Australian Literature Month

australian literature month signage: Image courtesy of Reading Matters

According blogger Kim Forrester of Reading Matters, January is Australian Literature Month. (This juicy intel acquired via Sue of Whispering Gums.)

I, too, have a lot of reading to do in the Aussie Lit department. However, because I’m on a Charlotte-flavoured Mission (you know the one) I haven’t had much time for reading, so I’ll just mention a few I managed to wrap my eyeballs around recently.

1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Cover of The Book Thief, courtesy: Random House

Having approached this book with my ‘Oh Lordy, not another WWII book’ goggles on, I was almost laughing aloud at how well and truly sucked in I was by the deft and energetic narrative voice of Death Himself, who treats the characters – and words! – with so much respect. The story is broken up into anecdotal sections which, once put together, build a rich and off-beat picture of the lives of the residents around Himmel Street, where Liesel, our 9-year-old book thief, resides.

2. The Secret River – Kate Grenville

Cover of The Secret River, courtesy: Canongate Books

I’d heard a lot about this book before I finally read it last year. I could use a whole rake of phrases like ‘beautiful, evocative writing’, for example, but I think lots of other people already have that covered.

I walked away feeling that I’d had a priveleged inside look at the lives of early white settlers in New South Wales, with the aid of Grenville’s exceptional eye for detail and ear for prose.

Really, I should just say ‘beautiful, evocative writing’ and leave it at that.

3. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

Cover of The Slap, courtesy: Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. Canada

Now a Tele-movie in Australia, this book has become a bit of a sensation. That’s why I read it.

Based around an event (man slaps boy who is not his son at BBQ) and its repercussions, I found the writing slick and fast-paced – it’s a page-turner – and the characters compelling, if only because they are extreme and not especially likeable. But, then again, friction makes good drama, and I suspect that’s the point.

It’s one of those books that defies genre-ization, which makes me happy.

(FYI, another genre-bending Aussie book is The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, which I’d suggest sits happily and simultaneously in the Fiction and Crime camps.)

4. My Brilliant Career – Miles Franklin

Cover of My Brilliant Career courtesy: Angus & Robertson Australia

I read this one at the age of 18, having just completed my final year at school. And I read it 20 years later with my book club, which was at the time comprised of gals from Sweden, Finland, USA, Holland and Canada. (And me, an Aussie.)

I would say that even though I love this book with all my heart, it is not an easy one to read if you are not prepared to take some time to ‘decode’ the language. Australianisms are all over the shop (this goes for ‘The Slap’ as well, by the way), and my book club colleagues struggled with the language. A shame, because Sybilla, with all her energy and runaway irreverence, is such a great character. A good one for young gals to read.

I can only hope my own Ms12 (and Charlotte, of course) imbibes some of Sybilla’s free-spirited approach to life, to carve out an adventure for herself.

Please let me know if you have any Aussie book recommendations. 

Happy Aussie reading!

Incidentally, for my Zürich readers, JJ informs me Christos Tsiolkas will be reading on 9th March at Kaufleuten. See you there?

4 responses to “Australian Literature Month

  1. Great round-up of some great books … all of which I’ve read. The book thief is wonderful, isn’t it, the way it deals with terrible stuff with a light but not a disrespectful or unfeeling tone.

    • Yes, the only thing I’m in two minds about is the way Death tends to give us a taste of what’s to come (spoilers, if you like).

      On the one hand, you know Death is the narrator and therefore ‘the Titanic will sink’, but you still hold out hope for certain characters, which makes encountering a spoiler a disappointing moment for the reader.

      On the other hand, it’s a clever device and, somehow, instead of the spoiler killing the tension, Zusak manages to sustain it. Clever him.

      • Yes, in this case I call it foreshadowing rather than spoiling (but that’s probably splitting hairs a little) and I thought it worked. There is a review on my blog if you are interested. (Just click on the Index Authors page and then on Zusak).

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