Aussies Rule Prompt 19 – An Aussie Debut

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Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since I posted a pure Aussies Rule topic, so today I thought I would talk about some great Aussie debut novels from recent years. There’s a mix of genres so you should be able to find something that interests you!

The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley – a fictional retelling of the life of Elizabeth Gould, wife of John Gould, who illustrated John’s works about Australian birds. The hardback edition is gorgeous.

Black British by Hebe de Souza – based on the author’s childhood, a look at what happened to anglicised Indian families once British colonialism ended.

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox – disgraced former cop teams up with a convicted murderer to investigate the disappearance of a local author.

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic – profoundly deaf investigator Caleb Zelic is determined to find the answer to his friend’s murder.

The Dry by Jane Harper – Aaron Faulk returns to his home town to investigate his friend’s murder.

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks – set in the distant future Australia is now a desert wasteland roamed by nomadic traders and war machines, with helpings of big lizards and killer sandstorms.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – a fictional retelling of the last days of the life of Agnes, the last woman executed in Iceland.

Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman – Australia has been colonised and the Natives are running from the Colonists and trying to save their people and their culture.

The Strays by Emily Bitto – Lily meets Eva at school and is sucked into her family – her father is an avante-garde painter and her family is living very much outside the conservative 1930s world.

Down the Hume by Peter Polites – I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s been on my pile since it first came out; Goodreads describes it as a confronting and powerful story of addiction, secrets and misplaced love.

Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven – A book in three parts Van Neerven’s traditional story-telling incorporates myth and mysticism, the feeling of belonging and what it is to be human.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada – Gene hacking and a plague that makes people explode, what more could you want?

Deadly Kerfuffle by Tony Martin – Martin was a favourite of mine back in his radio, comedy and film days. I haven’t read this one yet but I’m sure it will be worth a look.

Wasted by Elspeth Muir – part memoir part journalism, Muir reflects on her brother’s suicide from the Story Bridge in Brisbane while completely drunk, and the drinking culture in Australia that helped him get there.

What other great Aussie debuts have you come across? What will you be reading for this part of the challenge?

Cheers!

Review: The Good People

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I was completely captivated by Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites when I read it earlier this year, and was very excited to learn that her second book wasn’t far away. And I’m pleased to say that The Good People doesn’t disappoint.

Set in Ireland in 1825, The Good People starts with the death of Martin Leahy. His widow, Nora, is beside herself with grief. Their daughter had died only a few months previously, and Nora has now been left on her own with her grandson to care for. The child is 4, but can no longer walk or speak, and was brought to the Leahys in this state by his father at the same time he told them of their daughter’s death. Nora does not love this ghost that used to be her grandson, and caring for him on her own is more than she can cope with.

At the urging of one of her neighbours, Nora attends the local hiring fair, and brings home 14 year old Mary Clifford to help her with the boy. Mary is horrified at the state of the child – from a large family she has never seen a child with this kind of illness, but she takes on the care of Micheál and grows find of him despite the hard work.

In the deepening throes of grief, Nora’s tolerance of the boy decreases rapidly to the point that she scares Mary with her violence towards the child. Nance, the local handy woman, finds Mary injured after she has gone to collect herbs for the boy as instructed by a neighbour where she fled for assistance. Nance, well known through the village for being gifted with ‘the cure’, accompanies Mary back to the Leahy house. She can see the boy is a changeling – the boy having been taken in exchange for this sickly fairy now languishing in his place. And Nance knows how to get the real Micheál back from the Good People.


There are so many layers to the book that make for wonderful reading.

The female characters are wonderful studies of how hard life was for women at the time, with the beautifully symbolic trinity of the maiden, the mother and the crone. Nance, our crone, is a wonderful portrait of a woman trained in the old ways, sought by all for her assistance until times become difficult and the local priest and a grieved man in the village manage to turn sentiment against her. Nora has done very thing a woman is ‘supposed’ to do – married, born children, been a good woman, but her life is still very difficult, and becomes even more so when her man dies. Maiden Mary is looking to help her family by working to bring in money to help feed the mouths at home. She has to hope that her employer will be kind. Women are supposed to behave and do what they are told, and none of these three women are good at that.

