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.
Goodwood doesn’t pursue the path of a traditional mystery novel and those looking for a heart–racing style whodunnit built around the two disappearances might be disappointed. The shock of those events is a catalyst here for deeper explorations of what lurks below the surface and how we create meaning in our lives in this tender, rich, and deeply enjoyable book.
It would be a rare reader that didn’t feel an affinity for the protagonist in Alice Pung’s charming coming-of-age story, Laurinda. The is something universal about fifteen year old Lucy Lam’s dislocation as she tries to navigate the clique-iness, the odd social mores, and the subtle bullying that takes place at Laurinda, a prestigious private school to which Lucy has received the first equity scholarship.
All three novels explore guilt and innocence, good and evil, and the individual versus the state or government, using changing tense and viewpoints. The grand conception is fairly ambitious, but Maiden handles it all smoothly and the stories read like ordinary thrillers. The binaries that charge these books are played with in all sorts of interesting ways as the characters swap positions, power matrices, emotional landscapes, and unravel the structures in which they work.
Always there’s a sense that the world is not quite fixed and that what we’re experiencing is illusory (so much smoke), and charged by scars, memories, hunger, and all that we’ve lost. The stories that make up So Much Smoke are powerful, not so much because of what happens, but because of the way they hint at how much lurks below the surface
An outstanding collection of short stories makes up this book of the Margaret River Short Story Competition for 2016. It is sponsored by Margaret River Press, who believe the ‘short story genre is greatly undervalued’, according to their website. The competition has been run since 2011, producing five published collections so far, with the 2017 competition having just recently closed for submissions.
Though each of the pieces works well individually, taken collectively, Letter to Pessoa presents a multifaceted world that builds new linguistic spaces through correspondence and conjunction. By blurring the distinctions between author and narrator/narration, reader/writer/voyeur, past/present, and even life/death, Cahill has created an exciting and powerful collection that continues to shift, change and reveal new insight with each re-reading.