Part mystery, part coming of age story, The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is set in a distant suburb on the encroaching bushland, over the long hot summer of 1992.
It's the summer of the school's Showstopper concert. The summer Tikka never forgot, the summer the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. Blackly comic, sharply observed and wonderfully endearing.
"We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn't the one we were trying to recall to begin with."
Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992 - the summer the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. Hannah, beautiful Cordelia and Ruth vanished during the night of the school's Showstopper concert at the amphitheatre by the river, surrounded by encroaching bushland.
Now, years later, Tikka has returned home to try and make sense of the summer that shaped her, and the girls that she never forgot. Blackly comic, sharply observed and wonderfully endearing, this is Picnic at Hanging Rock for a new generation, a haunting coming-of-age story with a shimmering, unexplained mystery at its heart.
This beautiful and painful novel by Orange Prize shortlisted Anna Burns blends shades of early Edna O'Brien with Eimear McBride's exquisite ability to capture voice.
Set in an un-named city but with an astonishing, breath-shorteningly palpable sense of time and place Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. The story of inaction with enormous consequences and decisions that are never made, but for which people are judged and punished.
Middle sister is our protagonist. She is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her nearly-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with milkman (which she herself for the life of her cannot work out how it came about). But when first brother-in-law, who of course had sniffed it out, told his wife, her first sister, to tell her mother to come and have a talk with her, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.
Milkman is a searingly honest novel told in prose that is as precise and unsentimental as it is devastating and brutal. A novel that is at once unlocated and profoundly tethered to place is surely a novel for our times.
Reviewed by Robert at Angus & Robertson:
The Life to Come is a series of mini-narratives entwined to produce a rich and colourful tapestry. Like in her 2012 MIles Franklin Award-winning novel Questions of Travel, there is no dominant narrative arc here - it is the details that make up the whole. Those expecting a grand plot may be confounded at first, but if you let yourself go with the novel's small episodes, a more valuable picture emerges. This novel delves into the stories we tell both others and ourselves. It explores how we make excuses for our bad behaviour and highlight our aspirations, always with our best times and deeds just before us, in the life to come. Ultimately, De Kretser highlights how we are the heroes of our own stories.
It is mostly set in Inner West Sydney, in a world of politically aware creatives who are forever bumping against each other. Each of her characters is a kind of vignette, carrying defined ideas of who they are and where they are going. Some have cast themselves as grand writers, charitable neighbours, or great liberal supporters of refugees and the marginalised. These ideals are soon revealed as the hypocritical constructs they are, with De Kretser deftly pinning each one to the board with glorious wit - her character observations are so acute that you are often left breathless. Read More