Last month I went to Australia to visit family for four weeks. But that trip seems a very long time ago now — especially as I am now immersed in loads of Canadian fiction.
As luck would have it, my return to London has coincided with a flurry of big-name Australian authors releasing long-awaited novels — why couldn’t they have released them all in the first week of September? Oh well, I would have never fitted them in my suitcase anyway.
Here’s five I’m looking forward to buying at some point — if they’re ever released in the UK or if I can scrape together enough cash to pay for international shipping charges!
The books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author’s surname.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
“August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost. “
Published by Vintage Australia last month. There is no date available for the UK — as yet.
“Bobby Blue is caught between loyalty to his only friend, Ben Tobin, and his boss, Daniel Collins, the new Constable at Mount Hay. He understands the people and the ways of Mount Hay; Collins studies the country as an archaeologist might, bringing his coastal values to the hinterland. Bobby says, ‘I do not think Daniel would have understood Ben in a million years.’
Increasingly bewildered and goaded to action by his wife, Constable Collins takes up his shotgun and his Webley pistol to deal with Ben. Bobby’s love for Collins’ wilful young daughter Irie is exposed, leading to tragic consequences for them all. Miller’s exquisite depictions of the country of the Queensland highlands form the background of this simply told but deeply significant novel of friendship, love, loyalty and the tragic consequences of misunderstanding and mistrust. Coal Creek is a wonderfully satisfying novel with a gratifying resolution.”
Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia earlier this month. Not published in the UK until next March, but a Kindle edition is available on Amazon.
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas
“Daniel Kelly, a talented young swimmer, has one chance to escape his working-class upbringing. His astonishing ability in the pool should drive him to fame and fortune, as well as his revenge on the rich boys at the private school to which he has won a sports scholarship. But when he melts down at his first big international championship and comes only fifth, he begins to destroy everything he has fought for and turn on everyone around him. Barracuda is a powerful and moving novel of sport and violence, class and education, dreams and disillusionment; it is the story of a young man who eventually comes to realise that it is in family and friendship that his strongest identity lies.”
Published in Australia by Allen & Unwin on 1 November, but not published in the UK until 2 January 2014. But international buyers can purchase the ePub edition from the Booktopia website.
Eyrie by Tim Winton
“Tom Keely’s reputation is in ruins. And that’s the upside. Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring. But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement. All it takes is an awkward encounter in the lobby. A woman from his past, a boy the likes of which he’s never met before. Two strangers leading a life beyond his experience and into whose orbit he falls despite himself. What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.”
Published in Australia by Penguin Australia earlier this month, but not published in the UK until June 2014.
The Swan Book by Alexis Wright
“The new novel by Alexis Wright, whose previous novel Carpentaria won the Miles Franklin Award and four other major prizes including the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city. The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.”
Published in Australia by Giramondo Publishing Co last month. Not published in the UK, but a Kindle edition is available on Amazon.
Please note that the release dates quoted for the UK are subject to change.
Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?
30 thoughts on “Five books by Australian writers I’m looking forward to reading”
Did any of these pique my interest you say? The Tim Winton one for sure and the Richard Flanagan though the ref in the synopsis to ‘a letter that will change his life forever.’ sent some alarm bells off. i do wish publicists would stop using that phrase about life changing event. It’s become so cliched now that I flinch every time I see it.
OK rant over, time to get to work..
Definitely whetted my appetite for the Winton but then all you would have to do for that is tell me there’s a new one due – I’ll read anything by him. Lovely jacket, too. I hope the UK one will be as good.
I just finished reading the Flanagan the other day, Kim, and am still reeling from it – what an extraordinarily good book. Has to be a contender for the Miles Franklin (but then I thought that of Christopher Koch’s ‘Lost Voices’ earlier this year and it wasn’t even longlisted!).
Oh, and re Karen’s comment above: that reference in the synopsis to the letter is even more irritating when you’ve read the book – talk about a spoiler!
And I read Miller’s new book a couple of weeks ago and would rate it as one of the best of the seven of his I’ve read. To start I thought it was remarkably similar to Larry Watson’s ‘Montana 1948’ but it rapidly becomes its own unique thing, the second half unfolding with a thriller-like intensity that I don’t normally associate with Miller. And of course beautifully written.
Tim Winton’s book is winging its way to me right now and I’m really looking forward to it – I think I’ve read most of his books and have seldom been disappointed.
The Tsiolkas I’ll read but will likely wait for the UK edition since it is only a couple of months off. The Alexis Wright I find sounds daunting and I’m not sure it’d be my cup of tea (I thought the same about Carpentaria).
A trio that aren’t on your list that I’m keen to try: Fiona Capp’s ‘Gotland’, Roger MacDonald’s ‘The Following’ and Debra Adelaide’s ‘Letter to George Clooney’.
