2014 – damon galgut ~ arctic summer

arcticsummercover

He knew it now: this would be his last novel. He had threatened it before, but this time, he thought, it was true. Beyond the imaginings in India, no feature broke the horizon. He could feel that something had been used up. If he’d stuck to what was familiar and safe, a comfortable tapestry of tea parties and English scenery, he might have kept a quiet industry going, writing numerous books of a similar nature. But the world that interested his was disappearing, or already gone, buried under motor cars and machinery and the smoke of war. Writers should see ahead, not constantly be looking behind them, and his powers couldn’t keep pace with history. There would be no more books like this one.

Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer is a tantalising thing – it’s a novel about a novel; a fictionalised look at the life of EM Forster during the years he spent writing his final book, A Passage to India. And while Galgut’s Forster in the passage above is indeed right – there’s no other book like A Passage to India – there aren’t many books around that are quite like Arctic Summer, either.

I’ve reviewed Arctic Summer for Newtown Review of Books. Click here to take a look.

(Also, if you’re interested, here’s a link to the Paris Review interview with Forster I mention in my review, in which Forster discusses his own Arctic Summer)

2014 – the lost girls ~ wendy james

thelostgirls

The woman has come prepared: she takes a recorder, notebook, pens and a small bottle of water out of her bag, arranges them carefully. Close up, the woman is not plain, as I’d first thought, but beautiful – her eyes large and dark, mouth full, cheekbones high. I wonder whether she’s deliberately made herself appear plain, bland. And why.

She clears her throat then speaks quite formally, as if she’s reading from a script.

‘I’m going to ask you some questions…’

I’m lucky enough to be over at Newtown Review of Books today, reviewing Wendy James’s sixth novel, The Lost Girls. Thank you, NRB!

(Also, it’s Newtown Review of Books’ second birthday this year! They’ve got a Donate button on their site – why not make a contribution?)

2013 – plenty ~ john dale

plentyMy childhood was the kind that city kids only dream about. My mates and I swam with eels in the creek, went fishing for mud crabs and hung out on the beach like Robinson Crusoes waiting to be rescued. In winter, we kicked a footy on an oval with poplar trees for goal posts; in summer, we played cricket on a bare concrete pitch. At night, we lit bonfires on the rocks and barbecued flathead while our fathers drank themselves legless at the pub.

Around Christmas it would rain for weeks on end. The drains would overflow, washing raw sewage into the sea. But I liked it: after a big downpour, the pavements and parks gleamed like glass and shrikes and noisy miners filled the trees, feeding on slow-moving insects. The travel magazines in Mum’s bookcase would curl at the edges while bloated leopard slugs crawled across the floor and up the asbestos sheeted walls of my bedroom.

Today, I’m over at Newtown Review of Books writing about John Dale’s new novella, Plenty. Interested? Click here to take a look.

2013 – the railwayman’s wife ~ ashley hay

railwayman“It could be any day, any year: call it 1935, 1938, 1945 or somewhere decades away in her future. Perhaps it’s the day after her wedding, the day after her daughter’s birth, the last day of the war, the last day of her life. Whenever it is, Anikka Lachlan is reading, swallowed by the shapes and spaces made by rows of dark letters on pale paper…”

I’m very grateful to be over at Newtown Review of Books today, writing about Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife. If you’ve got a moment, go and take a look.

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I’m counting this as my third review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge this year.