We have the following Book Group Discussion Sets available for loan. Each set has 10 copies of the book.
Don’t have a book group yet? Follow these easy steps to start your own:
- Get a group of friends together – between 5 and 10 is ideal
- Agree on a time, place and how often to meet
- Visit your local library and sign up for a Book Group borrower card and collect your list of Book Sets
- Choose your books
- Get reading!
All that I am by Anna Funder
All That I Am is the story of a group of German pacifists forced to flee the country when Hitler comes to power. Based on real people, the novel is narrated in two voices: the revolutionary playwright and poet Ernst Toller, and a teacher called Ruth Becker. Toller’s sections are told from exile in New York in 1939, just after Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, Ruth’s from her adopted home of Sydney in 2011. From their opposite ends of that worldwide conflict – he from at the very start of it and she on the eve of a new kind of war – both are pulled back to their relationship with the extraordinary Dora Fabian, who was Toller’s lover and Ruth’s cousin.
So dramatic is the story of All That I Am that it reads like a thriller, but it is also a novel of ideas. It explores the origins of political tyranny, the nature of its seductive power, what motivates resistance to it. It examines the qualities of courage and compassion, the limitations of love, the treachery of self-deception masquerading as belief, the murky border between intent and action, theory and practice. And the paradoxical mix of fragility and strength that can sometimes be the make-up of great people.
All the birds, singing by Evie Wyld
Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods?
Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.
It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past.
The aviator’s wife by Melanie Benjamin
For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.
The best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
A novel about love, music and coming to terms with the past, from the author of the international bestseller The Rosie Project.
On the cusp of fifty, Adam Sharp has a loyal partner, earns a good income as an IT contractor and is the music-trivia expert at quiz nights. It’s the lifestyle he wanted, but something’s missing.
Two decades ago, on the other side of the world, his part-time piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, who’d abandoned law studies to pursue her acting dream. She gave Adam a chance to make it something more than an affair—but he didn’t take it. And now he can’t shake off his nostalgia for what might have been.
Then, out of nowhere, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously? How far will he go for a second chance?
In exciting news, Toni Collette has optioned The Best of Adam Sharp as the first project for her newly formed production company, Vocab Films. She will play the lead role of Angelina.
Bright and distant shores by Dominic Smith
Owen Graves, orphaned at 13, is the son of a Chicago demolition expert, a youngster enthralled by the artifacts gleaned from wreckage as he worked alongside his father. As the 20th century nears, young Owen is freed from an orphanage but unsure of his future. His love for relics of the past inspires a voyage to Melanesia, where he trades for primitive art and weapons. His success brings him to the attention of Hale Gray, president of an insurance company.
Having constructed the tallest skyscraper in Chicago, Gray is ready to underwrite a trading voyage. He wants to decorate the headquarters with South Sea treasures, as a sales tool and as a comeuppance to his neighbour, the retailer Marshall Field, sponsor of the new Field Museum. Owen sees the expedition as a way to secure his future, but there are problems. Owen has fallen in love with Adelaide Cummings, daughter of a wealthy Bostonian, and Gray wants Owen to return with natives to be exhibited. This troubles Owen’s instinctual ethics, and he knows importing natives for exhibit will fracture his relationship with Adelaide, a woman deeply involved with charity work at Hull House. Another complication is Gray’s insistence that his unstable son Jethro, a dilettante naturalist, accompany the trader.
Smith expands the narrative to include Argus Niu and his sister, Malini, siblings from an island near New Guinea. Argus failed as a warrior and was sent to work as a houseboy for a Presbyterian missionary. Malini married into another tribe but was widowed. Smith’s dexterity in limning out Argus and Malini is masterful, and that skill extends to the expedition ship’s captain, its sailors and the milieu of sailing life, island culture abraded by modernity and bustling streets of 1890s Chicago.
Brutal rites by Hannah Kent
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes.
Only Tóti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul.
