2018 – little gods – jenny ackland

Have you ever wanted to adopt a character from a book? The thought never occurred to me until I read Jenny Ackland’s latest novel, Little Gods. Once you’ve met twelve-year-old Olive Lovelock, the novel’s narrator, you might just feel the same way.

But too bad. She’s all mine.

I was lucky enough to review Little Gods over at Newtown Review of Books last month. Here’s a little of what I had to say:

Jenny Ackland’s first novel, The Secret Son, was a tale of men and war and Australia that sprawled across generations and continents. In contrast, Little Gods takes place on a smaller scale. But don’t let this quiet novel catch you unprepared: Little Gods might just crush your heart.

…Don’t say I didn’t warn you, okay? Click here to take a look at the rest of my review.

As always, my thanks to Jean and Linda for publishing my thoughts and generally putting up with me.

2018 – the lucky galah – tracy sorensen

Linda and Jean from Newtown Review of Books were kind enough to invite me to review The Lucky Galah – the debut novel by writer, filmmaker, academic…and fellow Newtown Review critic, Tracy Sorensen. The moment I found out it’s set in the Sixties and narrated by a galah called Lucky, who receives the thoughts of people in the town via a local satellite dish, I was sold.

…Did I mention it’s literally narrated by a galah? Because it is, and it’s genius. Also, she likes books:

The galah is an intelligent animal, despite its reputation as a clown and lightweight. A captive galah needs constant activity if it is not to decline into depression. Tearing up books, page by page, is a mental, physical and spiritual workout for me; as good as any gym, yoga class or university.

You can read my review right here, if you like. Or just take my word for it and nab yourself a copy from your nearest bookshop or library. Your to read pile will thank you.

Huge thanks to NRB’s extraordinary editors, Jean and Linda, for wrangling my wayward words into shape!

2016 – everywhere i look – helen garner

everywhereilook

One day I heard what sounded like music, very faint and far away. I thought I was hallucinating, and kept walking. But every time I passed the entrance to a certain west-running hallway, the same thing would happen: fragile drifts of notes and slow arpeggios, as if a ghost in a curtain-muffled room were playing a piano. I was too embarrassed to ask if anyone else had heard it; was I starting to crack up? But one day when there was no one else around I went in search of it. I found that an intersection of two corridors had been roofed in glass or Perspex. Two benches had been placed against a wall, and from a tiny speaker, fixed high in a corner, came showering these delicious droplets of sound. It was a resting place that some nameless benefactor had created, for people who thought they couldn’t go on.

Linda and Jean from Newtown Review of Books were kind enough to let me review Helen Garner’s latest, Everywhere I Look.

(Needless to say, I’m a bit of a Garner fan…)

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.