And so we enter into the fiction with both curiosity and fascination, which Gammon masterfully both milks and sustains as she gives us the details, enough to keep us guessing, like voyeurs, like amateur sleuths, as though we might deduce the truth from her fiction—it’s seduction and frankly ingenious.
There is so much about this book that is compelling. It manages to be both funny and tragic at the same time, without stereotypes or polemic. Though there are moments of bad behaviour on the part of pretty much every character, nothing is over-simplified. There are as many different ways to create art, from Jo’s food or charity work, to the Mirka Mora styled murals of Jo’s waitress Rosa, or the ikebana flower arrangements of Mrs Parish, as there are ways to be a partner, a parent, or a patron.
Daisy & Woolf is a rich, complex book that blurs binaries and boundaries, provoking big questions around art, parenting, love, privilege, colonisation, and creativity.The narrative flows quickly, driven by its dual protagonists, with the book unfolding its denser meaning later, in the shared collaborative space between reader and writer.
It is always both true and fictive, and like dreams, pieced together from a grab-bag of images and turned into stories that reflect the themes being explored. The Age of Fibs picks up on this uncertainty beautifully and works with it, allowing for openness, complexity, and fragmentation, while still keeping the coherency of the story intact.
In Shaky Town, Mathews expertly shows us how things work and why they break down, taking apart and putting back together a range of small, yet fully felt lives. His overlapping worlds are mapped in prose that shimmers like hammered copper. He knows this territory well: you don’t doubt that when a certain bug shrinks the leaves of a eugenia hedge, more of a morose neighbor’s sad guitar music will bleed through.
There are two things I appreciate most about this brave novel by Dalgarno. The first is that it explores so candidly the inner world of the narrator—Chris – who is painted with such pathos, to provoke tenderness and vulnerability in the reader and cast toxic masculinity under scrutiny. Secondly, I appreciate how it aroused in me important conversations on love and ethics, coloured by story.
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, an appreciator of different kinds of language and literature, a modernist who remembered tradition, describes Janie Crawford’s stifling life and surprising growth with language that is, as needed, confiding, folksy, general, poetic, philosophical, or startlingly specific.
Oli’s rebirth is rooted in connection, where she feels herself a part of the ocean; a part of the Earth, and connected to the other women with her. It’s an antidote to violence and the kind of toxic masculinity that is destroying our species. Below Deck is a rich, powerful, and wonderful novel full of exquisite writing, important themes, and powerfully realised textures.
The streets of Melbourne are vividly alive in this work, and nowhere more so than in its description of the natural world around the city, from Royal Park where Trevor walks Gordon to the steel carriages tram, the graffitied buildings or the flora and fauna that is everywhere in flashes of beauty.
So much of what makes the present tense of the novel possible comes down to luck, small acts of kindness, and the often random connections that take place. The book is beautifully written, poetic throughout and very moving. There is a lyrical richness and cadence which creates immediacy.