Summer reading: Aussies shine
Aussie women’s words shone brightly in my summer reading.
Bird in hand
Bird Country (Text) gathers some of my favourite Claire Aman short stories like “Jap Floral”, “What I Didn’t Put in My Speech” and “Why the Owl Gazes at the Moon” in one volume. The latter story is unforgettable. Imagine: beauty, terror, and grief held like a bird with its heart beating hard against your palm. Aman’s collection was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards with good reason.
Watermark (Simon & Schuster) is Joanna Atherfold Finn’s first book of short stories and it’s a delight. Coastal tales yield vivid descriptions – like the “rippled ribbon of tidal estuary claws at the low-tide sandbank” in “Boondi Wars”, and convincing characterisation – as in “Tessellating Shapes” where Austin, Anna and Lachy’s heartbreak felt so real I could have hugged them. Endings linger like a flipper-kick to the guts.
What a crack-a-jack kids book from the dream team Davina Bell (writer) and Allison Colpoys (illustrator). “Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from boxes.” Thus, whimsically and wonderfully, All the Ways to Be Smart (Scribe) goes on to show children 3+ that there are tons of ways to be clever, and we should celebrate and encourage them all. Makes a great gift.
Krissy Kneen’s Wintering (Text) was the perfect novel to read while travelling in Tasmania. It’s a taut thriller, set in the state’s south, and conjures the atmosphere, weirdness and malice city slickers might easily think lurks in isolated backwaters. It’s a nuanced tale in which a glow-worm specialist’s partner disappears and she must face some darker elements of Australian culture and in herself and battle on.
The twists and turns in Laura Elvery’s short fiction collection Trick of the Light (UQP) reveal an inventive mind and an assured storyteller at work. Its tiny details confirm it. An old man’s eyes “drooped like commas” and a once-large kitchen felt like the “inside an amber beer bottle that swims with a set of tiny chairs and table”. With a slew of awards, Elvery’s one to watch.
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