Book review

Books that Made Us: Episode Three

Picture credit: ABC / The Books that Made Us

The final episode of the Australian TV series ‘The Books that Made Us’ was screened on ABC TV last night. (If you live in Australia and missed it, you can catch up on iView. You can also read my thoughts on Episode One here and Episode Two here.)

This episode was entitled ‘Power’ and looked at novels largely through the lens of the power dynamic between men and women, and white people and First Nations people. There was also one book about politics and corruption.

The books covered in episode three

Here is a list of the books mentioned in this episode. They have been arranged in alphabetical order by author’s surname. As ever, hyperlinks take you to my reviews.

There was also a montage of books by indigenous writers, which would make an excellent reading list for those who want to explore more by our First Nation storytellers. The list includes:

To be honest, I thought this was the weakest of the three episodes. I would have loved to have seen Thea Astley’s ‘The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow’ mentioned, which looks at the power-mad superintendent on a punitive mission for Aboriginals, but perhaps that novel isn’t well known enough.

And where were the novels about war? For instance, David Malouf’s ‘The Great World’, Roger McDonald’s ‘1915’ or Richard Flanagan’s ‘The Narrow Road to the Great North’. But again, maybe the program makers didn’t think there was a specific title that was popular enough to include and Flanagan had already had his name up in lights in the previous episode.

Interestingly, most of the books named in this series, not just this episode, have been adapted for the screen so there was plenty of footage to show and part of me wonders whether that was a prerequisite for inclusion.

And while I’m being a little critical, I must say as much as I do like Claudia Karvan, we did see an awful lot of her on screen — and how many times does she have to cry while doing a reading? I know she’s an actress, but the waterworks were a bit much.

But still, it was WONDERFUL to have our literature celebrated on the small screen like this. Be great if someone could now make a program about Southern Cross Crime, cos that’s recently put us on the world stage and there’s plenty to discuss and showcase.

Did you watch this TV series? If so what did you think? And regardless, do these lists make you want to explore more Australian fiction?

23 thoughts on “Books that Made Us: Episode Three”

    1. Lol. Me too. Mind you, my copy is still in London (I think). And it’s the reason why I bought Carpentaria on Kindle. The size of the text in the print edition is minuscule !

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  1. I agree with your comments. As I mentioned in a comment on FB, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of a focus on classic Australian literature. However, overall it was great to watch a celebration of Australian books.

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    1. The production company that made the series usually focuses on indigenous stories, so it was good to see this show do likewise in terms of promoting and showcasing indigenous literature.

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  2. I found it inspiring and revealing – so good to hear David Malouf speaking about Johnno – a long time favourite! – and also a rich opportunity to consider what didn’t make the cut – Andrew McGahan’s “The White Earth” was a “dead cert” for the both the Place and Power episodes, I reckon!

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      1. McGahan kept changing styles – his first two were grunge, which suited me. The next, Last Drinks was an ordinary police procedural, and there was The White Earth, which I appear to be alone in disliking, and which you (can I say ‘therefore’) would probably enjoy.

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        1. Lol. I think I got it in my head that White Earth wasn’t his story to tell, but I don’t know where I got that from and I’m not sure it’s true. But anyway that’s why I’ve never read it.

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          1. Well, there you go, that’s my objection too. I don’t remember much of it now, but I listened to it when it was serialised on the ABC, maybe 20 years ago.

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    1. I also disliked Praise – but The White Earth was altogether a different thing …. loved it start to finish everytime!

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  3. I’ve enjoyed your recapping of this series. I generally don’t like the ABC covering books – they are so middlebrow and all I can do is shout at the radio or tv when I think they get something wrong. Here, I will admit they made lots of good choices. Power without Glory perhaps the most surprising, but it was an important book in its day. I though I might still have the hardback copy I bought in the early 1970s, but I can’t see it in any of the most likely places.
    To maintain my reputation, I’ve reviewed a couple of Liane Moriarty’s and to have her on a show about Literature is just ridiculous.

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      1. Now that I’ve stopped chuckling, I need to be fair and say that it wasn’t so much a show about Literature, but about the books that have been influential at certain times. Moriarty fits here (I think) thanks to her long reign as New York Times bestseller a number of years ago. I had never heard of but all my US blogger friends had been loving her for years before I even realised she was Australian. It’s not easy or often that an Australian writer gets to be a best seller overseas…which is a whole other conversation, of course.
        I do also think she peaked with Big Little Lies. I haven’t been able to read any of her new books at all.

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    1. Sadly, most of these books will never have been published outside of Australia, so I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it — you can’t know what you can’t know, if that makes sense.

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  4. It’s tantalising to read your posts on this series and hear about so many authors I’ve not heard of. Sadly many of them are going to remain a mystery because they are either not available in the U.K. or. It available at a reasonable cost.

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