I am on the wait list for the first four of your book choices from the library. I’m really interested in the Flanagan book and heard a good review of Barracuda on the radio the other day. I also heard Tim Winton speak about writing Eyrie – his writing seems to flow so effortlessly but he says that it is a very painstaking process – he apparently wrote most of it in a run down top floor apartment and I got the impression that some days he didn’t write a word. Imagine your work being that hard! I haven’t yet reserved the Alexis Wright for similar reasons to David – I do have a copy of Carpentaria on my shelves and think I should start there.
Excellent choices, and all but one of them are on my TBR. I’ve already read The Swan Book and was rapt. This is a great year in Aussie publishing, it’s funny how they all come out at once, isn’t it!
My pet hate on blurbs is the oh-so dreadful phrase writing at the height of their powers. Shudder. I can feel another blog post coming on, actually…
I need to read more Winton, I think. For years I just ignored him, because I thought he got too much attention, but then I read Riders and was hooked even though I thought that novel was a little flawed. Loved Breathe and have since acquired a few others which are sitting in my pile waiting for the right moment…
Well, Im rather annoyed with the Random House Australia website, because I had decided not to buy this novel when I was in Australia (it came out the week before I left) because I had seen an ePub version was available online. Then, on the weekend, when I was planning this post and putting together some notes, I checked the Random House site again and it was still there. Im not too flash with the cash at the moment, so figured Id buy it next month. Then, last night, when I finalised this piece I see that Random House Australia has revamped its buying options and the ePub can no longer be bought direct from the site instead it points you to Amazon, Kobo etc all places where it is not available if you live outside of Australia. Im sooooo furious!! I really should have bought it when I saw it.
Flanagan is one of my favourite writers and has a place on my favourite authors page. I guess Im probably going to have to bite the bullet and order the physical book direct from Australia.
Nice to hear you loved the Miller. Im pleased I wont have to wait until March now, as the Kindle version has been made available. If only more publishers would do this!
I once heard an interview with Winton in which he said he struggled to write a novel to deadline and when hed finished he was so down on it he threw it away or burned it or something AND STARTED FROM SCRATCH AGAIN. I cant remember which book it was, but Ive got a feeling it might have been Breathe. I just remember thinking how tormented the whole process was for him and listening to him speak so honestly and openly my whole opinion of him changed Id always suspected hed be arrogant and egotistical given his extraordinary success, but he was actually the complete opposite.
I hope you dont have too long to wait for your library copies!
They are like London buses, Lisa. You dont see one for ages, then five turn up all at once!
They all look really interesting, Kim – and most I’ve never heard of (I often feel I live in a Euro/American-centric book world here) so it’s great to see a different list!
Most of these sound interesting – I think I’ll just wait a while and borrow them from the library when the fuss has died down 😉
Excellent! My work in spreading the OzLit word is done!
Flanagan is one of my favourite authors (he is listed on my favourite authors page), so this is one Im most looking forward to. Ive read books by all the other authors too, except for Alexis Wright, whose award-winning Carpentaria has been sitting on my shelf unread for far too long.
Fuss? I can assure you theres no fuss about these writers on this side of the planet, Tony, though I can imagine it is rather different down south!
hi, I have read Coal Creek & loved it. Am three quarters of the way through Richard Flanagan’s book & it’s harrowing to say the least. I can’t stop thinking about it & was talking to my daughter about it this morning. I have Eyrie on my list & Barracuda on the way, can’t wait, so exciting 🙂 I also think the covers of the books are wonderful. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is featured on The Book Club next month too.
Thanks for your thoughts on the Miller and Flanagan, Cherie, they only make me want to read the books even more now!
And thanks for letting me know that the Deep North will be on the Book Club… I subscribe via iTunes but always forget to watch it!! I think I’ve got about 6 episodes to catch up on!
Wonderful choices, good to see you are still in touch with the Australian book industry. I can tell you that most of these books are on the aussie book bloggers reading list but I can only confirm one book is amazing (so far, as I’ve only read one of these) and I won’t spoil the surprise for you
Thanks, Michael. The internet makes keeping in touch with what is happening with Australian literary fiction so much easier these days. I well remember a complete vacuum of information in the late 1990s/early 2000s, but then I discovered the Matilda blog and later ANZ Litlovers and now I have never been more in touch, despite living on the other side of the world!
I enjoyed the Winton and have Barracuda and the Flanagan on the pile. Disappointing that there are no UK release dates for some of the titles though. It really annoys me when there are no plans to publish a book in your country but ‘restrictions’ make it near impossible to buy an ecopy!
I have to admit geo restrictions are the bane of my life, but I understand it is like that because of the way rights are sold. Of course, it would be a lot easier all round (but more expensive for publishers) if books were only published under all rights or world rights. This would allow readers to access books from across the world without that annoying little message this title is not available in your country popping up when you try to buy the e-version! Geo restictions have made it hard for me to buy some of the Giller Prize titles and I havent yet found a way to crack the system!
