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Miles Franklin, Brent of Bin Bin and the Great Australian Bight

March 25, 2015

In this week’s Monday Musings I discussed the literary mystery concerning the identity of Brent of Bin Bin. I referred to an article written in 1954 after her death by Murray Tonkin in which he asked whether the truth that she is, or is a collaborator of, Brent of Bin Bin will now be revealed. I didn’t share though a delightful little story he includes.

FranklinBrentBoolBoolA&R

Angus & Robertson 1956 ed.

You see, those who argued that Brent of Bin Bin was Miles Franklin used stylistic and thematic similarities between the works of the two authors together with facts about Franklin’s life to prove their case. “Bin Bin”, for example, was the name of a property (or run) next to the one her father managed in Brindabella. There’s a “Gool Gool” in My brilliant career and All that swagger, and one of the books in the Brent of Bin Bin series is called Back to Bool Bool. Thematic similarities between the two “authors” include the exploration of the harshness of life for bush women, and stories about literary women.

But, I didn’t share a fun little point which Tonkin says had “escaped other literary detectives”. It comes from poet Ian Mudie, who apparently knew her well. Tonkin writes that Mudie had identified that

Both she and Brent, in their books, have the Murray River emptying itself into the Great Australian Bight. But when he taxed her with it she brushed the point aside. “Of course!”   she said firmly. Every body knows the Murray runs into the Bight!”

Haha, I thought, he’s right, the Murray doesn’t flow into the Great Australian Bight but into Lake Alexandrina, which is rather east of the Bight. However, according to one definition of the Bight, Franklin was right. Wikipedia tells me there are two definitions of the extent of the Bight: The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) sets its eastern limit as Cape Otway in Victoria, which easily encompasses the mouth of the Murray, while the Australian Hydrographic Service (AHS) has it as Cape Carnot which definitely does not.

By the IHO definition, then, Mudie’s argument doesn’t work as a coincidence outing Franklin as Brent of Bin Bin, but I suspect she probably had made a mistake and that most Australians then, and now, would not see the mouth of the Murray as being in the area we call the Bight. Fascinating the places that literary detection can take you, eh?

Anyhow, what do other Aussies think about the Murray and the Bight?

Monday musings on Australian literature: Miles Franklin, and the mysterious Brent of Bin Bin

March 23, 2015
Miles Franklin, 1902

Miles Franklin, 1902, by H.Y. Dorner (Presumed Public Domain)

In last week’s Monday Musings I discussed an article by Canadian-born author Aidan de Brune on the novelist Bernard Cronin in his West Australian series on Australian Authors. The now little-known Bernard Cronin was no. 3 in his series. Number 4, though, was one of the giants of Australian literature – then, and still now – Miles Franklin. Most of you will know that she bequeathed our most significant literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award, and you probably have also heard of her most famous book, My brilliant career. But, Miles Franklin did have a secret …

This secret, as we now know, is that in addition to several other novels published under her name, she wrote a series of six novels using the pseudonym “Brent of Bin Bin”. They were completed by 1933 but not all had been published by her death in September 1954. According to Paul Brunton, editor of The diaries of Miles Franklin, Franklin saw this as “a publicity device”. She wrote in 1929 that “hiding under a pen-name … will be more fruitful of publicity”. Her plan was to retain the mystery until the last book was published at which time she would reveal her identity. Unfortunately, she died before they were all finished. Nonetheless, Brunton says, she “enjoyed the speculation on Brent’s identity”. In 1941 she chaired, “with a straight face”, a meeting of  the Fellowship of Australian Writers at which Brent of Bin Bin’s identity was discussed. Brunton continues:

She had no scruples about praising Brent’s books publicly as though she had nothing to do with them, as she does in her diaries. She even praised them in her Commonwealth Literary Fund lectures in 1950.

She also wrote to others, including the critic Nettie Palmer, as Brent of Bin Bin. I should add here that the current theory is that she used “Brent of Bin Bin” (and her other pseudonyms) because she feared not being able to repeat her My brilliant career achievement.

Anyhow, back to Aidan de Brune writing in 1933. He commences his article with:

Thirty years ago literary circles in Australia were astounded by the publication of an extraordinary book, written by a girl of sixteen, Stella Miles Franklin. The title of the book was audacious — “My Brilliant Career.”

