We have many masters returning with long-awaited new works, including seven Miles Franklin award-winners, including Michelle de Kretser (whose last book was in 2012). Two of these authors (Kim Scott and Alex Miller) have won the Miles Franklin twice, while Peter Carey has won three times (and of course, Peter Carey and Richard Flanagan are also Man Booker Prize winners).
We've been lucky enough to have a sneak peek at these novels, and we absolutely love them.
Carey's A Long Way From Home is full of verve and vernacular, and is reminiscent of his much-loved Illywhacker. Michelle De Kretser's The Life to Come has been adored by all, with its exquisite prose and insightful examination of internal psyche, and is sure to eclipse her wondrous book Questions of Travel.
Chris Womersley brings his best work yet with City of Crows, a gritty tale of fate and trust in plague-ridden Paris that is almost cinematic in description, yet full of heart. Sofie Laguna's Choke is a stunning portrayal of rural hardship, tension and love.
Richard Flanagan's First Person tells of a ghost-writer whose biographical subject becomes rather unwieldy, and Alex Miller's most autobiographical work, The Passage of Love, shows the author striving to define his very life and cultural contribution.
These works are profoundly beautiful, and will touch you deeply.
Look for these tall poppies as they appear over the warmer months - they are sure to bring colour into your reading life.
Set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don't tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.
Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.
Profoundly moving as well as wickedly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present. This extraordinary novel by Miles Franklin-winning author Michelle de Kretser will strike to your soul.
'I so much admire Michelle de Kretser's formidable technique - her characters feel alive, and she can create a sweeping narrative which encompasses years, and yet still retain the sharp, almost hallucinatory detail.' Hilary Mantel
'Michelle de Kretser knows how to construct a gripping story. She writes quickly and lightly of wonderful and terrible things…A master storyteller.' A.S. Byatt
'...one of those rare writers whose work balances substance with style. Her writing is very witty, but it also goes deep, informed at every point by a benign and far-reaching intelligence.' Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald
'...a dazzlingly accomplished author who commands all the strokes. Her repertoire stretches from a hallucinatory sense of place to a mastery of suspense, sophisticated verbal artistry and a formidable skill in navigating those twisty paths where history and psychology entwine.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent
He takes us on a wild ride around the country in 1954 by way of the famous Redex car trial, during which our protagonist, Willy Bachhuber, learns the poignant truth of his troubled past. It's a tender and wonderfully wry, portrait of Australia in the 1950s, reminiscent of Illywhacker in concerns and some characters.
We're in Bacchus Marsh in the 1950s, with car salesmen, an early aviator, and the lives of Irene Bobs and Willy Bachhuber, the narrators of this addictive tale. The striking Irene is ahead of her time, a fearless, big-hearted, independently minded woman. Her next door neighbour Willy seems to be constantly in flight from his own life. He lacks social confidence but is extremely well read, so much so that he's a radio quiz champ. And he has a particular fondness for maps. When Irene's husband Titch decides to enter the Redex trial, Irene goes with him as co-driver, and Willy as navigator.
A fantastically fun and funny read, Peter's new novel is a major achievement.
Yet they never really share their ambitions and passions with each other. Son of a preacher, Wes, is passionate about everything and a particular cause is the battle against the French nuclear testing in the Pacific. And boatbuilding and sailing.Judy, the daughter of a prominent scientist activist, 'doesn't believe in things' as she is told over and over. When, really, it just takes her a bit longer to find her passions and causes, which are nature and wildlife. And boatbuilding and sailing. Judy, has a way of drawing people in close.
People like to do things for her. After being shipwrecked off New Zealand where they had sailed to protest the French nuclear testing, Judy finds herself unable to forgive Wes for risking her life and turns her back on him. But she doesn't stop loving him. Wes, rebuffed, has headed off to disappear from the infamy the shipwreck brought him.
A beautiful novel about escaping family, creating families and, sometimes, returning to biological families.
Sitting in a New York park, an old man holds a book and tries to accept that his contribution to the future is over. Instead, he remembers a youthful yearning for open horizons, for Australia, a yearning he now knows inspired his life as a writer. Instinctively he picks up his pen and starts at the beginning...
