Weekend Round-Up 2007 #24

The Age

In his review of Sonya Hartnett's new novel, The Ghost's Child, Christopher Bantick seems at great pains to get the point across that the author, and her books, should not be solely labeled with the Young Adult tag. This is a view with which I can completely concur. Yes, Hartnett writes novels with teenagers as the major protagonists; and yes, she deals with some issues that are normally the domain of YA novels. But the general view of YA novels is that they are, and should remain, the reading matter of teenagers only. If you hold that view then I'm very sorry for you. You're missing more than you can imagine.

"Sonya Hartnett is arguably one of Australia's most evocatively descriptive writers. Less contentious is her narrative diversity and breadth of thematic concerns. Defying categorisation or permitting readers to assume they know what to expect with each new book, Hartnett's wellspring rises from somewhere secret and solitary.

"She can move with seamless ease from exploring a child's crushing guilt derived from a single past mistake in Surrender to the graphic eroticism of Landscape with Animals, published under the pseudonym of Cameron S. Redfern. While Hartnett is often defined as a young adult author, such a description is limiting, perhaps unfair and inaccurate. Her interests span the ages."

Her new novel seems to exemplify exactly what Bantick is trying to get at: "In her new novel, The Ghost's Child, Hartnett slips easily into the role of fabulist. At least, it is a temptation to see her so. The novel is a fable-like tale but without a moral resonance. This is part of its beguiling, hybrid charm. On one, albeit palpably superficial level, The Ghost's Child is a lilting fairy tale." And who said you had to be young to appreciate fairy tales. Especially the lilting ones.

Since the death of Kerry Packer a few years back the decline and fall of his beloved Channel 9 television network has been a wonder to behold. I doubt they could have wrecked it any quicker, or deeper, if they tried. Gerald Stone probably thinks so as well, if his new book Who Killed Channel 9? is anything to go by. As to whether or not he answers the question of his title perplexes Matthew Ricketson in his review: "There is no doubt the book peels back the covers of what is a publicly uncommunicative company, and for this we should be grateful, but Stone has never met an issue he could not simplify to white hats and black hats, and his analysis of what plagues Nine is less convincing than his vivid narrative."

[Update: "The Age" has its reviews up on its website now.]

The Australian

"The Australian" appears to have overhauled its Books page on its website, making all its reviews very difficult to find in the process. Seems like a mistake to me.

Liam Davison follows the view that Sonya Hartnett is a writer, first and foremost, and a writer of some talent in his review of The Ghost's Child: "In my eyes, Hartnett established herself as a major writer with the chilling novel Of a Boy and confirmed that standing with the savagely beautiful Surrender. Others were singing her praises earlier, but I still harboured unease about where her work sat with its intended audience and the apparent bleakness of her vision. Of a Boy and Surrender were clearly not so much books for children as books about childhood, and they forced something of a reassessment of where she stood...The Ghost's Child is a fable about ageing mediated by a child and imbued with a magical, childlike sensibility that softens the full weight of its purpose and the event that drives it...There is a fragile and ethereal beauty about this book, as though Hartnett has turned a mirror to the light. It is a magically cerebral fable that seems in constant danger of dissolving before our eyes."

Not on the website but worth mentioning is Graeme Blundell's "Crime File" column which, this week, looks at four Australian crime novels. Appeal Denied by Peter Corris "is, as usual, familiar, assured and highly entertaining, written with Corris's unique sense of rational containment and his understated mastery of setting and social context"; Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarrantano is "thinly written"; Cherry Pie by Leigh Redhead is "well-paced, ribald and laugh-out-loud funny"; and Sensitive New Age Spy by Geoff McGeachin "while slick and clever, raises few laughs."

The Courier-Mail

Lucy Clark finds that a new crime novel by Leah Giarrantano is very disturbing: "There's no doubt Vodka Doesn't Freeze makes for extremely confronting reading -- the sexual abuse of children is at the extreme end of the worst of human behaviour, and what is catalogued here by Giarrantano is more than enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand. But there's a case to be made for being aware, and Vodka Doesn't Freeze doesn't flinch. Her knowledge of the reverberating effects of abuse on children is well explored, too, and she writes with great empathy."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 17, 2007 8:36 PM.

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