He praises the book saying:

It throbs with a passionate love of the Australian bush, and particularly of horses, and with an equal passionate hatred of the cruelties of life endured by the people on the land, particularly by the women. It is the first statement, and to this day it remains the greatest statement, of the case for Australian bush womanhood.

He also quotes Henry Lawson’s praise in the book’s preface for its “painfully real” depiction of “bush life and scenery”. De Brune is concerned that in 1933 it, like many “fine” Australian books had been allowed to go out of print, with copies being hard to come by. He then gives a little of Franklin’s biography – her twenty years abroad working for the Feminist Movement in the USA, in the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Salonika, and for a housing committee in London. But now, he tells his readers, she is back and in 1932 had published a book, Old Blastus of Bandicoot, “under her name”. (Hmm … !) It was highly praised by many critics including John Dalley in The Bulletin. He also advises that another book, a detective story, would be published in 1933.

But, he asks:

Is that, then, the whole story of Miles Franklin? We shall see. Is it likely, or possible, that a writer of such power and sheer genius as the author of “My Brilliant Career” should have been silent for more than twenty years?

Fair questions! He goes on to tell his readers that “Miles Franklin will not admit it” but many people are identifying her with

the mysterious “Brent of Bin Bin,” whose books (published by Blackwood, of Edinburgh, be it noted) are acknowledegd to be the finest presentation in fiction of the Australian outback epic which have yet been written. “Brent of Bin Bin” loves the bush and understands horses, and hates injustice to bush women, as only the author of “My Brilliant Career” and “Old Blastus of Bandicoot” could love, and understand, and hate.

Brent of Bin Bin’s books are now Australian classics he says but, like My brilliant career, are hard to come by. How lucky we are that publishers like Text Publishing, Allen & Unwin, and others, are bringing back Australian classics in our times, eh?

Anyhow, I did love the conclusion to his article:

If Miles Franklin is also “Brent of Bin Bin,” then she is the greatest Australian bush novelist alive. And if she is only Miles Franklin of “My Brilliant Career” and “Old Blastus of Bandicoot” she takes second place to one writer alone — the tremendously gifted and mysterious author who writes in Miles Franklin’s manner under the pseudonym of “Brent.”

Ha ha … I bet he had fun writing that! I’m intrigued though that the praise is qualified, that she is “the greatest bush novelist”. I sense though that he doesn’t intend to diminish her achievement but to simply describe the milieu she was writing in. What I hear is that the bush continued to be a significant concern in 1930s Australia and was therefore seen as a worthy topic for our literature.

POSTSCRIPT: In an article written after her death, Murray Tonkin asks whether her death will finally solve the literary mystery. So, although many were confident they knew the identity, Franklin clearly kept up the pretence to the end. Tonkin says that he will “gladly eat his hat” if Franklin is not identified as “at least a close collaborator”. Love it!

Jane Austen, Emma Vol 2 (continuing thoughts)

March 22, 2015

EmmaCoversThe friendship plot – that theme I discussed in my post on Volume 1 of Emma – thickens in Volume 2. Several “new” friendships are presented, as Austen continues to deepen our understanding of what constitutes community via the little village of Highbury. For Jane Austen, I think we are going to realise, friendship is both a deeply personal thing as well as something that underpins society.

In Volume 2, three people are introduced to Highbury – Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, about whom we’d heard heard in Volume 1, and Mrs Elton, the new bride of Highbury’s minister, Mr Elton. Through them, and the previously introduced characters, we are introduced to several facets of “friendship”. Positive examples include:

  • Colonel Campbell’s generous act of friendship to Jane Fairfax’s late father by taking Jane into his household and educating her along with his daughter;
  • Mr Knightley’s neighbourly style of friendship in providing food from his estate to the Bates’ and transport for them to a wintry evening dinner-dance;
  • Emma’s similarly neighbourly friendship in providing food to the Bates';
  • Miss Campbell’s open-hearted, trusting acceptance of her fiancé’s preference for her friend Jane Fairfax’s piano playing over her own; and even
  • Mr Woodhouse’s entertaining some of the older women in the town.

More questionable ones include:

  • Mrs Elton’s profusions of friendship to Jane Fairfax but in fact interfering with Jane’s wishes; and
  • Emma’s inability to befriend Jane Fairfax.

In Volume 1, Austen explored the role (and value) of friends in providing advice and emotional support to each other, what we could call perhaps the more “personal” side of friendship. In Volume 2, there is I think a slight shift of emphasis to more practical, or societal, aspects such as the provision of material comforts and company. Through all these manifestations of “friendship”, Austen seems to be building a rich picture of human relationships, of what we need from, and can do for, each other.

