Reviews of Australian Books #76

Richard Rayner, "The LA Times", likens A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz to Charles Dickens and John Irving. "...occasionally, a big, sprawling first novel fights its way into print with a flourish, at which point its ambition and the eccentricities of its 'firstness' can become its best marketing tools. Such is the case with Australian writer Steve Toltz's A Fraction of the Whole, a book that is willfully misanthropic and very funny, a meditation on the inescapable legacies that fathers bequeath their sons and the overall toxicity of family. In A Fraction of the Whole, it's not only Mum and Dad who screw you up; siblings get in on it too...this long novel, which lives or dies in the brilliance of its writing, has, too, a subtle, compelling structure. The plot is, to say the least, eventful, and while some twists seemed predictable, I loved the wild ride. A Fraction of the Whole soars like a rocket." Which leaves you in no doubt what the reviewer thinks.

Matttodd takes a look at The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald, the 2006 Miles Franklin award winner, and seems pretty happy with what he finds there: "I was put off by a comment by someone calling it 'the best book about sheep farming you'll ever read', or something to that effect. In essence, I thought it another long winded, historical novel set in colonial Australia, and I left it. Then, I picked it up to take overseas, and I'm really glad I did...Within its covers, you will find something to keep everyone happy - intrigue, mystery, romance, and a cracking good story. Roger McDonald has created a fantastic protrait of the New South Wales colony in its youth, and you really feel a part of the action."

On the "Mostly Fiction" website, Sudheer Apte is quite taken with a certain novel by Peter Temple: "Readers are used to thinking about 'literary fiction' as something exalted, separate from mere mystery stories. The Broken Shore is a remarkable book that goes far beyond its modest genre. Starting with a murder mystery plot that unfolds slowly and then deepens into a major scandal, the novel explores a wide variety of characters, both white and Aboriginal, and their relationships. And permeating the entire narrative is the ever-present coastline of southern Australia, of cold, jagged cliffs and violent seas. It may be a cliche to say that the place is itself a character in the novel, but it applies to The Broken Shore."

Short notes

Mirthful seems to have read a different verson of Stiff by Shane Maloney to the one I have on the shelves: "Stiff is entertaining enough and the basic plot is sound, and fairly original. However, there's not much local colour to be getting on with, to my mind the story might as well have been set in Britain or the States."

Laura considers The Secret River by Kate Grenville on the "Unread Authors" weblog, and gives the book 4 stars: "Grenville keeps a low- to medium-grade tension running throughout the novel. Some of the tension comes from the very act of survival in the Australian wilderness, and the stress between William and Sal. But the primary conflict is directly with the native people."

The latest novel by Michael Robotham struck a chord with Peter Millar in "The Times": "Shatter is a gripping journey into the weaknesses and strengths of the human psyche, a story of humanity and inhumanity - and how one can become the other - and how depravation and cruelty can be the flip side of love."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 22, 2008 11:05 AM.

A Classic Year: 7.0 "Nationality" by Mary Gilmore was the previous entry in this blog.

Founders of Our Literature: George Essex Evans is the next entry in this blog.

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