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Some of Australia’s best writers have contributed to this year’s Best Summer Stories, an anthology of short fiction edited by co-founder of the Stella Prize, AVIVA TUFFIELD. Michael Mohammed Ahmed, Romy Ash, Tony Birch and Elizabeth Tan write of beachside lust, rural family life, talking pigeons and a crumbling outback service station. This extract is taken from ‘Vantablack’, a story by STEPHANIE BISHOP, who won the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year in 2016 with The Other Side of the World.

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Archive Discoveries

  • Former pop-punk rocker LEN VLAHOS tells Good Reading about his new YA novel, Life in a Fishbowl, and how Marcus Zusak inspired him to write from the perspective of a brain tumour. Read on >
  • This first foray into crime fiction by Australian author Melina Marchetta, best known for her award-winning fiction for young adults, is a cracking read.   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 >
  • The author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And other inspiring stories of pioneering brain transformation, busts long-held conceptions about how our minds function. Read on >
  • Who would have thought that in the largely homogeneous country of China that there could be a group of people who could trace their lineage back to invading Romans? TONY GREY uncovered this intriguing bit of information while travelling in China, and here he tells how he came to write his historical novel, The Tortoise in Asia, which tells the story of Romans travelling along the Silk Road in ancient times. 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 >
  • KIRI FALLS was introduced to the works of English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) when she saw the 2004 BBC production of North & South. Last year, the 150th anniversary of Gaskell’s death, Kiri decided to make a pilgrimage to the newly renovated Manchester home of the great lady. Read on >
  • 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 >
  • PEPPER HARDING is the pen name of a writer from San Francisco. The Heart of Henry Quantum, Pepper’s new novel, follows a scatterbrained husband’s erratic journey through the streets of San Francisco as he hunts down his wife’s Christmas present – a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Along the way he runs into his former lover, Daisy. We asked the author about his new novel and the eccentric thought journeys that appears throughout its pages. 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 >
  • In the early 1900s, the luminescent properties of radium – a highly radioactive metal – had just been discovered, and entrepreneurs were quick to identify its marketing potential. They flooded supermarket shelves with radium-based products, and thousands of young women in North America were hired to paint clock dials with radium. The girls would go home with their hands aglow, oblivious to the bone-destroying radiation they had been exposed to. We spoke with London-based author KATE MOORE about these workers’ stories, which appear in her new book, The Radium Girls. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • Chinonso, a poor Nigerian poultry farmer, sees a woman ready to jump off a bridge into the river. He begs her not to, but when she resists him, he rushes two of his prized birds from his car, and throws them in to the river. As they struggle and sink, his sacrifice changes her mind. I cannot do justice in words to the depth of wisdom and mythical imagery Obioma constructs in this Booker-shortlisted novel. Read on >

  • In 1830, Washington Black is an 11-year-old slave on a plantation in Barbados; he is fated to live out his life in misery and torment, his value that of his sweat in the sugarcane fields. But all that changes when he is selected by the brother of the plantation owner, the eccentric and sensitive Titch, who needs a young man of Washington’s weight and temperament to assist him with his scientific observations and experiments surrounding his pursuit of the perfect aerial machine. Washington Black was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and is a fine novel, for all it is missing is that spark of greatness. Read on >

  • We Must Be Brave is a story of the many different kinds of love, loyalty and devotion, and how our experiences in life make us who we are, particularly in times of unspeakable horror. Read on >

  • It’s not often you get a story told from the perspective of a dog and, more remarkably, a dog that lives in a refugee camp. Yet Mutt’s narrative is possibly one of the less unusual aspects of Mohammed Hanif ’s Red Birds, which combines observations about US foreign policy with the lived experiences of those caught up in its international power struggles. Read on >

  • In for a Pound is set in a world of the ’70s drug scene in Sydney, Darwin and South East Asia’s Golden Triangle, where local drug dealers have kidnapped and are holding Sam Leach’s close friend. Sam’s difficult upbringing, with a father who was a gangster, has led her into becoming a drug dealer, with associates smuggling drugs in from Burma. It’s a dangerous endeavor but it earns her a lot of fast money. Read on >

  • This is a fine, entertaining novel, where the characters keep pace with the tumultuous growth of the century. It is worth reading for the Costume Ball alone; it’s a fine lesson in how to get what you want. Read on >

  • The Children’s House is a rather slow-moving novel, but the writing is lovely. It is the story of family and the connections that we make along the way, that make a difference to us whether we realise it at the time or not. And it is a story of the fierce love we can feel for a small child that is not out own, but that we desperately wish to offer a better life. Read on >

  • This is such a fun book. The repetition is delightful and the beautiful soft illustrations will speak to us all. I can imagine the little children listening to this story and joining in with their chick chick, moo moo and squark squark (that’s the cocky wanting more chocolate) and all the other wonderful noises that farm animals make. Try it on your littlies at home. Read on >

  • This is one of those delightful little books that young children fall in love with. Written in rhyme and illustrated in such a beautiful old-fashioned way, it features the five most gorgeous French mice who love fashion and food and hopefully will be clever enough to help Queen Julie out of her dilemma. Read on >

  • Rosie and George live together. George makes breakfast for Rosie every morning and then they go for a walk. Rosie loves walking as sometimes she’s a little lonely at home and she loves chasing squirrels even though she never catches them.This celebrated author, Kate DiCamillo, has told this story perfectly, and Harry Bliss’s incredibly life-like illustrations speak to us, adding the small but important details that we might miss if we don’t take the time to linger on every page. Read on >

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