There is also in this volume a discussion of what Emma doesn’t like in a friendship: it’s the “coldness and reserve” that she sees in Jane Fairfax, with whom everyone, including Mr Knightley, expected and still expects her to be intimate. She says of not looking to Jane for friendship:

But I must be more in want of a friend, or an agreeable companion, than I have yet been, to take the trouble of conquering any body’s reserve to procure one.

An additional impediment to Emma’s willingness to befriend Jane Fairfax is fact that Jane is lauded for skills in areas in which Emma is less accomplished (though, it seems, lack of application!) Interestingly, late in the volume, Mr Knightley, responding to suggestions that he might be thinking of marrying Jane Fairfax, says he is not interested:

She is reserved; more reserved, I think, than she used to be: and I love an open temper.

It will be interesting to see whether the issue of love and its relationship to friendship is teased out in Volume 3.

Jane Austen – protofeminist?

Just how “feminist” you see Jane Austen depends somewhat on your definition of feminism, but for me she demonstrates a clear recognition of the (economic) inequalities that affect women’s lives and of the (societal) factors that hold them back. She demonstrates this in Emma by presenting a heroine who is independently wealthy and who therefore has no economic need to marry. Emma recognises this and says early in the novel, in volume 1 in fact, that she won’t marry:

“I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry …  without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband’s house as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”

Part of the trajectory in Emma is for her to learn that there are other reasons to marry besides those of money and consequence. By contrast, her foil/double, Jane Fairfax has no independent wealth. The most likely course of life for her is to be a governess, but it’s not a cheery thought:

“I did not mean, I was not thinking of the slave-trade,” replied Jane; “governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly as to the guilt of those who carry it on; but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies…”

For Jane Fairfax, a good marriage would save her from what she sees as a pretty devastating fate.

Contrasting these two quite different situations is Mrs Elton. In Austen, as in most authors, you need to be aware of who is speaking when assessing what they say. Mrs Elton is a figure of ridicule in Emma, rather like Mr Collins in Pride and prejudice. She’s the upstart who “has a horror of upstarts”. Her idea of standing up for women involves counteracting Mr Weston’s statement that “delicate ladies have very extraordinary constitutions”. She says:

I always take the part of my own sex; I do indeed. I give you notice, you will find me a formidable antagonist on that point. I always stand up for women; and I assure you, if you knew how Selina feels with respect to sleeping at an inn, you would not wonder at Mrs. Churchill’s making incredible exertions to avoid it. Selina says it is quite horror to her; and I believe I have caught a little of her nicety. She always travels with her own sheets; an excellent precaution.

The satire here is multi-layered, but includes ridiculing Mrs Elton’s notion of standing up for women by asserting their focus on niceties!

More …

There’s a lot more I could discuss about this volume, such as its perfect plotting in which very little happens, or is said, that doesn’t move the plot forward, but that does it in such sly ways that we are barely aware it’s happening. However, I think I’ve made the main points here that particularly caught my attention during this re-read … so, onto volume 3 in April.

Ognjen Spahić, All of that (Review)

March 20, 2015

Regulars here know that I enjoy short stories, and that I review them regularly. Most of these reviews, though, are of Australian writers. I was therefore pleased when blogger roughghosts, in his review of a novel by Ognjen Spahić, provided a link to a Spahić short story titled “All of that”. As I haven’t reviewed many Balkan writers here, and definitely no Montenegrin writers, I grabbed the opportunity to read this story.

According to the biography provided by the online journal BODY, Spahić “is the best-known member of the young generation of Montenegrin writers to have emerged since the collapse of former Yugoslavia”. He’s published two collections of short stories and his novel Hansen’s Children (the one reviewed by roughghosts) won the 2005 Meša Selimović Prize for the best new novel from Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Elsewhere I read that he’s been a resident writer at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and won, in 2011, Romania’s Ovid Festival Prize for a prominent young talent. Have you heard of him? I hadn’t. Another win for litbloggers, methinks.

“All of that”, which I suspect comes from his first short story collection, All that, published in 2001, is a first person story by a father concerned about his son Danilo’s ability to cope with the death of a schoolfriend and with attending her funeral. Most of the story takes place on a father-son fishing trip in which the father plans to take his son’s mind off the death, but the son has other plans:

‘Dad, have you ever been to the cemetery?’ he asked as we were driving.