I’ve never commented here before but read loads, bags full actually, of Australian literature while in Oz earlier this year. I was on a limited budget so only allowed myself to buy from charity shops but that was NO restriction whatsoever as everything was available. I discovered Robert Drewe – my complete favourite of the stay: The Drowner. Tim Winton will always be a star writer and I’ll preorder The Eyrie. I didn’t manage to get through Carpentaria but will one day. Alex Miller was wonderful too, and the doctor/novelist/poet from Adelaide whose powerful novels captivated, each very different from each other but whose name I’m struggling to recall – aging memory aah Peter Goldsworthy. I enjoyed Evie Wyld, and Andrew McGahan gave me insight into the mind of a fascist. Elizabeth Jolley, such writing!
Thanks for your comment, Carol. Glad to hear you’ve discovered some great Aussie authors.
I finished reading the Winton last night whilst waiting up for the cat to come home (dirty stop-out). I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it. It has a rather ambiguous ending that, whilst it works, felt a bit disappointing. I think I’d rank ‘Eyrie’ alongside ‘The Riders’ and ‘Dirt Music’, which is to say good but not as good (for me) as ‘Cloudstreet’, ‘Breath’ or ‘The Turning’. I’d still heartily recommend it though – it is Tim Winton after all.
Oh, and the Australian hardback is a lovely thing – the dustjacket shows a blurry photo of a boy against a light; the endpapers zoom out a bit so you can see that the boy is in the window of a block of flats; and then take the dustjacket off and the case is printed with a photo of the whole block of flats. Brilliant design.
You’ve clearly read more Winton than me (I’ve only read three), so interesting to hear your thoughts on where this new one fits in with the rest of his oeuvre. I’m very excited about attending a Picador press event later this month, where he will be appearing to do a reading. Dare I take along my Folio edition of Cloud Street for him to sign?
BTW, I’ve just ordered the Flanagan from Fishpond. I watched the First Tuesday Book Club (or whatever it’s called now) online earlier tonight and they were raving about it, so I just had to have it.
Out of interest, which website do you use to buy your Australian books?
Ooh, lucky you with the Folio edition – I’ve been umming and ahing over whether to splash out on it to replace my old paperback.
For Australian books I’ve been using Fishpond – the prices are much lower than Readings or the place I used to use on AbeBooks.
I think the thing in favour of Fishpond is the free shipping. The book was a lot cheaper on Booktopia — think it worked out at about £15 — but the shipping was twice the price of the book!! That meant I’d be paying at least £45 for the book, whereas with Fishpond it was £22.
I know! I’m assuming they factor the shipping into the book price but it still works out pretty reasonable. I think I paid just over £15 for the new Alex Miller which is only a few quid more than I’d pay for the UK edition, but for an author I really love it meant I got to read it now rather than wait. I wouldn’t want to be buying loads of stuff from them as it is still dear-ish (as you say, £22 for the Flanagan), but for the odd book I really want that either isn’t available here or won’t be published for ages I think they’re really good.
Actually I just ordered a copy of Randolph Stow’s “To the Islands”.
Oh, that’s a wonderful book! I noticed when I was back in Oz that was in all the shops, where previously it was hard to track down, so I hope there’s a bit of a revival going on. I have “Tourmaline” here but keep saving it up…
I’m back, commenting on this post again… I finished reading ‘Barracuda’ yesterday and am thinking this is turning out to be a vintage year for Australian fiction. Though I hadn’t previously read any Tsiolkas, I knew from the reputation of ‘The Slap’ to expect something powerful and provocative, but hadn’t expected something simultaneously so compelling and so uncomfortable to read. In Danny Kelly, Tsiolkas gives us a protagonist who isn’t always likeable and whose thoughts on occasion are utterly shocking (and I’m seldom shocked by fiction), but he makes you peek into the darkest recesses of your own heart or psyche (call it what you will) and know that Danny isn’t all that different. Coupled with a cracking pace and a clever structure (two narrative streams moving in opposite directions like tides), this is likely to join both Flanagan and Miller as one of my favourite books of the year. I’m off to order a copy of ‘The Slap’ right now….
LOL. You have left a lot of comments on this post, David, but I am not complaining you are only making me more excited about reading these books! Glad to hear your thoughts on Barracuda I think it may possibly be the one I am looking forward to reading most. Cant wait to hear what you think of The Slap. I loved it, though it is very confronting in places and the language is often crude. The TV series was the best thing shown on TV last year (BBC4) a superb cast and high-end production values so if you get a chance to watch it, please do. It is one of those rare things: a film adaptation that may, possibly, be better than the book!