At twenty-one years, Robert Crofts leaves his broken dreams in Far North Queensland, finally stopping in Melbourne almost destitute. It's there he begins to understand how books and writing might be the saving of him. They will be how he leaves his mark on the world. He also begins to understand how many obstacles there will be to thwart his ambition.
When Robert is introduced to Lena Soren, beautiful, rich and educated, his life takes a very different path. But in the intimacy of their connection lies an unknowability that both torments and tantalises as Robert and Lena long for something that neither can provide for the other.
In a rich blend of thoughtful and beautifully observed writing, the lives of a husband and wife are laid bare in their passionate struggle to engage with their individual creativity.
Alex Miller is magnificent in this most personal of all novels filled with rare wisdom and incisive observation.
I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers.
Abandoned by her mother and only occasionally visited by her secretive father, Justine is raised by her pop, a man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop's chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow it seems they might touch - a place of staggering natural beauty. But the river can't protect Justine from danger. Her father is a criminal, and the world he exposes her to can be lethal.
Justine is overlooked and underestimated, a shy and often silent observer of her chaotic world. She learns that she has to make sense of it on her own. She has to find ways to survive so much neglect. She must hang on to friendship when it comes, she must hide when she has to, and ultimately she must fight back.
The Choke is a brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power and violence, in which grown-ups can't be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature. This compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in trouble celebrates above all the indomitable nature of the human spirit.
Sofie Laguna, winner of the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award for The Eye of the Sheep, once again shows she is a writer of rare empathy, originality and blazing talent.
'It is quite a feat to write characters with such nuance . . . in harnessing her storytelling facility to expose the flaws in the system with what is becoming trademark empathy, Laguna is an author proving the novel is a crucial document of the times.' Louise Swinn, The Australian
Kif Kehlmann, a young penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghostwriting his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he’ll be paid $10,000.
But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghostwriting a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl and who is Kif Kehlmann?
As time runs out, one question looms above all others: what is the truth?
By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.
A woman's heart contains all things. Her heart is tender and loving, but it has other elements.
Shipwreck and all that has ever happened in the world. Murder, if need be...1673. Desperate to save herself and her only surviving child Nicolas from an outbreak of plague, Charlotte Picot flees her tiny village in the French countryside. But when Nicolas is abducted by a troop of slavers, Charlotte resorts to witchcraft and summons assistance in the shape of a malevolent man.
She and her companion travel to Paris where they become further entwined in the underground of sorcerers and poisoners - and where each is forced to reassess their ideas of good and evil. Before Charlotte is finished she will wander hell's halls, trade with a witch and accept a demon's fealty. Meanwhile, a notorious criminal is unexpectedly released from the prison galleys where he has served a brutal sentence for sacrilege...
Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar's descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman.
They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife's dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.
But the sins of the past will not be so easily expunged.
We walk with the ragtag group through this taboo country and note in them glimmers of re-connection with language, lore, country. We learn alongside them how countless generations of Noongar may have lived in ideal rapport with the land.
This is a novel of survival and renewal, as much as destruction; and, ultimately, of hope as much as despair.
Why do some nights feel as though they were always waiting to happen? Or have already happened and will again? And why don't we know it then? Why is it only afterwards we say, yes, that was when my life turned?
1965. The great poet, TS Eliot, is dead. Hearing the news, the seventy-two year old Emily Hale points her Ford Roadster towards the port of Gloucester, where a fishing boat will take her out to sea, near the low, treacherous rocks called the Dry Salvages, just off Cape Ann, Massachusetts.
Over the course of that day, clutching a satchel of letters, Emily Hale slips between past and present, reliving her life with Eliot - starting with that night in 1913, the moment when her life turned, when the young Tom Eliot and Emily Hale fell deeply in love with each other. But Tom moved to London to fulfil his destiny as the famous poet `TS Eliot', and Emily went on to become his muse - the silent figure behind some of the greatest poetry of the 20th century - his friend and his confidante. But never did she become his lover or his wife.
