5 new Australian novels by big-name authors to add to your wishlist

Novels by award-winning Australian authors are like buses. None for ages, and then a flurry arrive all at once.

Indeed, there are so many brilliant Australian writers with new books coming out this month in Australia that the Miles Franklin Literary Award judges are really going to have their work cut out for them next year.

Here’s just five that have caught my attention (and my retail-clicking online tendencies — yes, I’ve ordered a few of these direct from Australia already).

The books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author’s surname:

The Life to Come

The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser

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. 

Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia this month. Due to be published in the UK on 4  January.

First Person by Richard Flanagan

Six weeks to write for your life… In this blistering story of a ghostwriter haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect. A young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, 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 proposes a deal: $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghostwrite his memoir in six weeks. Kehlmann accepts but 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?

Published by Penguin in Australia this month. Due to be published in the UK by Chatto & Windus on 2 November.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

Published by Pan Macmillan in Australia last month. Due to be published in the UK by Little, Brown on 8 February 2018; a Kindle edition is currently available on Amazon.

The Passage of LoveThe Passage of Love by Alex Miller

Robert Croft, a young Englishman, arrives in Australia in the 1950s, determined to inhabit the outback. After five years of life on the land, he makes his way to Melbourne where, living in a boarding house, working as a cleaner, he finds himself consumed by a burning need to read, write, draw, create. When he meets the enigmatic Lena, she instantly becomes his staunchest champion but as their tortured marriage evolves and gradually erodes she ultimately becomes an obstacle. This intensely autobiographical novel has much to say about the compulsion to create, and the fundamental unknowability of even our most intimate partners. As the reader sinks into the text of this singular book, the artifice of fiction gradually melts away, leaving nothing but truth on the page. In “The Passage of Love” Alex Miller has given us a masterful work which will come to define his career as one of the great writers of our time.

Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia this month. Due to be published in the UK on 1 March 2018.

Taboo by Kim ScottTaboo by Kim Scott

“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.

Published by Pan Macmillan in Australia in July. There is no date available for the UK — as yet.

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?

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20 thoughts on “5 new Australian novels by big-name authors to add to your wishlist

  1. Hi, I am keen to read all of them! I have read The Passage of Love & Force of Nature so far. I particularly enjoyed The Passage of Love – I was lucky enough to have a long weekend to spend enjoying that one. I haven’t read any Kim Scott yet but have Taboo on my pile.

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  2. I splurged a few weeks ago on the De Kretser and Flanagan so looking forward to both. I also won a proof copy of The Passage of Love so I am set for some excellent reading ahead. I just loved Coal Creek so hoping this one is as good.

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    • The De Kretser and Flanagan are the ones I’m most looking forward to reading … I have to finish my Canadian reading for the Shadow Giller first, then I will have an Aussie reading splurge!

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  3. Taboo is with me as I travel, I might even start on it tonight. As Tony Hughes D’aeth said in his review in ABR, a new Kim Scott novel is an event.

    Based on your synopses, the Flanagan seems the next most interesting and Miller the least – I’m not sure I’m ready for even more rehashing of 1950s guy stuff.

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    • I really ought to subscribe to the ABR, right? Maybe I’ll request it as a Christmas present. I’m scared it will just make me want to buy more and more Australian books that are only available on import. Which means I’ll be forever broke!

      The Flanagan is supposedly based on the author’s own experience as a ghostwriter… it should be interesting.

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  4. I’ll definitely be reading the Flanagan and the Miller (I already have a copy of the first, with the latter on pre-order). I’m most looking forward to ‘The Passage of Love’: Miller is one of my favourite authors, but also Robert Croft was the central character in the superb ‘Watching the Climbers on the Mountains’ so this must surely be a sequel.

    Having tried (and disliked) two of Michelle DeKretser’s novels now I think I’ll stay away from that one!

    And although they’re not on your list I’m also looking forward to Jeremy Chambers’ ‘Suburbia’ (his debut ‘The Vintage and the Gleaming’ marked him out for me as a writer to watch), and Roger McDonald’s ‘A Sea-Chase’.

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    • I didn’t know about the new McDonald… I’ve only read his “1915”, which I adored as a teenager. I really ought to explore some of his more recent work.

      Interesting to hear you rate ‘The Vintage and the Gleaming’… I have a copy here but never read it. Wasn’t sure if it was my thing, but I’ve heard lots of positive stuff about it, so I really should dig it out for a read.

      And fair comment about the DeKretser; admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of her prose style, but I do like the ideas/issues she explores in her fiction.

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  5. Too much, too much, she cried. I’m not sure I’m interested in the Harper though I know she made a huge splash with The dry. The rest I’m keen to see, and like David, I’m also interested in the Jeremy Chambers.

    Stephen Orr has one coming out in the next month or so too.

    I love de Kretser – particularly Questions of travel which really is a powerful book (to use a cliche.)

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    • Quite a varied selection, right? — one by an indigenous writer, another by a Booker Prize winner and another by a new crime writer who’s just won the Gold Dagger!

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  6. I will definitely have to track down a copy of Jane Harper’s latest. I loved ‘The Dry’ and have been recommending it to friends and family who enjoy crime novels yet are looking for something different from their typical diet of American spy novels.

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    • I think her success means she’s published in the US. The Dry just won the very prestigious Gold Dagger, which I was thrilled to hear! She really deserves the praise and attention.

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  7. Taboo sounds amazing and important. First Person would interest me as someone who works with ghostwriters, but I think it’s going to be too violent/scary for me. Not the first time it’s caught my eye, however.

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    • First Person is based on Flanagan’s own experience as a ghostwriter very early on in his career. Apparently the chap he ‘ghosted’ was a conman who killed himself before the project was complete… intriguing, no?

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