Archive January 2012

I’m often (well, occasionally) asked which Australian authors I would recommend.


Nothing more annoying than a list of ten books, so here are twelve Australian books I love. I am hugely grateful that much of my formative reading was done in Australia, which bolted onto a narrative British base  pretty much perfectly.  Obviously I love more than twelve, but this is a start.  I could have done fifty but this is a blog…not a pulpit.


So, in no particular order … get your minds outside these…

1.  The Fortunes of Richard Mahony trilogy  Henry Handel Richardson

2. The Tree of Man Patrick White

3. Oscar and Lucinda Peter Carey

4. The Man Who Loved Children Christina Stead

5. Careful He Might Hear You Sumner Locke Elliot

6. Come in Spinner Dymphna Cusack – cannot find this in print – anyone know where I can get this?

7. The Monkey’s Mask Dorothy Porter

8. The Idea of Perfection Kate Grenville

9. Dancing on Coral Glenda Adams

10. The Sound of One Hand Clapping Richard Flanagan

11.  The Transit of Venus Shirley Hazzard

12.  Cloudstreet Tim Winton (what? you thought I’d leave it off?) + TV series

Australian literature (past and present)  is poorly available in the UK, so many of these will be unknown, even though they’re a bit ‘greatest hits’.  None the worse for that of course.  Embrace Australia’s storytelling culture…

And finally – a taster of  some contemporary writers I recommend hugely:  James Bradley, Charlotte Wood, Carrie Tiffany, Garth Nix, Joan London, Gillian Rubinstein … do try and see where they take you…one connection leads to another.



Oh, and by the way…

Text Publishing Australia is relaunching some Australian classics – more info here.



When we were on holiday in Australia, two squirrels invaded our back balcony and ate everything in their path to make a nest.

Oh how cute, we squealed. Now Mrs Squirrel is as fat as butter and about to bring forth a litter in clear breach of the eviction notice I served them.

Animals (apart from dogs and cats) alarm me. They alarm me when they are in my house, wardrobe, under my sofas, in bathrooms or in my kitchen. I think this is perfectly reasonable. They have their territory and I have mine, there is little room for a Venn diagram intersect on the matter. Humans inside, animals outside.

Now that Mrs Squirrel’s waters are about to break, visions of lemming-like hordes of them are giving me nightmares. For we are on the 2nd floor and in order to get out to the balcony ( to do what? throw them over? are they flying squirrels? show them pictures of a better neighbourhood/park?) I have to open the door and for them the only way out will be in, so to speak. Hence my predicament.

Squirrels bite, the fact they have eaten the watering can is a fair indication of their teeth power and in defence of their young, they might be lethal. I know they bite because one of my authors was badly bitten – and he is a vet, as in professional animal person.

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I could wait for the entire family to be born, get fed up and leave (do teenage squirrels hang about?) or call the vet. Or I could just draw the curtains and pretend they’re not there. Yup, trying that one.

*There is actually a name for fear of squirrels – sciurophobia – I rest my case.


two squirrels in a watering can
Squirrel cute, or not…



Tell me a story…

Just before Christmas I participated in a telephone book club link up organised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. A group of people with varying degrees of sight loss get together once a month to talk about books they have listened to.

A very nice bunch of people, lively and opinionated (like most book lovers) who very quickly got me looking at the world from their point of view. As one lady said to me ‘just because we’re

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blind why should we have to wait to access recordings of new and noteworthy books. We want to be able to discuss them as soon as they come out, just like sighted people.’ And of course, good quality recordings of books are not routinely available and the cost of audio recording is quite significant, but there is an audience…and for some people they are the lifeline to books – when was the last time you listened to an audio book?

I thought for a while about writing up something where, by and large, the participants couldn’t easily access what I’ve written. However, this is a valuable resource for book lovers and it’s worth while publicising its good works. If you think you know someone who’d be interested in this service here are the details.

Oh, and don’t take your good sight for granted…

2011 Shortlist for Audible Audio Book of The Year.

My Dear I Have Something to Tell You won, but I’d recommend all of them and put in a nod for Wolf Hall, completely brilliant on audio.


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