As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?
Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love.
In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Discover Joseph Heller’s hilarious and tragic satire on military madness, and the tale of one man’s efforts to survive it.
It’s the closing months of World War II and Yossarian has never been closer to death. Stationed in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, each flight mission introduces him to thousands of people determined to kill him.
But the enemy above is not Yossarian’s problem – it is his own army intent on keeping him airborne, and the maddening ‘Catch-22’ that allows for no possibility of escape.
The death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
The art historian Noah Glass, having just returned from a trip to Sicily, is discovered floating face down in the swimming pool at his Sydney apartment block. His adult children, Martin and Evie, must come to terms with the shock of their father’s death. But a sculpture has gone missing from a museum in Palermo, and Noah is a suspect. The police are investigating.
None of it makes any sense. Martin sets off to Palermo in search of answers about his father’s activities, while Evie moves into Noah’s apartment, waiting to learn where her life might take her. Retracing their father’s steps in their own way, neither of his children can see the path ahead.
Gail Jones’s mesmerising new novel tells a story about parents and children and explores the overlapping patterns that life makes. The Death of Noah Glass is about love and art, about grief and happiness, about memory and the mystery of time.
The dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. Only two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom comes to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and who they love.
The dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
Unable to reach her mother by letter or telephone, Tilly Dunnage decides to return to Dungatar, the small town in Australia where she grew up. Few people, least of all her dementia-ridden mother Mad Molly, are pleased to see her. But Tilly is a different person from ten-year-old Myrtle Dunnage who was marched out of town in disgrace – she is a trained dressmaker and arrives dressed in a sharp suit and armed with her Singer sewing machine.
Still, however tenderly she bathes and watches over her mother, no matter how diligently she cleans her mother’s house, the reader senses that it is something terrible and awful that has drawn her home.
Tilly sets to work with her sewing machine and begins providing the citizens of Dungatar with couture fashion, bringing a hitherto unknown beauty into their lives. The stocky bride becomes a swan via Tilly’s Singer sewing machine, the anxious woman is kitted out with a high neck ‘to hide her rash’ – each outfit carefully designed to flatter the wearer.
But this is no fairy tale – rather, it is like an inverted version of Joanne Harris’ Chocolat – instead of Tilly being drawn into the town’s heart, the women of Dungatar take her creations with no grace and fail to pay. They want the beauty but show no appreciation for its source. For a long while I expected a happy ending, particularly as local boy Ted McSwiney worked hard to gain Tilly’s affections; I truly did believe that this might be a tale of redemption. But it’s not. It’s all about revenge.
Everyman by Philip Roth
“I’m thirty-four! Worry about oblivion, he told himself, when you’re seventy-five.”
Philip Roth’s new novel is a fiercely intimate yet universal story of loss, regret, and stoicism…..Roth’s everyman is a hero whose youthful sense of independence and confidence begins to be challenged when illness commences its attack in middle age….. The terrain of this haunting novel is the human body. Its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.
Firmin: Adventures of a metropolitan lowlife by Sam Savage
Savage’s sentimental debut concerns the coming-of-age of a well-read rat in 1960s Boston.
In the basement of Pembroke Books, a bookstore on Scollay Square, Firmin is the runt of the litter born to Mama Flo, who makes confetti of Moby-Dick and Don Quixote for her offspring’s cradle. Soon left to fend for himself, Firmin finds that books are his only friends, and he becomes a hopeless romantic, devouring Great Books—sometimes literally.
Aware from his frightful reflection that he is no Fred Astaire (his hero), he watches nebbishy bookstore owner Norman Shine from afar and imagines his love is returned until Norman tries to poison him. Thereafter he becomes the pet of a solitary sci-fi writer, Jerry Magoon, a smart slob and drinker who teaches Firmin about jazz, moviegoing and the writer’s life.
