The life of the town centres around the pub, and the way in which the death provides a source for gossip, intrigue and transformation, but also in some respect brings the town together to support one another is charming. Cedar Valley is immensely readable and progresses in ways that are unpredictable but also smooth and natural.
Cameron’s first novel is not your usual mystery/love story. For one thing, her book has seventy-nine mosquitoes (but no sand-flies or ticks) squashed between the pages and they certainly give this story atmosphere. In fact there are experiments with mosquitoes, mosquitoes in jars and cages; yes so many hungry bloodsuckers and all just a figurative screen door away from biting you.
Ackland handles these themes carefully and subtly – never overstating or diagnosing Thistle or Audra, or giving us too many answers in the mystery, but treating all of the characters with a kind of tender acceptance that is unconditional. Mysteries remain. Time moves forward. Memory is entirely unreliable, but the clues it leaves us are all we have. Little Gods is a poetic book full of beauty, loss, and resilience, exploring what remains in our lives as we move past our pivotal transitions and crises.
There is a kind of magic that is woven through the book, primarily from the language of flowers that works in conjunction with the semantical story but has its own silent meaning. Flannel flowers mean “what is lost is found”, Sturt’s Desert Peas, which are integral to the plot, mean “Have courage, take heart”, and Foxtails mean “Blood of my blood”. These flowers become Alice’s language when words fail her.
Lynette Washington is s-o-o-o-o-o good at this. She first prepares you with just the necessary brush strokes and then really delivers. All so clever, so unexpected, so unique and the more I read, the more I want. This is addictive reading at its best.
Perhaps the cover says it all? Yes, you can begin to judge this particular book by its cover because inside and throughout all those white pages a hurricane is at work endeavouring to yank everything of life’s rationalizations into shards of disbelief.
As has become something of a trademark for Laguna, Justine’s voice forms the narrative backdrop for the book. It’s an extraordinary combination of naïve, descriptive, and poetically dense, driving the reader through a story often harrowing and dark, but always with a sense of discovery.
Wimmera is a patently Australian tour de force, following two inseparable youths, Ben and Fab and the hardships their mateship endures slipping from childhood into adulthood in the titular country town, a familiar coming-of-age story that takes a sudden, tragic turn, forever altering both their lives and their attachment to one another.
Maryanne’s own sense of self in relation to her overbearing mother and Freya’s sense of self in relation to Maryanne are handled with such richness that they give the story a great deal of depth, even as it pushes towards its inevitable outcome. The Restorer is a beautifully written and very powerful fiction that not only shines a light on the deep roots of domestic violence but also plays with the line of what remains in the face of such destruction. Sala’s story that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.
The plot moves fast, the narrative driving the reading towards its final unnerving twist. It all happens almost too quickly. James’ writing is so smooth, and the story so powerfully plotted, that its easy to miss how neatly the shifts are between the individual voices, the many delicate links between cause and effect and the parallels between adults and children as we move from one character to another, the way the reader is unwittingly drawn into the toxic culture of privilege that underpins these characters, or how subtle the thematics.