explodedview

Exploded View

Carrie Tiffany     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

There’s an underlying hum of tension in Exploded View which sometimes dazzles through into violence, like broken glass glimpsed on a headlong dash. And I did read this novel fast! Carrie Tiffany’s newest novel is set in an almost recognizable 1970’s semi-rural hinterland, narrated by an adolescent girl in precarious circumstances. Her family, designated as Father Man, Mother and Brother, go about their days observed by, and cataloged with, a child’s odd amoral certainties. Very early it is established that the girl’s stepfather is a sinister figure, with offhand mentions of controlling behaviour and abuse. She takes comfort in the pilfered workshop manual to Father Man’s Holden, where the clean mechanical illustrations seem to be the opposite of a human body’s tendency for damage and pain. She also sneaks into his workshop at night and depending on her mood, takes the cars for joyrides or sabotages his slipshod mechanical repairs. There’s a savage thrill in this, and in how she dispassionately recalls the intricacies of parts with a savant’s accuracy. Its not a comfortable story to read, with triggering asides to childhood trauma, but it is unforgettable writing from a uniquely Australian voice and the protagonist will stay with me for a long time.

Text Publishing 2018

haresfur

Hare’s Fur

Trevor Shearston     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

A widowed potter lives in the Blue Mountains, occupying his days with his friends and his workshop. Deep in the bush on the way to a favourite clay dig, he finds a chocolate wrapper and it leads him to three wary siblings sleeping rough in a cave. Evading police and social services and the inconstant attentions of absent parents, the teenage Jade is fiercely protective of the younger Emma and Todd.

Russell slowly gains their trust and gradually, improbably, a bond forms. Its a kind of alchemy like the almost accidental perfection of an earthenware piece and a clever way to write a book. I loved the detailed description of Russell’s contemplative methods and the touching way the children took to his instruction, as well as the sense of place which can only come from a writer with a deep appreciation for that part of the world. A little treasure of a novel about human goodness and ingenuity.

Scribe Publications 2019

kidgloves

Kid Gloves

Lucy Knisley     Recommended by Kristy    

graphic memoir 

An autobiography from a cartoonist at the top of her game, Kid Gloves is Lucy Knisley’s latest work. It explores her struggles with fertility and conception as well as dealing with the history of women’s reproductive and sexual health. Knisley specializes in the kind of non-fiction storytelling which is a compelling and honest account but also, thanks to the format and pacing, is hugely enjoyable to read. Her previous works like Relish and Something New cover big life moments in the same fresh and frank way, while grappling with the stuff of life – age and illness, uncertainty and attachment. Kid Gloves details her decision to become a parent and the difficulties and emotions of that journey. Its a fascinating, moving personal story and informative too.

First Second 2019

mrsbridgesage

Mrs. Bridge

Evan S. Connell     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

This is one of the best of the ‘best books you’ve never read’. The superlative Mrs. Bridge was first published in 1959, and in a series of vignettes, describes the placid life of a respectable Kansas City housewife. India Bridge, never able to ‘get used’ to her exotic first name, passes her days shopping, managing her staff and raising her family. As time passes she has occasional chilly glimpses into what can only be a sense of mortality. Her children grow older and more bewildering, her husband habitually distant, her friends sometimes surprise her – it could be a howlingly sad book like Revolutionary Road, if it weren’t so funny. Skillful, subtle and skewers middle-class values like a cocktail sausage.

Penguin Books 1959 / reissued 2012

islands

Islands

Peggy Frew     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

A novel about a family and a place, Islands is told through many voices, a series of overlapping points of view which gather together to form an intricate whole. Helen and Paul’s marriage ends and their daughters struggle with the aftermath. Junie becomes the tight-lipped observer, and Anna veers into self-destructive secrecy. When she disappears completely the family members each drift further apart, unable to understand each other’s pain. It is compared to both Georgia Blain and Helen Garner, and I think that’s right – the vivid setting, the agonies of adolescents, the essential unknowability of another person’s inner life.  Islands should be a depressing book but the skill in the way each character is fleshed out with their their motivations and resentments, graciousness and yearning, is nothing short of magnificent.

Allen & Unwin 2019

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