Alas, their world is threatened by extinction with the renovation of Scollay Square, which forces the closing of the bookstore and Firmin’s beloved Rialto Theater. With this alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature, Savage embodies writerly self-doubts and yearning in a precocious rat: “I have had a hard time facing up to the blank stupidity of an ordinary, unstoried life.”
The forgotten garden by Kate Morton
A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.
Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace – the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century – Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.
The glass castle by Jeannette Walls
The title of Jeannette Walls’s chilling memoir, “The Glass Castle”, evokes the architecture of fantasy and magic. The transparent palace that Walls’s father often promised to build for his children functions as a metaphor for another fanciful construct, the carefree facade with which two people who were (to say the least) unsuited to raise children, camouflaged their struggle to survive in a world for which they were likewise ill-equipped.
Rex Walls was a gifted, seductive and deeply damaged man whose “little bit of a drinking situation” made it impossible for him to hold the jobs (as a mining engineer and an electrician) he procured through a dazzling mix of prevarication and charismatic charm. Rose Mary Walls, a painter, writer, free spirit and self-styled “excitement addict,” entertained certain convictions about life in general and parenthood in particular that, all too predictably, helped pave the road to grief and disaster.
Reared by a mother who believed that kids should be left alone to reap the educational and immunological benefits of suffering, Jeannette Walls, her brother and two sisters rapidly discovered that their peripatetic, hardscrabble life – constantly moving from one bleak, dusty Southwestern mining town to another – had no end of painful lessons to teach them. At 3, Walls was so severely burned while boiling hot dogs that she required skin grafts and spent six weeks in the hospital, from which her father “rescued” her, ignoring the alarmed cries of a nurse. The experience left Jeannette with physical scars and a worrisome case of pediatric pyromania.
Grassdogs by Mark O’Flynn
A compelling debut, saturated in the landscape of rural Australia.
They were a river of dogs. Loose skeins of cloud drifted high above, floating to the east, foretelling of cold nights. The paddocks rolled smoothly beneath his feet … they rested against the windbreaks of fallen trees. They slept in the lee of a half-built haystack; left the next day at dawn before its builder returned. While he was daunted by the demands of his responsibilities, Edgar loved this companionable, aimless end. He wished it might never finish.
Tony Tindale is a young lawyer sent on a mission to rescue an uncle he barely knows from prison. What he discovers is Edgar: a man innocent in the ways of the world, brought up on a desperate farm in the west of New South Wales and orphaned too soon, whose only solace is the dogs who find him. A natural target for suspicion in the small, isolated community, inevitably one day Edgar is found in the wrong place at the wrong time … Where can he be truly free?
A hero of France by Alan Furst
1941. The City of Light is dark and silent at night. But in Paris and in the farmhouses, barns, and churches of the French countryside, small groups of ordinary men and women are determined to take down the occupying forces of Adolf Hitler. Mathieu, a leader of the French Resistance, leads one such cell, helping downed British airmen escape back to England.
Alan Furst’s suspenseful, fast-paced thriller captures this dangerous time as no one ever has before. He brings Paris and occupied France to life, along with courageous citizens who outmaneuver collaborators, informers, blackmailers, and spies, risking everything to fulfil perilous clandestine missions. Aiding Mathieu as part of his covert network are Lisette, a seventeen-year-old student and courier; Max de Lyon, an arms dealer turned nightclub owner; Chantal, a woman of class and confidence; Daniel, a Jewish teacher fueled by revenge; Joëlle, who falls in love with Mathieu; and Annemarie, a willful aristocrat with deep roots in France, and a desire to act.
As the German military police heighten surveillance, Mathieu and his team face a new threat, dispatched by the Reich to destroy them all.
Shot through with the author’s trademark fine writing, breathtaking suspense, and intense scenes of seduction and passion, Alan Furst’s A Hero of France is at once one of the finest novels written about the French Resistance and the most gripping novel yet by the living master of the spy thriller.
