Reviews of Australian Books #90

The first review here isn't actually of a book at all but a short story: "The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan. It's not often that anyone puts as much effort into a single story as "The Torque Control" blog does here. Admittedly, a lot of the review examines other reviewers' reactions to the story, but it uses those reactions as a springboard to get to the heart of the story, rather than restricting itself to a "what they said" approach.

Jane Shilling in "The New Statesman" on The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser: "Ranging between the present and events of the past, whose convergence has led her protagonist to his crisis, de Kretser pursues ideas of exile, loss, disappointment, mortality; the nature of happiness and also of evil; the relation between humanity and beastliness; the significance of objects, both present and remembered; the means by which we conjure and protect identity; the shared characteristics of words and shit; ideas of duty, responsibility and attachment -- and much more."

Of the same book, Stephen Abell in "The Telegraph", states: "The Lost Dog, we are told at its conclusion, 'draws directly and obliquely on works by Henry James'. This is a risky ploy, with two obvious pitfalls: the hubris involved in setting your prose in comparison with that of the Master; and the fact that, in the reams of James's thoughtful literary criticism, there are likely to be all sorts of strictures that can be used against you." He then proceeds to do so.

And in "The Guardian" Ursula Le Guin sees a lot of promise in the novel: "There is no feminine for 'avuncular', but there ought to be. I want, in auntly fashion, to praise Michelle de Kretser for being good and beautiful, while scolding her for being afraid to show her goodness and beauty. What do you want to hide behind all that face-paint for, child? Do you think you have to be as skinny as a pencil and wear a ring in your navel just because other people do? The fashionable disfigurements and artificialities I complain of are, of course, literary, and they affect not her, but her novel, The Lost Dog." And to show you how much reviewers can differ in their views, she continues: "Kretser's native style is clear, vigorous, sensitive to mood and cadence, and strongly narrative - an excellent tool for a novelist with a story to tell." Compare that to Abell's view that the book is over-written.

In "The Age" Peter Pierce finds that Tom Gilling's latest novel, Dreamland will leave the reader "satisfied if not sated".

David Mattin, in "The Independent", appears pretty impressed with the first novel by Steve Toltz: "It's no surprise that the Australian author of A Fraction of the Whole, at 36, is a little older than we've come to expect from our debut novelists. This absurdly incident-laden, feverish, farcical 700-page life story bears the watermark of long gestation. What's more, it stands above the vast majority of debut novels because it seems so marvellously sure of itself and what it should be."

Linda Newbery is enchanted by The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett. I know I was.

Dean, on the "HA" weblog, found more in Venero Armanno's Candlelife than I discovered.

Short Notices

Damien, of the "Crime Down Under" weblog, is obviously pretty impressed with Barry Maitland's latest, Bright Air. So impressed that he's written a partial review of the book even though he's only about halfway through. I'm going to have to write to him and get him to stop this sort of thing. It's giving the rest of us a bad name.

Jocelyn on the "Teen Book Review" weblog on Justine Larbalestier's How to Ditch Your Fairy: "I sat down and started reading this book as soon as it arrived in the mail, and I didn't put it down until I was finished; I didn't even notice the time passing, that's how caught up I was in the story. It's fun and interesting and has a main character I absolutely couldn't get enough of!"

Guy Salvidge finds himself reading a lot of Andrew McGahan's novels. The latest is 1988: "Overall, it would appear that 1988 is a lesser book than Praise. Same style, same stark truthfulness, same nihilism. There's no development between the two books, almost to the extent that it would appear that McGahan had painted himself into a corner."

The "No two persons ever read the same book" weblog didn't enjoy Grace by Robert Drewe. Which sort of proves the title of their blog, because I did.

"The Griffin Reviews" weblog has a look at Greene on Capri by Shirley Hazzard.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 14, 2008 9:01 AM.

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