Monday, June 23, 2008

Australian Fiction Writers

In the last ten months, I've been very obsessed with Australia. And in that time, I've tried to read a lot of Australian literature. It hasn't been extremely easy because our library and used bookstore have a limited supply. I have found a few books and also picked up some books while we were in Sydney. One of the few negative things about Australia is that the books are SO expensive there--even the used books. It's a bit shocking. are some of the authors I've read so far.

Tim Winton-He's from Western Australia and writes about Western Australia. I don't know what it is about Western Australia, but I find it incredibly sexy. Maybe it's Winton's writing. His books aren't overly erotic though. Or who knows? Maybe in a past life I had a fabulous sex-life in Perth or something.

The first Winton book I read was Cloudstreet. I think it's pretty famous in Australia--was turned into a play. I was about to say "Broadway" play. How ethnocentric could I be? Anyway, I was somewhat confused by Cloudstreet, because there was actually a mistake on the cover jacket. It named the daughter of a character as being the wife instead of his daughter. Let me say....that REALLY messed me up. I was totally lost. And you really don't expect there to be mistakes on the cover jacket. I, of course, thought the problem was with me. I kept reading paragraphs over and again, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

My favorite Winton book is The Riders. Very spooky and sad, but thrilling. My only problem with the book is I didn't understand the ending. I was left feeling lost and a bit dumb. The thing about Winton's books is they aren't EASY reading. Well, at least not for me. I have to really concentrate and end up having to read some paragraphs multiple times.

In contrast to that, there's Monica McInerney. Easy beach reading. Chick-lit. A mixture of romance and comedy. Sister stuff. A little dose of tragedy. You laugh. You cry. Your brain gets a rest. I love that stuff. I've read two of her books. The Alphabet Sisters and Family Baggage. I hope to read more.

I hope NOT to read more of Peter Carey's books. I feel bad saying that, but I just don't like his books. He's pretty well known though and I think he's even won some awards. So, my opinion is definitely not in the majority. His work is just not my cup of tea. And I've tried three times. First, I read Theft. Not incredibly boring. There were some interesting aspects. I just didn't like it. Next, I tried The True History of the Kelly Gang. I found that to be very boring. I gave Carey one more chance. I read The Unusual Life of Tristian Smith. I think that was the one Australian book I didn't finish.

My mom keeps telling me I need to read The Thorn Birds. I think I did read it--when I was very young. Maybe I should read it again now that I'm into the whole Australian thing. Back then, I was probably just looking for the sex and forbidden love scenes. Recently, I've read two other Colleen McCullough books. One was a weird short novel, The Ladies of Missalonghi-- set in the Blue Mountains. Fitting that it's weird because as much as I love the place. (It's beautiful!!) There's something a bit eerie about the place. My cousin will agree with me. She ran into a toy museum that has a nice little Nazi toy collection. Okay, and also there's been some crazy domestic murders there recently.

The other Colleen McCollough book I read was Morgan's Run--about a convict. Interesting subject, but the book got a bit old after awhile. I got to the point where I was whining. Will this ever end?

I read one very lovely book by Janette Turner Hospital. Oyster. It's about a cult in a small rural town. Spooky and weird, but in a good way. Very thought-provoking. Okay and honestly. I think it's hard to go wrong with a wicked-cult book. Those are usually fascinating. And Janette Turner has a poetic writing style and says these deep things. I kept wanting to stop reading and write all these quotes down. But I was too lazy and too much into the story. Then I went back later and tried to find the quotes and got a headache trying to do that.

I looked forward to reading a book by the Aussie feminist Helen Garner. Cosmo Cosmolino I heard good things about her. . Unfortunately I was disappointed. I didn't like it. I want to give her another go though. Maybe I'll try some of her nonfiction.

I read one book by Murray Bail. Eucalyptus. It started out promising. Great premise. A man won't let anyone marry his daughter unless the potential suitor can identify every single Eucalyptus tree in his collection. But then Bail fills the book with these stories...or maybe more like vignettes. And the little stories--well, I didn't like them too much.

I read two of John Birminham's military science fiction stories. Mainstream novels. Pretty easy reading. One day I'm going to have to read the last of the trilogy. I guess that shows that I liked the books, but didn't love them....well, since I haven't yet rushed to seek out the finale.

I read one book by Patricia Shaw and hope to read more by her. She writes historical fiction about various places in Australia. I read Dream Seekers which is about Germans settling in Queensland. I haven't been able to find her books in Texas, but saw a lot of her books in Australia. If I had known I'd like her book so much, I would have bought more. Oh well, I guess it gives me something to look forward to when we go back to Australia. Yeah, as if I needed more to look forward to.

Oh....last and not least. But really damn awful. Emily Maguire. She's an amazing writer, but I hated her book. I wish I had never found it. I wish I had never read it. Taming the Beast I like sad books. I don't mind a little tragedy. But I'm not fond of depressing books that leave you feeling dirty and suicidal. You know that movie The Ring. And after you watch it, it just feels like all joy has been sucked out of you....that the world is an awful evil place and you'll never be okay again? That's how I felt after reading Maguire's book. It's not horror. It's erotica. So actually, I was all excited to read it. But this book takes all the beauty and fun out of sex--makes it all seem very demonic.


  1. didn't even know about the blue mountain murders!

  2. It wasnt until i read this Dina that i realised how Australia is an amazing place to me I always felt like i was dumped in this country. Watching and reading your stories makes me appreciate this place alittle more thank you for you being you and having a crush on this country i take for granted

  3. Suzanne,

    Thank you so much for saying that!

    You know I've been really hating America this past year. Ashamed of my country and ashamed to be American. Then I read an Australian blog about the Australian viewpoint of the USA--how some Australians are anti-america. And all these Australians were defending the United States. When I read it, it made me have more appreciation for my own country. I think when you see your country from an outsider's viewpoint, it gives you a new appreciation.

  4. Try some books by Ruth Park. These are Australian classics

    Set in Surry Hills around the late 1940s.
    Harp in the South
    Poor Man's Orange (sequel)

    and Playing Beattie Bow. This book was a favourite of mine growing up. They made it into a dreadful movie. So make sure you read the book first

  5. Miss Fi,

    I've heard of Ruth Park. I'll look out for her books--keep them in mind.

    Are those books young adult or regular fiction?

  6. Harp in the South, Poor Man's Orange and Missus are regular fiction. The first two were written in the late forties. Missus (the prequel) was written forty years later!

    Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange were made into mini series which are available on DVD and are quite true to the books.

    Playing Beattie Bow is a young adult novel.

  7. My Aussie favourites -
    Kate Grenville - Lilian's Story; The Idea of Perfection.
    Bryce Courtenay - Four Fires.
    Hal Porter - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony.
    Recommended: Easy reads, fascinating characters u can never quite forget, observations that linger - and raise a wry smile.

  8. Annie C,

    Thank you so much for your suggestions!