How to forget by Marius Brill
Mesmeric storytelling of memory, magic and misdirection
Do you hold on to your memories? Or do they hold on to you?
Magicov the Magnificent, grand illusionist, earns his living entertaining the geriatrics of Lotus House Care Home. But Mr Magicov (also known as Peter) envies them – they’ve mastered a trick that eludes him. They can forget.
Peter yearns to forget. But memories haunt him: the shameful moment an eight-year-old wrecked his life; the FBI agent who hunted him like a dog; that suitcase stuffed with a million pounds. More than anything Peter wants to forget Kate, the expert con woman. The one he loved and left.
For renowned brain-scientist Dr Chris Tavasligh, Peter’s craving to escape makes him the perfect candidate for a bold experiment in changing minds – forever. Faced with such an opportunity, will Peter go through with it? And if he does, who will he become?
Human traces by Sebastien Faulks
Human Traces is the engrossing tale of two men and their quest to discover what it means to be human. Set during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Faulks’s novel brilliantly captures the drama behind the intellectual and social controversies spurred by Darwin’s theory of evolution and breakthroughs in the study of mental illness.
Jacques Rebière, a Frenchman from an impoverished background, and Thomas Midwinter, a well-to-do Englishman, are young doctors drawn together by their shared interest in the workings of the mind and the causes—and possible cures—of madness. For Jacques, the search for answers has a very personal component: his older brother, Olivier, once his loving mentor and companion, has been confined in an asylum since adolescence. The friendship between the young men is cemented when Jacques marries Thomas’s sister, Sonia. After training in institutions more focused on controlling patients than on understanding their disorders, Jacques and Thomas open a clinic in the mountains of Eastern Europe. Over the years, they develop differing theories and treatments. While Jacques embraces the psychological approach propounded by the founders of psychoanalysis in Vienna, Thomas concentrates on discovering the links between evolution and the emergence of human consciousness. Their disputes threaten their professional partnership, as well as their personal lives and the close-knit community of families and employees at the clinic.
The messenger bird by Rosanne Hawke
When you first realise the unfairness and randomness of death it eats into your thoughts like acid.
Never before has Tamar felt so alone. Her older brother is dead, her mum’s away and her dad’s so wrapped up in restoring their ancient farmhouse he avoids talking about the things that really matter. Even friendly new neighbour Gavin can’t get through to her, despite his eager attempts.
When Tamar discovers an old handwritten sheet of music and allows herself to play the piano again, she meets gifted violinist Nathaniel who may just hold the key to her future. With no one else to turn to, Tamar is unwittingly drawn into a journey through time and music.
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.
With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavours of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected.
Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen
A magnificent novel about fate, Australia and what it means to be human… it just happens to be narrated by a galah called Lucky.
It’s 1969 and a remote coastal town in Western Australia is poised to play a pivotal part in the moon landing. Perched on the red dunes of its outskirts looms the great Dish: a relay for messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas.
Radar technician Evan Johnson and his colleagues stare, transfixed, at the moving images on the console – although his glossy young wife, Linda, seems distracted. Meanwhile, the people of Port Badminton have gathered to watch Armstrong’s small step on a single television sitting centre stage in the old theatre. The Kelly family, a crop of redheads, sit in rare silence. Roo shooters at the back of the hall squint through their rifles to see the tiny screen.
I’m in my cage on the Kelly’s back verandah. I sit here, unheard, underestimated, biscuit crumbs on my beak. But fate is a curious thing. For just as Evan Johnson’s story is about to end (and perhaps with a giant leap), my story prepares to take flight…
Ordinary grace: a novel by William Kent Krueger
“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum, it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family – which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother – he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.
The Port Fairy murders by Robert Gott
The Port Fairy Murders is the sequel to The Holiday Murders, a political and historical crime novel set in 1943, featuring the newly formed homicide department of Victoria Police.