And so starts a conversation … I loved the writing (albeit I read a translation). The dialogue, which constitutes much of the story, is simple, direct, and true, but it is in the father’s reflections that the truth of the matter comes out. It’s the father who has problems with death. He’d lost his father (car-crash) when he was 6 years old and his mother (illness) when he was thirteen. “It’s difficult to talk about death”, he says

And even more difficult to explain to a child the ceremony and rituals which go with it in this rotten country.

“This rotten country” is alludes to something wider than the story at hand, and suggests to me there may be another level on which the story might be read. Interestingly too, as the father and son are rowing, the son says he doesn’t like fog though it doesn’t bother him. This surprises the father, but he suggests:

‘OK Danilo, Strange Prince of Darkness. Let’s row a little bit faster to that deserted island.’

Strange Prince of Darkness? Why does he call his son that? It seems affectionate. Other religious references, on the other hand, are more direct, such as “Deformed quotes from the Bible”.

Anyhow, the fog returns a few times in the story. At one time the father says it “creeps like a python after the slow process of digesting its prey”. It lifts towards the end, suggesting some resolution for the father/narrator’s anxieties.

What I enjoyed was the way Spahić slowly teases out the father’s feelings – through the dialogue, his reflections, the style (particularly the use of repetition), and the language and imagery – because in the end the story is more about the father’s feelings. Just after the “strange Prince of Darkness” comment, the father talks of making “a pretence at adventure, a small harmless attempt to escape from reality”. And yet, the son gives no sense of needing to escape from reality. It’s the father.

I’m not going to write more about this story. It would certainly bear multiple readings, but is powerful enough on the first reading to give a sense of yet another writer I’d like to get to know more. I might read Hansen’s children yet.

Ongjen Spahić
“All of that” in BODY, June 30, 2013
Translate by SD Curtis
Available online at BODY

Monday musings on Australian literature: Bernard Cronin, an Old Derelict!

March 16, 2015
Bernard Cronin

Bernard Cronin (Presumed Public Domain, via Wikipedia)

It’s a bit cheeky, really, to write about a writer I’ve never read, but I do this occasionally, particularly in Monday Musings because I use them to educate myself as well as to share ideas and knowledge with you. I came across Bernard Cronin (1884-1968) when I was roving around Trove earlier this year. He’s an English-born Australian writer and you can read about him on Wikipedia and at the Australian Dictionary of Biography. If you want to read about his life, do go there, because my focus is not going to be that.

However, I will give you a nutshell! Cronin came to Australia when he was 6 years old, and graduated from an agricultural college. He worked in cattle-farming, as a salesman and clerk, and as a journalist, but for most of his life he was also writing. He wrote novels, short stories, plays, and verse, some in his own name and some using pseudonyms. In 1920, he co-founded the Old Derelicts’ Club (don’t you love that!) for struggling authors and writers. This became the Society of Australian Authors in 1927, with Cronin its first president, but in 1936 the society was wound up because, according to Cronin, it was becoming “infiltrated by politics”. Cronin St, in a suburb in my city, is named for him.

Cronin first came to my attention when he appeared in the top 10 of the 1927 plebiscite on Australian authors*. And then, as I was following other links, I came across him again in an article written in 1933 by Canadian writer, Aidan de Brune (1879-1946), who also settled in Australia. Aidan de Brune wrote a series of articles on Australian authors for The West Australian, devoting the third article to Cronin. By this time, 1933, Cronin had published around 15 or so novels, and saw himself as an Australian writer. De Brune writes that unlike many writers he had stayed in Australia, and quotes Cronin as saying:

The writer in the Old Country finds his scenery, as it were, ready made for him. In this country it is definitely not to be found upon the surface of things. One has to dig deeply to become aware of the very great natural beauties of the Australian landscape. Real treasure is mostly of the buried variety. To my mind there is more character in an old Aussie gum tree than in any other tree I ever heard of. Incidentally, I should say that that much abused genius, D. H. Lawrence, came closer to an understanding of the spirit of the Australian landscape than any other writer, local, or imported, has yet done. He is the first scribe definitely to sight the real genii of the bush.

De Brune interprets this as Cronin seeing “Australia as a literary theme”, but without a need to “sentimentalise” it. I’m intrigued by Cronin’s comment on DH Lawrence. I still haven’t read Kangaroo and, while I’m not driven to read Lawrence again, I feel I should make an exception for this, one day. I also love Cronin’s description the “Aussie gum tree”. Yes!

