It has been a rough few weeks here in Australia, with us all being reminded how tough the Aussie landscape can be. What has been clear though is the sense of community throughout the country as people band together to support each other. In this list, we’ve taken a look at a few of our favourite novels set in Australia, that celebrate community and landscape. Whether it be the country or city, past or present day, here are some of the books that we feel perfectly capture an aspect of Australian life.
This whole list could probably be made up of Tim Winton books, and it’s difficult to pick a favourite. Breath is a beautiful book, and managed to encapsulate coastal life perfectly. ‘An absorbing, powerful and deeply beautiful novel, a meditation on surfing which becomes a rumination about the very stuff of existence.’ – Philip Hensher, Spectator.
When May’s mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by Aunty. However, their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn’t seem to want them. While Billy takes his own destructive path, May sets off to find her father and her Aboriginal identity. Her journey leads her from the Australian east coast to the far north, but it is the people she meets, not the destinations, that teach her what it is to belong. Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch is superb.
A Fortunate Life is the story of Albert Facey who was raised in Victoria and Western Australia, lived the rough frontier life of a sheep farmer, survived the gore of Gallipoli, raised a family through the Depression and spent sixty years with his beloved wife, Evelyn. Despite enduring hardships we can barely imagine today, Facey always saw his life as a ‘fortunate’ one.
Thirteen year old Charlie Bucktin is asleep when he’s started by an urgent knock. His visitor is Jasper Jones, a mixed-race, rebellious outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. What follows is a heartbreaking and funny story of outsiders and secrets and what it really means to be a hero, depicting racial tensions in rural Australian in 1965. Read it before the film comes out!
The Thorn Birds is sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions and forbidden love in the Australian Outback. Colleen McCullough’s classic novel continues to enthral readers both here and overseas.
Goodwood is the delightful novel from musician and songwriter, Holly Throsby. “It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky.” A tale of secrets and obsessions, and a perfect characterisation of an Australian small town.
In The Birdman’s Wife a naïve young girl who falls in love with an ambitious genius comes into her own as a woman, an artist and a bold adventurer who defies convention by embarking on a trailblazing expedition to the colonies to discover Australia’s ‘curious’ birdlife. This is an exquisite reimaging of the untold story of Elizabeth Gould, and will give you a new appreciation for the Australian wild.
Miles Franklin award winner Questions of Travel shows Sydney and Australia through the eyes of a Sri Lankan refugee, while highlighting Australia’s struggle to understand the concept of refugees and their travel to our shores. A compassionate and deeply moving novel.
Tomorrow When the War Began is the book that began the series that became the legend. A group of teenagers are out camping in the bush when Australia is invaded by an unknown enemy. They have no weapons or training, but they decide to fight an army. A kind of Australian Hunger Games, but much more real. Definitely not just for teenagers.
The Windy Season takes us to the crayfish boats of a West Australian town. Elliot has gone missing, and the only person that seems to care is his younger brother Paul. Fierce, evocative and memorable, this is a story set within an often wild and unforgiving Australian sea, where mysterious influences are brought to bear on the inhospitable town and its residents.
The Dangers of Truffle Hunting is a delightful sexy story set in Australian wine country. Kit has her life all sensibly mapped out… until she meets someone new. He turns her world upside down, exposing her to the passion of love, food and wine. Best enjoyed with a glass of your favourite drop!
Jane Harper’s, The Dry is a masterpiece of a novel. Set in Kiewarra during a drought, a woman and child are dead, and then a man has turned the gun on himself. A community tries to deal with the tragedy, while long buried secrets are revealed. You’ll almost be able to feel the heat, taste the dust and see the parched land… an author we can’t wait to see more from.
Holly Ringland has written a masterpiece about nine-year-old Alice Hart who is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is unforgettable.
Australia 1948. As a young woman running Amiens, a sizeable sheep station in New South Wales, Kate Dowd knows she’s expected to fail. And her grazier neighbour is doing his best to ensure she does, attacking her method of burning off to repel a bushfire, until a a catastrophic real fire threatens everything… The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades is is an enthralling story of integrity, resilience and resistance.