The department has been struggling to counter little-known fascist groups, particularly an organisation called Australia First that has been festering in Australia since before the war. And now there’s an extra problem: the bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants, which is especially raw in small rural communities.
The homicide team, which once again includes Detective Joe Sable and Constable Helen Lord, is trying to track down a dangerous man named George Starling. At the same time, they are called to investigate a double murder in the fishing village of Port Fairy. It seems straightforward — they have a signed confession — but it soon becomes apparent that nothing about the incident is as it seems.
Written with great verve and insight, The Port Fairy Murders is a superb psychological study, as well as a riveting historical whodunit.
Secrets of the sea by Nicolas Shakespeare
Following the death of his parents in a car crash, eleven-year-old Alex Dove is torn from his life on a remote farm in Tasmania and sent to school in England. When he returns to Australia twelve years later, the timeless beauty of the land and his encounter with a young woman whose own life has been marked by tragedy, persuade him to stay. They marry, and he finds himself drawn into the eccentric, often hilarious dynamics of island life.
Longing for children, the couple open their home to a disquieting guest, a teenage castaway, whose presence in their home begins to unravel their tenuously forged happiness.
The signature of all things by Elizabeth Gilbert
She begins life as a baby with “a face like a bowl of porridge . . . pale as a painted floor” (p. 2). She is to end it as a biologist of unique accomplishments, mentioned in the same breath with the great evolutionists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin. In the more than eighty years in between, she will know extraordinary wealth and almost total deprivation. She will experience the heights of passion and the utter depths of loneliness. She will very nearly circle the globe in search of answers, both to scientific mysteries and to the inexplicable riddles of the human heart. She is Alma Whittaker, the heroine of Elizabeth Gilbert’s panoramic novel The Signature of All Things, and she is one of the most memorable creations in the current generation of American fiction.
Alma is the only biological daughter of Henry Whittaker, an Englishman who has used every means within his grasp to rise from poverty to wrestle wealth from a scornful and resistant world. The ticket to Henry’s success has been an almost instinctive knowledge of plants, passed down to him by his own father, a master horticulturist at the court of King George III.
Unlike his threadbare father, Henry has learned how to make plants pay; he comes to dominate the market for the trees used to produce quinine and becomes the wealthiest man in his adopted home of Philadelphia.
Alma inherits her father’s fascination with botany, as well as his love of argument and confrontation, but she also has what he does not have: an unquenchable sense of wonder and a zeal for knowledge that is driven not by the love of profit, but by the love of life and all that makes it function. Lonely and misunderstood, but also brilliant and intensely curious, Alma studies the humblest forms of plant life, unwittingly embarking on a path of inquiry that will lead her to the darkest mysteries of evolutionary theory. On the way, she falls in love with Ambrose Pike, a uniquely gifted artist whose airy idealism and spiritual light attract her like a moth to a flame. Body clashes with spirit and science intertwine with religion as the two unlikely lovers journey, together and apart, toward their strange and improbable destinies.
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Once upon a time there was a war… and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That’s me.
This story of Skip Sands – spy-in-training, engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong – and the disasters that befall him thanks to his famous uncle, a war hero known in intelligence circles simply as the Colonel. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert into a war in which the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, and its gritty sympathetic portraits of men and women desperate for an end to their loneliness, whether in sex or death or by the grace of God, this is a story like nothing in our literature.
Tree Palace by Craig Sherborne
They tried Mansfield but it was freezing and snowed and people like them don’t fit in because they don’t look prosperous. One time near Yellingbo they found a church no one prayed in and they lived there and for three weeks had stained glass for windows…They got chased out and went to Shepparton but Shane had a run-in and police said move.
Shane, Moira and Midge, along with young Zara and Rory, are ‘trants’—itinerants roaming the plains north-west of Melbourne in search of disused houses to sleep in, or to strip of heritage fittings when funds are low. When they find their Tree Palace outside Barleyville, things are looking up. At last, a place in which to settle down.
