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Suggestions for the next read "Australian novels"


Adrian
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The next BGO read is "Australia" - novels only, please.

 

Australian novels (by an Australian writer, and set in Australia)

 

Sorry if this is a bit early, but I'm going on holiday soon and want to get the nominations started.

 

Last time I said nominate as many books as you like. I ended up with so many possibles that it was difficult to pick those to go to the vote purely because so many people had put forward so many books. Thus the very important "secondings" became spread too wide over too many books.

 

So this time may I ask that you put forward one book only, though I wouldn't mind if you mentioned a couple of others that you hope might be picked up on by others.

 

Putting the book title in bold would help when scanning the thread.

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Thinking further, however, I would also suggest Richard Flanagan's Gould's book of Fish.

 

Finding himself at the mercy of a brutal and insane colonial regime that indulges its bizarre fantasies whatever the cost to the inmates, Gould finds himself commissioned to paint fish indigenous to the island. Gould's beautiful book of fish survives to this day, and his pictures are part of the exquisite design of Flanagan's book, which attempts to reproduce the original feel of Gould's book. But this is the novel's last connection to reality. Gould's fish, with their "coloring & surfaces & translucent fins suggest the very reason and riddle of life". Gould begins to realise that "a fish is a truth", and gradually his own pictures become a point of resistance to the ruthless classification and surveillance that characterises life on the penal colony. The book is a picaresque fantasy that encompasses art, science, empire and commerce, as well as sex, murder, liberation, castration, bestiality and a whole host of even more unlikely topics. The writing is extraordinary--luminous, sinewy, at times hilarious, often gruesome. Sometimes Flanagan goes too far, as his linguistic pyrotechnics feel like a parody of Sterne or Rabelais, but there can be no doubt that Gould's Book of Fish is a marvellously ambitious novel from a writer with enviable raw talent.

 

From Amazon

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Kate Grenville The Secret River.

 

Shortlisted for last year's Booker prize, this beautifully written book by a former winner of the Orange prize (for The Idea of Perfection ) deals with issues in Australian literature and history and also, Kate grenville has recently published a companion book, Behind the Secret River, that details aspects of her writing and research processes and would be fascinating to discuss.

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I have both Oscar and Lucinda and The Secret River waiting to be read, so I would be happy if either of those were picked.

 

At the moment I am still trying to decide on my own nomination - there are so many good Australian books to choose from.

I thought I had decided on Remembering Babylon by David Malouf, but in sorting out our bookshelves at the weekend I discovered an old hardback copy of The Shiralee by D'Arcy Niland, which I read years ago.

It was a very popular film back in the late 1950s, starring Peter Finch. A bit of a tear-jerker, I think.

 

When do nominations close, Adrian, so I know when I have got to have settled on one?

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I read "Oscar and Lucinda" last year, so I'd second this, or indeed any Carey novel, as most of his are somewhere on the TBR mountain.

 

Another possibility from elsewhere in the mountain is "Adult Book" by Malcolm Knox...

 

It is two days since Dr John Brand's death and his eldest son, Davis, suspects a cover-up. Survived by two sons, the death notice said. Peacefully. Someone has lied: there are three sons, and the circumstances of their father's death are suspicious. But the Sydney Test Match is on and Davis' famous brother Chris is batting to save his career while their mother Margaret watches the broadcast from her armchair. Hammett, the unacknowledged third brother, lurks on the edges, banished but not forgotten. Scattered across Sydney, the Brands' lives - and John Brand's funeral - are put on hold for the duration of the game: five days of suspense, silences, revelations, recriminations and redemption. Filtered through the lens of two arenas of masculinity - sport and pornography - "Adult Book" is at once a poignant story of a family's grief, an artfully constructed thriller and a provocative dissection of men and their private passions.
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The Vintner's Luck is set in Burgandy so is disqualified sadly. What about My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin? It's a wonderful book and a true Australian classic.

Ooops, must read before I type.

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I'd like to nominate Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda.

 

As a Canadian reader, one thing I've begun to notice about fiction emerging from large and largely unsettled Commonwealth countries is that the themes of their fiction for certain periods is very similar - especially the clash between white settlers and native peoples.

 

[EDIT later: I didn't mean to suggest, BTW, that those themes above are negligible or can't make for a good novel. But we had a long period in Canadian Lit. when there seemed to be a stretch of what M. Atwood would call "survival" novels: humans against a forbidding landscape, white settlers against First Nations people, the dilemmas of isolation and the difficulties of being without an education system or anything much of a publishing/writing society. I was reading (and teaching) many of these works, and the confines could become fairly oppressive. Things improved as Can.Lit. moved further into the second half of the 20th C.]

 

 

I've read a few on-line reviews (thank you, google) for each of the books mentioned so far, and I think that Oscar and Lucinda might just be a little different.

 

So I'll put my vote there, and hope I'm right!

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Well it was suggested as the new (Aussie) boy that I head over here and have my say so here goes. I have to start by saying that I don't tend to look out for Australian authors on the whole so am probably not the best guide.

 

I'm definitely not a fan of Peter Carey so won't comment on that suggestion. I have read The Secret River, and will keep my powder dry in case you end up choosing it, however I think whilst Grenville writes beautifully about the landscape, she is less successful when it comes to anything else. Were I to choose something of the oeuvre you seem to be looking at I would select Gilgamesh by Joan London.

 

Generally I'm just not a fan of Australian writers because so many seemed to be stuck in historical fiction. Actually the first name that came to mind was George Turner - not what you're after I suspect, but I always liked the idea that he turned to science fiction in his sixties. Such an unlikely career path and some fun books.

 

I probably need to get out and find some contemporary Australian writers to get away from the anti historical fiction mindset.

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I would like to suggest An Office of Innocence (also published as 'An Angel In Australia') by Thomas Keneally:

 

The prolific Australian author who brought us Schindler's List offers a profound and moving novel about one young priest's crisis of faith in Sydney during World War II. Father Frank Darragh already feels conflicted about being out of the fighting when his regular duties as a soft-hearted confessor at St. Margaret's begin to put him in touch with war widows and American GIs.

He is especially intrigued by Kate Heggarty, who seeks spiritual guidance when she's tempted to cheat on her P.O.W. husband. The monsignor objects to Father Frank's becoming so involved in her case, which explodes in the young priest's face when Kate turns up strangled. Father Frank's struggles to deal with the violent crime (and accusations that he caused Kate's death), while confronting the church hierarchy and his own shattered faith, fully reveal his humanity.

A wonderful but never easy novel

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