucy Treloar’s debut novel, Salt Creek for Newtown Review of Books. At the time, it had won the Indie Award for debut fiction, made the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction – and just a day or two before my review was published, had been longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. It’s since been longlisted for the Dobbie award for a debut novel by a woman writer. In other words, Salt Creek is everywhere at the moment – and deservedly so.

If you’re interested, you can read my review of Salt Creek here.

I know I say this every time I post a NRB review, but I can’t say it enough – thanks to Linda and Jean for publishing me. There’s really only one way to learn how to write book reviews, and that’s by actually writing book reviews. NRB provides not only an online space for the work of emerging critics to learn their craft, but feedback on their work, which is invaluable for those of us still learning our craft.

glassesgreenxxs

I’d been putting off reading Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things for the longest time. I’m not sure why. I bought it as soon as it came out, and it’s been sitting on my bedside table since.

Perhaps my hesitation is because Wood’s writing always leaves me devastated – in a good way, but still devastated – and I’ve been feeling fragile for months now. Either way, I finally picked it up last week and gulped it down in two marathon sittings, finally turning the last page at 1am and remaining awake for hours after. And yes, it’s devastating, but it’s also beautiful and sad and funny and intensely moving. I’d love to write more about this novel, but I doubt I have anything new to add, other than my sincere admiration.

Anyway – while on the subject of books and awards, I was so thrilled to see The Natural Way of Things win this year’s Stella Prize. You can read Charlotte’s amazing acceptance speech here.

2015 – the women’s pages – debra adelaide

The Women's Pages Debra Adelaide

Taking on a literary classic is by no means easy, but Adelaide emerges triumphant. Her novel-within-a-novel is a poignant, richly feminist tribute to Wuthering Heights that deserves a place beside it on the shelf.

When Jean and Linda from Newtown Review of Books offered me the chance to review Debra Adelaide’s The Women’s Pages, I was delighted. Not only because I was enchanted by the idea of this book, but also because it gave me the perfect excuse to do something I’d been daydreaming about for a long time – reread Wuthering Heights.

I genuinely adored The Women’s Pages and was absolutely thrilled to see it longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. Here’s a link to my review – and, as always, my eternal thanks to Jean and Linda for their editorial genius.

glassesgreenxxs

It’s been a while between blog posts. There’s so much to write, so much to read…but where to begin? And where to end? The other day, I reread ABR’s November edition, in which Kerryn Goldsworthy, named Critic of the Month, writes about the qualities of a fine critic

Clarity, of vision and style. Fearlessness, which is not the same thing as aggression, vanity, or bumptiousness. A sense of humour, including about oneself. The refusal to get into a rut, and indeed the ability to recognise and avoid a rut.

I’m still working on all of these things. That last one in particular.

So, yes. Although I’ve said it before – more soon.

2015 – the secret son – jenny ackland

The_Secret_Son

One moonless night a few of them snuck down to the beach.

‘Come and see,’ a young farmer from Shepparton said. ‘There’s sparks in the water.’

The phosphorescence surrounded them, silver flecks of light that surged and streamed and made James and the others boyish in the night. They lost themselves in the fire-lit water, floating and dipping and splashing, holding up hands to watch the light slip off their blackened fingertips. As long as James lived he would never forget the night the sea was silvered with the white sparks. Then a bullet slapped the water and they crept back to the trenches. Before he tried to sleep in his earth-bed, James saw a shooting star and formalised the wish he’d carried with him from home: to stay alive and kill no man.

My review of Jenny Ackland’s debut novel, The Secret Son, is featured over at Newtown Review of Books today. If you’ve got a moment, why not make your way over to NRB and have a read?

2015 – crow’s breath – john kinsella

john kinsella crow's breath

Sometimes at dusk the family would sit outside the shop and stare at the wheatbin. The last caws of crows stretched with the fading light. Dusk is a crushing time for a dying town. If dawn surprises and mocks with hopelessness, the suggestion that light might lift it all, then dusk is worn out and can’t be bothered taunting. Crow’s breath, the maintenance workers called it, enough to singe the bin’s whitewash. And when that goes, this town will sink under the murk.

Hey, look – it’s a new review!

Just last week, I shared my thoughts on John Kinsella’s “chilling, funny and captivating” short story collection, Crow’s Breath over at Newtown Review of Books. I’d love it if you’d go and have a read.

My thanks, as always, go to Linda and Jean from NRB for hosting me.