Reviews of Australian Books #87

Peter Corris is impressed with Breaking the Bank: An Extraordinary Colonial Robbery by Caroline Baxter. He was expecting a dry social history of a bank robbery in Sydney in 1828, even if it was, in adjusted monetary terms, the largest such robbery in Australia's history, instead he found that "Baxter brings long-dead people to life so vividly, it's hard to see why novelists and television producers have overlooked the story. The ability to translate dry historical records into vibrant narrative is not given to everyone. Robert Hughes achieved it in The Fatal Shore. The bibliography shows Baxter to be an expert in genealogy and the use of colonial records. These skills and writerly flair have produced a fine book."

John Harwood's second novel, The Seance, is enjoyed by Andrew Taylor in "The Independent": "Harwood manipulates his characters'-- and readers'-- emotions. Even when he appears to provide a comfortably mundane explanation, he has a nasty habit of revealing the terrifying uncertainties that lurk in the shadows."

On "The Guardian" books blog, Sam Jordison has been re-examining past Booker winners, and finds he approaches Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda with some trepidation. He finds it flawed but loveable.

As part of an on-going project to promote books longlisted and shortlisted for the award, "The Orange Prize Project" weblog has posted a review of Sorry by Gail Jones: "The strength of the novel is the language, not just the Shakespeare but Jones' own language. The descriptions of the outback are original enough to catch the ear. For instance the descriptions of the aboriginal meeting places at river beds, the unlaboured descriptions of their language, their walkabouts and their extended family structures. Somehow she managed to take a bleak tale (you never for a minute think there will be a happy ending, not for mother or for daughter) and give it enough warmth and depth and
colour to keep you engaged."

Julia Lawrinson has written a novel about the Sydney Push, titled, aptly The Push. Michael Wilding finds that it is a young adult novel. Not that this is a problem: "The idea of a young adult novel about this antique world of sexual liberation and anarchist theory may seem bizarre, but the Push was itself a mass of contradictions. Unrelenting in its refusal to recognise any authority, it had a well-defined pecking order with its stars. Committed to critical thinking, to acting out the freedoms that philosophers had merely discussed, its gatherings at Sydney pubs such as the Royal George and the Criterion were fabled."

Short Notices

Faye on the "ALIA Retirees" weblog, looks at Johnno by David Malouf: "I found it a very satisfying and challenging read. It provides strong [insights] to relationships and personal development -- however I have some questions. The big one for me is -- is Johnno believable? And does the narrator pull off the relationship fixation?"

Maxine, on the "Petrona" weblog writes that "Dead Point is the third Jack Irish novel by Peter Temple. It is brilliant. Although I've very much enjoyed every book I've so far read by this author, in this one he joins the pantheon, in my opinion. Crime fiction does not come any better than this."

Motherhood and freedom seems to be the themes behind four novels compared by Rosemary Neill in "The Australian": Still Waters by Camilla Noli ("...portraying motherhood at its most deviant ..."); Disquiet by Julia Leigh (...exquisitely taut narrative..."): The Biographer by Virginia Duigan; and The Steele Diaries by Wendy James ("...examines the conflict between motherhood and freedom").

It's interesting to see how different countries accept Shaun Tan's The Arrival as their own. On the "Too Many Books" weblog, the statement is simple enough: "It is basically a story about America."

The "School Library Journal" reviews both volumes of D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo series: Foundling and Lamplighter.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 2, 2008 9:14 AM.

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