Reviews of Australian Books #85

I've decided to drop the "Weekend Update" postings as they seemed to be getting later and later in the week until they became so divorced from the weekend they attempted to report upon that they became both a chore and irrelevant. So I've decided to set up a set of individual author review sections (you will have seen such posts for Clive James, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Carey, J.M. Coetzee, Helen Garner and Tim Winton recently) and to capture all other reviews of Australian books under this heading. This way I'm less bound by the vagaries of website updates, and more focused on book reviews on an author level. Some of the author specific posts listed here will gradually become less frequent and they may move back under this heading if the number of reviews and web mentions falls below some arbitrary critical level. Not sure what that level will be as yet, though I suspect a couple are getting close.

So, to the reviews proper. Kevin Hart on The Poet Who Forgot by Catherine Cole in "The Australian": "Hope's letters to Cole perfectly recall that sparkling eye and his extraordinary ability to render difference in age irrelevant. Cole, now a novelist and academic, was in her mid-20s when they met; Hope was in his mid-70s. Only when I saw Hope at the end of his life in a nursing home in Canberra, suffering from dementia and having forgotten almost everything he knew -- the sad burden of Cole's memoir -- did it strike me forcibly that he had been an old man in the years I knew him."

Michael Robotham's latest novel, Shatter, would appear to maintain his reputation as one of the better crime/thriller writers around. In "The Age" Sue Turnbull finds that "Robotham knows how to engineer a plot in order to sustain a head of steam while giving the reader time to observe both fellow travellers and the scenery."

Brenda Niall, biographer of the Boyds (Martin et al), is probably a perfect choice to review The Biographer by Virginia Duigan: "Burglars and grave-robbers, greedy collectors, obsessive academics. From Henry James' 'publishing scoundrel' in The Aspern Papers to A. S. Byatt's monomaniac in Possession, a wide range of unsavoury roles has been created for the biographer in modern fiction...The biography of a living subject adds a new dimension to the debate. Virginia Duigan's absorbing novel The Biographer brings us into the present day, with a subject who craves the final accolade of a book about himself...Beautifully paced, and even more sinister for its decorous setting, The Biographer offers the elements of a detective story and a debate on biography's methods and ethics in a sympathetically drawn human situation."

Reviews of Australian books in "The New York Times" are rare indeed, so it's good to see Alison McCulloch having a detailed look at The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser: "This book's insights are at times so thickly layered as to leave character, story and reader gasping for light and air. Which isn't to say they're necessarily bad insights. More often than not, de Kretser nails some situation or foible in 20 words or less. Consider her observation on 9/11: 'Everything changes when Americans fall from the sky.'...As de Kretser showed with her second novel, The Hamilton Case, her forte is illuminating the lives of such 'leftovers of empire', and she provides more of those delights here. But this novel also continues a steady move away from the concrete world of places and events toward the human interior."

Short Notices
Marg, on the "Reading Adventures" weblog dips into two books in Gath Nix's "Keys to the Kindgom" series Grim Tuesday and Drownded Wednesday, being a "bit disappointed" with the first of these, and "delighted" with the second.

The "A Novel Approach !" weblog picked up the "wrong" Matthew Condon novel, A Night at the Pink Poodle, but was pleasantly surprised anyhow: "This is a very Australian novel. No, wait. This is a very Gold Coast novel. Not that I live there, so I can't really comment, though I feel that I might now be able to. For a place that is concerned about looking bright and glitzy, there is a lot happening just underneath that is anything but happy."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 14, 2008 6:03 AM.

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