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He lies like an eyewitness.’ The epigraph to AOIFE CLIFFORD’s new crime novel, Second Sight, embodies deceit and subjectivity at its centre. Memory is treated as a construct, a fond hope, even a lie. Established truths are challenged and reassessed, and what we as readers assume to be the case is regularly and skilfully overturned. EMMA HARVEY tells us more.      
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Articles in this issue

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Archive Discoveries

  • The changing moral code and shift in gender roes of World War II provide the backdrop for JENNIFER RYAN's debut novel The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. She tells MAUREEN EPPEN about the people and events that inspired the story. Read on >
  • Adelaide writer STEPHEN 
ORR, whose book The Hands
 was longlisted for the 2016 
Miles Franklin Award, likes to
travel the world inspecting
 sites of literary interest – when 
he’s not writing about cattle 
stations and small towns. Here 
he recounts a recent journey to
 the British Isles and Germany on 
which he visited the homes and
 haunts of some of the world’s best known authors. Read on >
  • Born in London, retired doctor TONY ATKINSON spent the first years of his life in a cage dangling out of a window. But he went on to serve the Queen and Winston Churchill during his early career as a footman and waiter, which he recalls in hilarious stories in he memoir, A Prescribed Life. Read on >
  • If you think of the German navy in World War II, then you probably conjure up images of grand-scale conflicts such as the Battle of the Atlantic or the Baltic Sea campaigns. But not so many people are aware that German ships were also on the prowl down in the South Pacific and in the Indian Ocean, where they disguised themselves as ordinary freighters before launching their deadly assaults on unsuspecting Allied craft. False Flags, a new account by Canberra author STEPHEN ROBINSON, tells the story of four German raiders, including the infamous attack by one of them, the Kormoran, on the HMAS Sydney in 1941. GRANT HANSEN reports. Read on >
  • We chat to aspiring astronaut and sci-fi writer S J Kincaid on haunted graveyards, Star Trek, and her new YA galactic thriller, The Diabolic.  Read on >
  • CATHY BURKE is the CEO of The Hunger Project Australia, an organisation that aims to end hunger in every part of the world by 2030. She has raised tens of millions of dollars to help empower people in Africa, India, Bangladesh and South America to feed themselves. We asked Cathy about the books that she has enjoyed reading and which have shaped her life, and we also talk about her own book, Unlikely Leaders. Read on >
  • UK journalist and editor MARINA BENJAMIN looks at the joys, losses and opportunities of middle age in her new book, The Middlepause. In this extract she writes about the secret misogynistic history of HRT.   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 symptoms of boredom, loneliness and heartache can often be alleviated by exposure to a good novel. But poetry can also have a similar healing effect. If you suffer from any of the following undesirable conditions, try these three poetic prescriptions that might just do the trick. Read on >
  • Most of us think of Australia as a sunny land filled with straightforward, open and candid people. But in ANNA ROMER’s version of the country, it’s a place filled with secrets and people who will do anything to keep them concealed. She talks with ALEX HENDERSON about her new book, Beyond the Orchard, Victoria’s haunted Otway Coast and the power of fear. Read on >
  • For some women, bad men cast an irresistibly magnetic spell. Melbourne-based author LAURA ELIZABETH WOOLLETT examines this often fatal attraction in  The Love of a Bad Man, a collection of 12 stories based on the lives of real women who sought the love of criminals. In this extract from ‘Eva’, the author imagines the post-coital thoughts of Eva Braun, who met Adolf Hitler when she was 17. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • Jessie Cole’s father and half-sister suicided years apart, using the same method. These deaths betrayed Cole’s trust. The mental pain her father and half-sister, Zoe, experienced showed itself in a kind of violence: humiliations designed to wound, rants ‘infected by rage’.  As tree-changers in their 70s, her psychiatrist father and home-maker mother had moved to Burringbar, a tiny town in the Northern Rivers of NSW. It’s an area many escape to in order to live in a beautiful landscape without judgement (in theory). Cocooned in a rainforest without any known grandparents or strict rules, she had a free-ranging life on a property she still calls home. Cole takes you into her child’s world; riding her father’s back across a river or hiding safe and happy in her mother’s long skirts.This perspective colours what you as the reader see of her parents. After Zoe’s suicide, Jessie expertly pulls the lens back to show a clearer picture of how the young parents around her were really behaving. It’s hard not to judge her father poorly for wreaking havoc on his family when he descends into madness. However, Cole delicately teases out her father’s personality and kinder self through his letters to her. Years later, a fisherman on a beach helps Cole to trust again. ‘I latched on to the idea of him … as though he had caught me with his hook … In his unwavering gaze I came into the light.’ Cole paints such an authentic picture of her grieving family I wanted to read more about the years that followed, which shows her great achievement in Staying. Reviewed by Josepha Dietrich Read on >