From Steven Carroll, one of our most brilliant, award-winning authors, A New England Affair is the third novel in his acclaimed Eliot Quartet, a companion novel to The Lost Life and A World of Other People. It is a deeply moving, intense and poignant novel of a love that never finds the right moment, and so becomes the ghost of what could have been, of what never quite was, and never quite will be.
When Anne suffers a psychotic breakdown, Katerina is left alone on a ship full of strangers who span classes and stations, all of whom carry their ambitions, fears and obsessions with them. For a seventeen-year-old girl, the daughter of an ambassador, it's an exciting, frightening world to navigate. Through the eyes of Katerina and her own family's place within a fracturing world, we see the way damage, yet also hope, are passed from one generation to another.
A.S. Patric's writing in Atlantic Black is achingly tender, the tone merciless but heartbreaking in its compassion.The story takes place over one day and night, New Year's Eve, 1939. The RMS Aquitania steams across the Atlantic ocean.
On the horizon the world is about to explode.
In this unforgettable new collection, Tony Birch introduces a cast of characters from all walks of life. These remarkable and surprising stories capture common people caught up in the everyday business of living and the struggle to survive.
From two single mothers on the most unlikely night shift to a homeless man unexpectedly faced with the miracle of a new life, Birch’s stories are set in gritty urban refuges and battling regional communities. His deftly drawn characters find unexpected signs of hope in a world where beauty can be found on every street corner a message on a T-shirt, a friend in a stray dog or a star in the night sky.
Common People shines a light on human nature and how the ordinary kindness of strangers can have extraordinary results. With characteristic insight and restraint, Tony Birch reinforces his reputation as a master storyteller.
‘The Ghost Train’, ‘Harmless’, ‘Colours’, ‘Joe Roberts’, ‘The White Girl’, ‘Party Lights’, ‘Paper Moon’, ‘Painted Glass’, ‘Frank Slim’, ‘Liam’, ‘Raven and Sons’, ‘The Good Howard’, ‘Sissy’, ‘Death Star’, ‘Worship’.
Kungadgee, Victoria, Australia. A weekend in late November, 2014. At Hugh and Christine Cleary’s new vineyard, Whipbird, six generations of the Cleary family are coming together from far and wide to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the arrival of their ancestor Conor Cleary from Ireland.
Hugh has been meticulously planning the event for months a chance to proudly showcase Whipbird to the extended clan. Some of these family members know each other; some don’t.
As the wine flows, it promises to be an eventful couple of days.
Comic, topical, honest, sharply intelligent, and, above all, sympathetic, Robert Drewe’s exhilarating new novel tells a classic Australian family saga as it has never been told before.
There simply isn't enough room to showcase all of the stand-out literary works this year, and it’s clear that our country is overflowing with literary talent.
Here's a hand-picked bunch of some of the more thoughtful and captivating books we’ve enjoyed so far. It's a rich and varied bouquet too: Dennis Glover imagines George Orwell's life as fiction in The Last Man in Europe and Cass Moriarty explores family trauma in Parting Words. Luke Slattery places Elizabeth and Lachlan Macquarie in a beautifully wrought love triangle with architect Francis Greenway in Mrs M, and Jess Blackadder finds that the certainty of family life can change abruptly in Sixty Seconds.
These are remarkable creations, and they are sure to reward your reading time well.
Dazzling debuts are arriving thick and fast this year, all of them strong new voices with vivid narratives that are accomplished with style. We highly recommend the new crowd to you. Many are shortlisted for prizes or winning awards already, like Wimmera by Mark Brandi, The Lost Pages by Marija Pericic, and Dancing Home by Paul Collis. Collis also joins Claire G.Coleman (Terra Nullius) in the new wave of indigenous authors writing passionately about their country.
You'll be glad you got on to these authors early, as these stars are on the rise!
“None of these novels draws on familiar tropes of Australian literature, yet each brings a distinctive pitch of truth and insight into the Australian experience. (They) explore the restorative power of love, the pernicious influence of the past on the present, the tragedy of the present avoiding the past, the challenge of unconventional identities, the interweaving of lives across communities, the devastation of grief, and the war zone that is the media, masculinity and a small country town.”
-State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville said on behalf of the judges, The Australian
The Miles Franklin Award 2017 went to Josephine Wilson for her splendid novel, "Extinctions".