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What’s it like to be a woman over 40? In Women of a Certain Age 15 writers including Liz Byrski, Krissy Kneen and Brigid Lowry share their stories of identity and survival, and celebrate getting older and wiser, and becoming more certain of who you are and where you want to be. In this extract, Sarah Drummond shares an adventure she had while researching the story of a man consigned to an unofficial witness protection program in the 1920s.

Articles in this issue

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Archive Discoveries

  • Best known for his role as a team captain on ABC TV’s Spicks and Specks, ALAN BROUGH has also worked as a radio presenter,
actor and stand- up comedian. In the 1990s he also appeared in a series of TV commercials as a drag queen called Marge. He had always wanted to write, and now he has fulfilled that ambition with his new children’s book, Charlie and the War Against the Grannies. He tells us about the books that have made him the reader and writer that he is today. Read on >
  • When she’s not training her inquisitorial blowtorch on politicians and other people who have questions to answer, ABC reporter and presenter SARAH FERGUSON loves to delve into a book. Her new book, The Killing Season Uncut, recounts the behind-the-scenes tales of the television program about the tumultuous Rudd–Gillard years. We asked the multi-award winning Four Corners reporter to tell us about the books that have influenced her. Read on >
  • I switched on to watch ABC TV’s The Drum one evening and discovered Jodi Picoult sitting on the panel discussion.What a great performer she is – not only an impressive writer but also an impressive speaker.The discussion at the table was raging around whether a white author has the right, or could even have the understanding, to write about black characters. As a white woman, how could she really know what’s it’s like to be a black woman, let alone a black man? How could she write black characters and make them authentic without knowing how they feel? Read on >
  • For many of the families of servicemen killed in World War I, a terse telegram from the government was never going to be enough to assuage their grief. Families wrote back in their thousands, seeking more information about the fate of their loved ones. It was the task of James M Lean to reply to these families and, as author CAROL ROSENHAIN outlines in The Man Who Carried the Nation’s Grief, he did so with extraordinary empathy and sensitivity. Read on >
  • Paul Mitchell is a poet, short story writer, and now a novelist with the release of We. Are. Family. Read on to find out about Paul's poetry, writing, and the way he explores family trauma and masculinity in Australia.  Read on >
  • AOIFE CLIFFORD is the winner of the Scarlet Stiletto Award for one of her crime stories, but All These Perfect Strangers is her first novel. The Melbourne-based crime novelist talks with us about New Year’s resolutions, her Irish poet grandfather and the similarities between writing a novel and creating a papier-mâché puppet.  Read on >
  • Australian film director BRUCE BERESFORD (Driving Miss Daisy, Paradise Road) and film producer SUE MILLIKEN (Black Robe and Sirens) have collaborated on several films over their long careers. Their new book, There’s a Fax from Bruce: Edited correspondence between Bruce Beresford & Sue Milliken 1989- 1996, collects the communications – full of industry gossip, news and thoughts on books and films – from a pre-email era between these two filmmaking luminaries. They tell us here about the books that have influenced them. Read on >
  • Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has inspired all kinds of fan fiction and adaptations, such as the 1966 prequel Wide Sargasso Sea. But in this new novel by Sydney resident JENNIFER LIVETT, the lives of Jane Eyre characters become entwined with those of real 19th-century Tasmanians, including doomed Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. Here Jennifer tells us how she came up with the idea for Wild Island. Read on >
  • The rugged beauty of England’s Lake District looms large in the latest psychological thriller by Perth-based author SARA FOSTER. She shares her passion for the natural world and her concerns about the potential impacts of electronic media with MAUREEN EPPEN. Read on >
  • While researching for a non-fiction book about the botanical history of some of the world’s most popular alcoholic drinks, US author Amy Stewart stumbled across a gin smuggler’s altercation with a officious woman named Constance Kopp. This discovery catalysed her historical crime-fiction series based around Constance and her two sisters, set in New Jersey in 1915. As the second instalment in the series, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, is released, Angus Dalton finds out more. Read on >
  • We talk with PATRICK HOLLAND, a longlist nominee for the 2011 Miles Franklin Award for his novel The Mary Smokes Boys, about his new novel, One, which tells the story of the real-life Kenniff brothers. These two late-19th-century Queenslanders were Australia’s last bushrangers, and vPatrick questions the extent of their supposed villainy. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • Cleverly written, Unearthed alternates between the two narrators, Mia and Jules. The story moves along at a steady pace, sometimes reminiscent of Indiana Jones’s adventures and at other times more like the ‘Star Wars’ saga. The main characters are resourceful and brave but also awkward and vulnerable in their youthful naivety. Planet Gaia is a dangerous place, not only because of what is on it, but also because of what it could potentially mean for Earth. This is an absorbing tale. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the next instalment. Read on >

  • This is magical realism at its best and grittiest, and the ghosts have a particularly signficant role as the story draws to a close. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a brilliant book by a new luminary in US literature. Read on >

  • Sally Hepworth delves into the lives of four families living in a cul-de-sac of suburban Melbourne. Superficially, they characters are all friends, but the secrets they keep from each other poses the question, do we ever really know our neighbours, or even our own family? Read on >

  • Life on a cattle property enables Thomson to vividly describe experiences on the farm and in the garden. The themes of love and duty, the challenges in marriage, and friendship that can bridge generations make this an enjoyable true-to-life read for all ages. Read on >

  • The author wants his readers to be involved in this dark and violent novel. He invites them to take sides, take on board the ideas he has written and think about poverty, power, privilege, suicide and Aboriginal deaths in custody. But first they must meet some rather unattractive characters. Read on >

  • It’s hard to know what to focus on: Busi’s personal narrative of letting go or the political machinations within the town. Read on >

  • CeCe D’Apliese is one of seven sisters adopted from different parts of the world by a wealthy man. Although he gave her love, affection and security, she has never felt that she has fitted in with her family. Upon his death, he leaves her a clue as to her birthright, and with this scrap of information, she sets off to Australia in an effort to discover her roots. Unsure if she can face her past, she decides to kill a little time in Thailand, where she befriends a man who is not all that he seems. Read on >

  • Secrets emerge about the past, with troubling revelations about the natures of both of their parents. The lengths some of them go to get to the proffered inheritance provide entertaining and riveting reading. Read on >

  • This enthralling novel is extraordinarily rich in historical detail, made all the more fascinating because it’s based on a true story. Stephanie Parkyn vividly brings this world to life: the boredom and peril of ship life, the political undercurrents of the revolution that follow the ships as they traverse the world, and the people, flora and fauna the voyagers discover are all brilliantly evoked. Marie-Louise was possibly the first European woman to visit Van Diemen’s Land, but her amazing story encompasses so much more than this fact. Highly recommended. Read on >

  • This novel is brilliant. The story is compelling and addictive, and I continually questioned Royce’s and Vita’s motives and desires. Dovey’s richly detailed writing evokes both the interior and physical worlds of the two characters, from Royce’s memories of an archaeological dig in Pompeii to Vita’s struggles with the ethics behind her filmmaking. The book offers a profound insight into the nature of the human psyche, such as dealing with the burden of guilt, how the past can control the present and the motives behind creative output, control, desire and obsession.  Read on >

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