De Brune then quotes Cronin again:

Our trouble is that we lack real breeding, and crudeness is a poor scaffold for the Arts. Further, the indifference of our rulers to the absolute need to develop a national soul has not made matters any better. Hansard will never make this country aware of the sublimities of human destiny. We need to see Australia from her own standpoint, and with her own individuality. The Arts are our only hope of salvation.

De Brune comments that “by this last phrase our fierce realist is revealed as an idealist, after all”. Perhaps so. What interests me, these eight decades later, is that ongoing battle against indifferent rulers for validation of the arts, for recognition of the importance of the arts to our souls, national and otherwise.

Cronin’s next novel, to be published in 1933, was The sow’s ear. Set in Tasmanian timber country, it is, says De Brune, “a ruthless exposure of the tragic life of young girls enslaved by the system of marrying without love, at the command of domineering parents”. He writes that all Cronin’s novels have this “fierce” quality, exposing what Cronin “considers to be wrong, stupid or uneconomic. In this sense he is the strongest of the Australian writers who wish to make us aware of our short comings, so that we may eliminate them, and become a truly civilised nation.” So, Cronin had a very clear image of what sort of Australia, what sort of “national soul” he wanted us to develop.

After giving a brief rundown of Cronin’s life and career to date, de Brune concludes with Cronin’s role in the Australian Society of Authors. He again quotes Cronin:

There is much to discourage the Australian writer. Nevertheless, he holds steadily to his job. He hopes that the pioneering work which he is doing will prove an invaluable foundation for the generation of writers to come. Give him the support of his own Government and public, and he will win to wider distinction inside a decade. But he’ll win through, any way.

I love that optimism – that writers will “win through anyway”. In many ways I think they do – but I do often wish it were easier for them! De Brune ends his article forecasting that “when Australian authors have finally won recognition from their own people, the name of Bernard Cronin will stand high in the roll of honour of those who have fought for this objective”. Now, that makes me sad. Maybe this is a case of back-slapping between mates, but somehow, reading Cronin’s words, and of his role in various writers’ organisations, I suspect there is a good deal of truth in De Brune’s assessment – and yet I didn’t know Cronin. I’d love to know if other Aussies here do.

* I wrote on this plebiscite in a Monday Musings last year, but only gave the top 6 novelists. Cronin was number 7!

Jessica White, Entitlement (Review)

March 15, 2015

WhiteEntitlementVikingEntitlement is a powerful title for Australian author Jessica White’s second novel, but then White wanted to explore some powerful themes – though they are, unfortunately, somewhat belied by the rural romance/saga looking cover. The author bio at the front of the book tells us that White grew up on a property in northwest New South Wales and it becomes clear very early in the book that she knows whereof she speaks!

Of what does she speak, then, you are probably asking? Entitlement is set in contemporary times on a cattle property near a fictional place called Tumbin. The story starts with 29-year-old Cate McConville, now a practising GP, returning home because her parents wish to sell the property. She, with other family members, is a partner in the business, and all need to agree to the sale. But, Cate’s holding out – not because she loves farming and wants to return, but because her only sibling, her much-loved brother Eliot, had disappeared several years earlier and she wants him to have a home to return to. The farm – the land – also contains her memories of, and therefore her link to, him.

While the plot-line is established gradually, the first chapter sets the book’s tone and style. It tells us there’s tension between Cate and her parents; that memory is going to feature strongly in the telling; and that indigenous issues are likely to be part of the story. The book then progresses, introducing more and more characters over the next few chapters. Each chapter tends to be dedicated to one character, or a small group of characters, and usually involves flashbacks, as the character remembers something from, or reflects on, the past. White handles this well. There are many characters, but the present-flashback narrative style keeps them clear and in their place (if that makes sense). This style does risk becoming a little rigid, but White breaks it up every now and then with a chapter purely set in the present, or one that commences in the past.

Very early, as the characters are introduced, the themes start to become clear. The story is told within two main contexts – farming succession and indigenous connection to land. Over-riding all this is the notion of stolen and lost children. Local indigenous man, Mellor, has worked for a couple of decades for the McConvilles, as had his wife until she’d died of cancer. His extended family, particularly his two aunts, live with him on the edge of the property, and have experienced the stealing of their children. Cate’s father, Blake, is racist and dismissive of indigenous people and their rights, while her mother Leonora, by contrast, is on friendly relations with Mellor and his family.