The little village in which the story is set gives the claustrophobic feel of a place where everyone not only knows everyone else, but is related to everyone else in one way or another. There are no secrets, rumours and gossip abound, resentments build and tempers can flare with lethal intensity.

The Irish folklore is completely integrated into the story, into the way the characters speak and think. This is both fascinating and terrifying. The villagers live with magic as a built in, scary and threatening part of their lives, with even the science of the time not really entering their lives in any meaningful way.

I really enjoyed Kent’s captivating writing, her in depth character building and her descriptions of the world as a place where the Good People can change the trajectory of your life and fortunes if you don’t pay them the respect they deserve.

5 out of 5 difficult women.

Look what I got!

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I ended up buying a few books today, which was unexpected. One of my work colleagues asked me if I’d heard about this book.gifts

I had certainly seen it floating around on Litsy but hadn’t paid it much attention. My colleague was wondering if it would be okay for her 12 year old son but she was worried it would be too scary because zombies. That is one of the magic words that will get my attention every time. We established that it would probably be okay for her son and that I desperately wanted to read it as well. So we wandered over to acquire copies on our lunch break.

While we were there, I noticed this book, which was recently reviewed by the lovely Stephanie of Teacher of YA .

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It, of course, needed to accompany me on my journey home. It’s very happy here in case you were wondering.

The acquisition that I am most excited about though is this one:

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I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever. Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites was absolutely amazing and I was so excited when I heard that her next book was on it’s way. This one is set in 1825 in Ireland… which can only mean one thing, right?

At any rate I’m sure you can guess what I’ll be  doing with my weekend – I will definitely have a review of the Good People on the blog before it is over.

Have you made any recent book purchases that have made you incredibly happy? What were they?

 

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Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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I don’t tend to read a lot of modern Australian writers. This is possibly the result of a literature degree which included a couple of subjects which fetishised Australian writers. I’m not sure if I blame Marcus Clarke or A.B. Facey more. Either way, those guys are the top of my list.

Australians are known as being pretty laid back and I feel this comes across in the writing style of modern Aussie authors. Plus there is also the obligatory obsession with the bleak, sparse and deadly Australian landscape (if you’re a white fella). I recently attempted both Geraldine Brooks’ The Story of the Book and Shirley Barrett’s Rush O! The Story of the Book left me cold and I was disappointed with Rush O! after the wonderful quirkiness that was Love Serenade.

It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through the book when I learned that Hannah Kent is a compatriot. Reader, I nearly fell off my chair.

Burial Rites is the story of Agnes Magnusdottir the last person executed in Iceland. She is sentenced to death for her part in the brutal murder of her former master. This is a brilliant and evocative re-imagining of her story, written like a love letter to Iceland. Agnes may have been sentence to death, but there are no jails to hold her until her sentence can be carried out. So the District Officer calls for her to be held by one of the local government officials. Of course there is no where for her to be “held”, so she sleeps in the same rooms as the official, his wife and two daughters and works along side them on their farm.

Toti, the priest who Agnes has  chosen to be her spiritual guide through her last days, gains her trust which allows her to tell her side of the story. Toti and the farming family learn that there is much more to Agnes than her death sentence, and much more to her story than they could have ever imagined.

The telling of the story oscillates between third person past tense and first person chapters present tense, capturing Agnes’ story through the eyes of herself and those around her.  Normally I would find the change in tense particularly jarring, but the writing was so captivating I didn’t even notice until midway through the book.

The writing is beautiful, bringing to life the people, the harsh conditions and the whirling of Agnes’ mind as she plunges towards her last days, her life completely out of her control. Iceland and the cold could have been characters in the book – I feel as though I know them both a little better.

The reimagining of Agnes’ life is beautiful, harrowing and real.Kent’s research was extensive, and the book includes some versions of her source materials – Rosa’s poems being some of my favourites.

I listened to the audiobook, splendidly narrated by Morven Christie who captures he characters, particulary Agnes, and breathes life into them.

They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men and that now they must steal mine. I imagine then that we are all candle flames, greasy bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind. And in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up and away from me in  grey wreath of smoke. I will vanish into the air and the night.

I’m very much looking forward to Kent’s new book The Good People due out in October this year.

5 out of 5 blood sausages.