  • The almost casual mention of whole families being decimated by bombings, shootings or threats; the way the community closes in on itself, relegating unusual behaviour to some outer sphere; and the dynamics of her large family, especially the precociously intelligent ‘wee sisters’ makes for compelling, powerful reading amid the torrents of words in which readers could lose themselves. Read on >

  • Filled with poignant scenes between Teddy and Radford, dark and rollicking parties, and the stark beauty of their isolation in the winter landscape, Robert Lukins has created a secret world that nurtures these troubled boys. There’s heartbreaking vulnerability, frustration and confusion, but this is balanced with self-sacrifice, tenderness and loyalty. This is a debut novel from a very accomplished writer and we can only hope that there will be many more to come. Read on >

  • The Boat People shows us how, when the powerful brutalise the powerless - with guns or laws - tidy notions of ‘right/wrong’, ‘legal/illegal,’ and ‘truth/lies’ become useless. A humane attitude must begin with kindness and compassion. Read on >

  • This is a witty book, a blend of both comedy and tragedy, full of sharp-eyed observations about life as a migrant in modern Britain, with an emotional punch behind the humour that stays with the reader. Read on >

  • Claire’s recounting of the past overshadows the story of Lucy and Ben’s current situation. Despite this, the novel is soulful, perplexing and deeply moving. The separate narrators’ tales beat with the same devastating heartbeat. This is a story of love lost and the grief it causes, of tragic circumstances and the threads that bind us all together. Read on >

  • The title valley is a narrow valley in the Shetland Islands. It contains five houses, a few people, sheep and assorted other animals.  David has lived in the valley for most of his life with his wife, Mary. Sandy has just broken up with David and Mary’s daughter, Emma, but he is the one who stays. When the valley’s oldest inhabitant dies, David becomes the executor of her croft, which he offers to Sandy in the hopes of giving the lost young man an anchor.  Meanwhile Alice, a former crime novelist who has fled to the islands to escape her grief, is trying to write a book about the island. Then there is the befuddled drunk, Terry, and the newcomers who aren’t exactly honest with their landlord, David, about why they are really there.  Remote landscapes exist as kind of self-contained microcosms, and the valley in this book is that kind of place, a world unto itself ruled by the changing of the seasons and the eternal transition from night to day and back again. In terms of narrative, very little happens over the year that is covered in the book. The story is composed of episodes in the lives of the characters as they live quiet existences entirely contained within the landscape of the valley.  This is a quietly profound work capturing both a sense of place and a sense of being contained by place. The most important character in the story is the valley, and it is beautifully realised through the human characters and their daily interactions with it.  Reviewed by Tessa Chudy     Read on >

  • This award-winning novel also rewards every reader with a rich and vibrant tale. It will make them question the very nature of humanity as Shelley did, and wonder at the value of any war, no matter how justified it may seem. Read on >

  • The Earth Does Not Get Fat is a skinny but seemingly interminable book about love and suffering. The biggest problem with the narrative is its unfortunate trajectory - life sucks, but after a holiday by the beach, replete with wine, tears and talking, suddenly, magically, everything gets better. It just doesn’t ring true. It feels like a concept undone by an over reliance on form (switching between multiple narrators) when just building the story around convincing characters might have worked better. Read on >

  • Oneiron is a complex and highly conceptual work, filled with deep and profound ideas, and is concerned with perhaps the greatest mystery faced by humanity – life after death. But when all is said and done, it is more a story about life and death. Read on >

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