Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Barracuda – Christos Tsiolkas

Posted in Australian fiction, Contemporary Fiction on January 24th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment



Atlantic Books


Real Readers

My Rating
4 stars


This is a review of Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, not Finding Nemo by Walt Disney, so anyone offended by strong language and/or explicit sex scenes should turn away now.  It is Tsiolkas’ fifth novel but my first experience of his writing; perhaps all the more interesting as I went in with an open mind.

Our leading character, talented swimmer,  Daniel Kelly is a bit of an odd fish and the madcap, disjointed narrative is a perfect match for his unstable, ever changing  personality as he flits between Daniel/Dan/Dino/Barracuda.  This powerful novel deals with identity and how we fit/don’t fit in our own skin/family/country.   Kelly is far from likeable with his antsy ways and psychopathic tendencies but I found myself rooting for him – not for him to win the swimming galas and join the “golden boys” but just for him to find his place in life.

Barracuda is a challenging, thought-provoking read.  Yes, it’s not perfect and there is a lot of repetition of the swimming/water imagery but I really liked its honesty and “in your face” attitude, its representation of the less liberal side of Australia and its realistic lack of neat and tidy endings.

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The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman

Posted in Australian fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction on February 20th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

Front Cover

Transworld Publ. Limited UK, 11 Apr 2013 – Fiction – 464 pages
Source – Publisher
My Rating – 4.5 stars

The moors in Wuthering Heights, Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native, both settings which have drawn me in and remained with me long after turning the final page.  Now I have a new setting to add to the favourites list – the island of Janus Rock, set in the wild, remote region where the Great Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet off the coast of Western Australia.   Here on Janus Rock, in the aftermath of World War I, ex-serviceman Tom tends the lighthouse and he and his wife Izzy hope to raise a family here.   Their plans are thwarted until one day, a foundling is washed up on the island and Izzy’s desire for a child of her own overrides any sense of moral obligation to investigate the child’s origins.

I loved how the author describes the love story of Tom and Izzy in a completely non-judgemental way, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether to make any moral judgements.  I was drawn into the lives of the main characters, particularly Tom who still feels the emotional fall-out of his time in the army.

You know in your heart that things will not turn out well for Tom and Izzy.  Who could possibly live with such a heavy secret?  You know there can’t be an idyllically happy ending but you find yourself rooting for these characters knowing that they mean well.

This is a compelling, beautifully written story peopled with real, flawed characters.  It’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel.

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Review – Now by Morris Gleitzman

Posted in Australian fiction, Children's Books on June 27th, 2010 by admin – 6 Comments

ONCE upon a time there was a 10 year old Jewish boy called Felix whose parents were taken away by the Nazis.  THEN, his close friend and ally, Zelda, was taken away from him also.  NOW, Felix is 80, living in Australia, and trying to protect another Zelda, his grandaughter who is also our narrator.  

NOW is the conclusion to Morris Gleitzman’s wonderful trilogy for children which brings us from 1940s Poland to present day Australia.  The author insists that all three books can be read as stand-alones and I suppose that, technically, that is true but if you want to reap the full benefit of these short but powerful novels, you need to read them in the right order, Once, Then and Now.

Even though NOW is firmly set in the present, there are constant reminders of Felix’s past experiences.  Zelda has some idea of his past but has been sheltered from the more brutal episodes.  She loves her Grandfather dearly but seems to inevitably end up getting into scrapes despite her best intentions – including nearly causing a bushfire.  Indeed, the dreadful trauma wrought by the Victorian bushfires of 2009 are vividly presented here. At 167 pages, this is a quick yet substantial read and alongside its fellow novels, would be an excellent way to introduce children to the Holocaust without frightening them off completely.

Although perhaps less poignant than its predecessors, it is a fitting conclusion as we return to the present and see how future generations have been affected yet are still able to move ahead in a positive manner.  The memory of Zelda lives on.  I will ensure that my own children will get the opportunity to read this trilogy and recommend it to all adults too, especially when we need reminded to count our blessings.

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