But Zara, fifteen, is pregnant and doesn’t want a child. She’d rather a normal life with town boys, not trant life with a baby. Moira decides to step in: she’ll look after her grandchild. Then Shane finds himself in trouble with the local cops…
Warmly told and witty, Craig Sherborne’s second novel is a revelation— an affecting story of family and rural life.
A universe of sufficient size by Miriam Sved
I have wished so many times that I had acted differently.
I wish that I had been more worthy of you…
Eventually the war will end, and then we will find each other.
Until then, remember me.
Budapest, 1938. In a city park, five young Jewish mathematicians gather to share ideas, trade proofs and whisper sedition.
Sydney, 2007. Illy has just buried her father, a violent, unpredictable man whose bitterness she never understood. And now Illy’s mother has gifted her a curious notebook, its pages a mix of personal story and mathematical discovery, recounted by a woman full of hopes and regrets.
Inspired by a true story, Miriam Sved’s beautifully crafted novel charts a course through both the light and dark of human relationships: a vivid recreation of 1930s Hungary, a decades-old mystery locked in the story of one enduring friendship, a tribute to the selfless power of the heart.
The warming by Craig Ensor
‘The sun was so brutal, so twisted in its brutality, it seemed to grip us by the neck and push us down into the drowning waters. And, in the end, that was our choice: by water – or by sun.’
The year is 2221 and the world is dying. Temperatures soar as high as fifty degrees every day. Sea levels are rising year by year. The population has fallen to below 2 billion people. The ruined cities of the north – Sydney, Brisbane and beyond – were abandoned as the rising sea and the sun’s intensity turned them to wastelands.
In an isolated coastal town south of Sydney, young Finch Taylor is captivated by the mysterious beauty April Speare and her pianist husband William when they move into a nearby beach house with a piano and a tragic secret. Finch soon begins a lifelong love affair with music, and with April. But as he and April follow the great migration south to Tasmania, and eventually to a warming Antarctica, they must decide whether to bring children into a world without a future.
Hauntingly beautiful, The Warming depicts a nomadic existence, where love and hope are the only means of enduring a world that has turned against humanity.
Whatever you do, don’t run: my adventures as a Botswana safari guide by Peter Allison
Peter Allison was only nineteen when he left Australia for Africa, thinking he might travel around and see a bit of the country before going home to a ‘proper job’. But Africa worked its magic, and Peter ended up falling, quickly and completely, in love with the country and its wildlife. Landing in a game reserve in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta, he became a safari guide and, some twelve years later, his short holiday in Africa isn’t over yet.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is his guide’s eye view of living in the bush, confronting the world’s fiercest animals and, most challenging of all, managing herds of gaping tourists. Like the young woman who rejected the recommended safari-friendly khaki to wear a more ‘fashionable’ hot pink ensemble or the Japanese tourist who requested a repeat performance of Allison being charged by a lion so he could videotape it.
Peter Allison – like an affable, younger David Attenborough or a slightly more laid-back Steve Irwin – really knows his wildlife. He’s had some extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From close encounters with hungry lions, cranky elephants and over-protective honey badgers, there’s not much in the African bush that Peter hasn’t seen, done or been chased by. His affection for these wild and dangerous animals and his fascination with, and respect for, their often extraordinary behaviour is completely genuine, deep and infectious.
Reading Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is like sitting around a campfire late at night and listening to him talking – his stories of the animals and the bush are gentle, warm, funny and utterly engaging.
The window seat by Archie Weller
Honest, brutal, and often moving, this collection of short fiction presents one author’s contribution to Australian literature. From an old indigenous woman’s final journey home – from the point of view of a disgruntled white traveller – to a young Aboriginal man’s first lesson in rough justice, this volume offers insight into contemporary indigenous Australian experiences. Powerfully written, this is a unique and compelling account of realist fiction.
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Just tell the truth and someone will hear it eventually.
The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha.
Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.
August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.
Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.