Mark Twain wrote of Australia in More Tramps Abroad, “It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies; and all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises and adventures, the incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened.”
Twain’s insightful observation could just as easily apply to contemporary Australian fiction. These selected novels are full of surprises and adventures that will pull the reader into that incongruous and contradictory country down under.
–– Bones of Contention by Jeanne Matthews. When a family gathers around its aged patriarch on the eve of his physician-assisted suicide, the most vibrant one in the room is the patient, and he may not be the first one to die. In this launch of a new international cozy series, Matthews places a refreshingly original female sleuth into a maelstrom of lies and deceit.
–– Trust by Kate Veitch. Susanna Greenfield has given her all to being a good daughter, sister, wife, and mother. Somehow, she’s maintained her profession as a college art teacher, as well as rearing two headstrong teenagers and nurturing a 29-year marriage. She’s also the eternal peacemaker between her pretty younger sister Angie, a former junkie turned born-again Christian, and their strong-willed mother, Jean. Just when Susanna is struggling to revive her creative career, a devastating accident rips apart the fabric of her world, exposing secrets which threaten to destroy both a marriage, and a life.
–– What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Suffering an accident that causes her to forget the last 10 years of her life, Alice is astonished to discover that she is 39 years old, a mother of three children, and in the middle of an acrimonious divorce from a man she dearly loves.
–– Breath by Tim Winton. This novel by one of Australia’s best-known authors is set on the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, and features two thrill-seeking and barely adolescent boys who fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. But where is all this heading? A rich and atmospheric coming-of-age tale.
–– The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. When a man slaps another couple’s child at a neighborhood barbecue, the event sends unforeseeable shockwaves through the lives of all who are witness to it. Told from the points of view of eight people who were present, the novel shows how a single action can change the way people think about how they live, what they want, and what they believe forever.
–– The Secret River by Kate Grenville. The author uses her own family history to bring to life Australia’s colonial past. William Thornhill, an impoverished Thames River waterman in 1806 London, is deported to the British colony of New South Wales for a petty theft. Thornhill carves out a life for himself and his family along the wild banks of the Hawkesbury River, slowly moving from indentured convict laborer to landowner. But Thornhill pays a brutal price when he becomes an unwilling participant in the settlers’ violence against the Aborigines.
–– Maureen Curry is the chief librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.