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll have read some of my discussions of non-indigenous people writing about indigenous issues. It’s uneasy ground to walk on, but for White, with her farming background, the issues of stolen children and indigenous land rights are things she’s likely to have lived. I’m not surprised she wanted to explore it. Indeed, she wrote a comment on this blog nearly two years ago, saying that this novel:

raises the question of who, in contemporary Australia, is entitled to the land? I also tried to show, through the break up of a white family that was fighting over land, how Indigenous people have been affected by their dispossession. I don’t think it’s a question that can ever be answered, though I did aim for a (probably utopian) resolution at the end of the book.

She couldn’t do this, really, without creating indigenous characters and that means of course that she had to present (her understanding of) their attitudes. I think she’s handled this sensitively, but of course I’m non-indigenous. I did wonder if she’d stepped onto shakier ground when she drew comparisons between Cate’s mother’s loss with that of the stolen generation mothers. However, in her acknowledgements White thanks “Michael Aird and Sarah Martin for their conversations and resources on Indigenous culture and history”. She has not, it seems, walked this ground lightly. And she doesn’t leave it at country and stolen generation issues, but touches on other injustices, such as indigenous health and housing, and racist violence.

White is on safe ground when she discusses the land and farm from Cate’s point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions of the landscape and farm life – little scenes of her father and uncle undertaking farm tasks, of Mellor tending to fences, or of Cate running through the land, for example. Here’s a description of an Australia Day picnic:

Flies and mosquitoes plucked at their skin. The scents of the bush were drawn out by the heat and bundled together like a sweet, loosely woven shawl. Kangaroos bounded away in alarm as they made their way up the hill. Crickets whirred, rising from the long grass, and cockatoos screeched.

Her characters, too, are real; they are imperfect, believable human beings. Cate’s inflexibility, her selfish unwillingness to understand the health issues forcing the need to sell, made me cross but the pain, the loss, driving her behaviour is believable. Her parents are presented as having a loving relationship, but not without its tensions and conflicts. And so on.

Entitlement is an engrossing and serious, though not a grim read. As White admits, she does try for a positive resolution, which could almost do the seriousness of the issues a disservice. However, the story is not completely neatly tidied up, presumably because she realised that her question – how do we handle conflicting relationships to this land so many of us call home – does not have a simple answer. It’s therefore important that both indigenous and non-indigenous writers put stories and ideas out there for us to think about. It can only help the discussion, don’t you think?

awwchallenge2015Jessica White
Entitlement
Melbourne: Viking, 2012
289pp.
ISBN: 9780670075935

(Signed copy won in a blog giveaway)

Stella Prize 2015 Shortlist

March 13, 2015

I rarely write longlist, shortlist and winner posts, but for the Stella Prize I don’t mind making an exception. Last month, I posted on the longlist, and yesterday, the shortlist was announced.

  • Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil (Hachette): short story collection that I really must read, a debut book
  • Emily Bitto’s The Strays (Affirm Press): another debut book, this a novel that’s been garnering excellent reviews, and I’m keen to read this.
  • Christine Kenneally’s The Invisible History of the Human Race (Black Inc): the only non-fiction in the list, about her research into DNA and humanity’s origins.
  • Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep (Allen & Unwin): second adult novel by an award-winning playwright and writer for children, about an individual young boy who may be, though it’s apparently not stated, on the autism spectrum.
  • Joan London’s The Golden Age (Random House): the only shortlisted book by a well-established novelist. I love her writing so need to read this. All these “must reads” make me wonder what I have been reading!
  • Ellen van Neerven’s Heat and Light (UQP): another debut book, and an intriguing collection of short, long and interrelated stories. I reviewed it last month.

It’s great seeing so many smaller publishers in the mix. Reminds us again that we should not overlook them when we are seeking quality books! This Stella Prize link will give you all the gen on the shortlist, including excerpts.

I was disappointed not to see Helen Garner’s The house of grief shortlisted, but not having read all the books, I’m in no position to pass judgement.

PS Apologies to those who saw it for the early incomplete posting of this post. I’m on the road and, against my better judgement, stupidly tried to use WordPress’s app. I like most things about WordPress, but detest the iPad app, so I tediously finished this in the browser on the iPad. Not a fun thing to do.

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