Reviews of Australian Books #93

The first review I've seen of Margo Lanagan's upcoming novel, Tender Morsels, appears in "Locus" magazine, from Gary K. Wolfe. (This is hardly surprising given the book isn't released for some months yet.) This review starts off with a very good explanation of the YA marketing and publishing category, its position and its implications. "Lanagan's Tender Morsels is perhaps best approached without any YA preconceptions, for reasons that become apparent before we're halfway through the prologue, which begins literally with a roll in the hay ('you have the kitment of a full man,' explains the witch to the dwarf, 'however short a stump you are the rest of you.')...By its second half, Tender Morsels begins to take on a density and moral complexity almost suggestive of a George Eliot novel, with its decades-long narrative arc, its shifting relationships, its questions involving responsibility, misdirected love, and the nature of families. Or maybe it's simply a more expansive exploration of the kinds of worlds we've glimpsed in condensed form in some of Lanagan's stories -- it's certainly more leisurely in its development, and more accessible in its prose (those who find Lanagan's characteristic neologisms and swaggy narrative voices a challenge may view this with some relief, though she's still one of the few authors who could get away with a line like 'she cackled ivorily'). Either way, it's a brilliant realization of a brilliant promise, and a profoundly moving tale. "

Louise Swinn is very impressed with Susan Johnson's new novel, Life in Seven Mistakes, in "The Sydney Morning Herlad": "There will be a whole host of readers looking forward to the latest release by Susan Johnson, readers who have enjoyed her work since Messages From Chaos 20 years ago or readers who joined in more recently for her painful memoir, A Better Woman, or for her novel inspired by the life of Charmian Clift, The Broken Book. Johnson has shown substantial breadth. She has a knack for presenting what can be unbearable in reality, of rendering it on the page with tremendous heart, making it readable and going one step further: somehow managing to make it enjoyable."

Short Notices

Diana Carroll in "The Independent Weekly" reviews Dreamland by Tom Gilling: "Gilling knows Sydney well and has a fine insight into that shadowy world where public and private lives collide in the media, the boardroom, and the courtroom. His characters are believable, ordinary people placed in extraordinary situations. And he tells a good story. I loved this novel from the beginning to the very last page; unfortunately, I felt badly betrayed by the ending and desperately wanted more. Apart from that small disappointment, this is an accomplished novel from a very talented Australian author."

The "ScrippsNews" website takes a look at Garth Nix's "The Keys to the Kingdom" series of YA novels and is pretty impressed: "Nix's series has developed a deservedly loyal following that has impatiently awaited each installment. These are books that can easily take repeated readings -- there's so much detail in each one that it's hard to take in all at once. For better or for worse, however, it's not a series that can be read out of order; instead, readers need to take the time to wade through each volume to truly understand what's going on."

On her "Reading Matters" weblog, kimbofo considers Thirteen Tonne Theory: Life Inside Hunters and Collectors by Mark Seymour to be an excellent read: "'s a wonderful, if slightly worthy, warts-and-all account that fans will find fascinating."

Johnnie Craig, on the "I Have Grave News" weblog judges Disquiet by Julia Leigh to be a triumph: "A multitude of underlying plotlines, personal dramas and secret histories bubble just beneath the surface, and Disquiet could easily have evolved into a weighty family saga; yet the things we don't discover carry the same weight as those we do."

James Purdon in "The Observer" on The Resurrectionist by James Bradley: "Bradley has tamed the scattershot plotting of his earlier work into a prose of neat vignettes, catching the gore of the mortuary slab and the seedy high of the opium den."

The "Tuesday in Silhouette" weblog on The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser: "It's one of those books that hums quietly along; even though extraodinary things may happen, it really does feel like an everyday kind of travel. It just pulls you along as the characters journey through life. That's what I loved about it. The writing. The writing was quite lovely."

The "Light the Shade" weblog on The Art of the Engine Driver by Steven Carroll: "One aspect of Steven's writing amazes me, and that is his wonderful talent of being able to deliver the ending to a story before its truly begun without losing the reader. I am not sure if other people would find this delightful as I do, or irritating, and indeed in other books I have found the looking forward such as 'this would be a moment they would remember for years to come' or 'this single moment, Jack would ponder many times in his future' to be an annoying way of underlining text to ensure the reader knows its important. But in this story I found it charming, in an odd way, it is like being let in on a secret that only you and the author share."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 15, 2008 8:47 AM.

2008 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Shortlists was the previous entry in this blog.

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