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Celebrating the country we call home: A list of great Australian stories

Australia has a rich history of exceptional literary talent, and to this day, upholds its reputation as a nation that produces remarkable stories. So, why not spend some time this weekend indulging in great Aussie literature? We’ve made a list of some of Australia’s best stories for you to enjoy:

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for precolonial Aboriginal Australians.

The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag.

Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books support this premise but Pascoe takes this further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie.

Almost all the evidence comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources.

Stories by Helen Garner

This new edition of Helen Garner’s collected short fiction celebrates the seventy-fifth birthday of one of Australia’s most loved authors.

These stories – that delve into the complexities of love and longing, of the pain, darkness and joy of life – are all told with her characteristic sharpness of observation, honesty and humour. Each one a perfect piece, together they showcase Garner’s mastery of the form.

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Oscar And Lucinda imagines Australia’s youth, before its dynamic passions became dangerous habits. It is also a startling and unusual love story.

Oscar is a young English clergyman who has broken with his past and developed a disturbing talent for gambling. A country girl of singular ambition, Lucinda moves to Sydney, driven by dreams of self-reliance and the building of an industrial Utopia.

Together this unlikely pair create and are created by the spectacle of mid-nineteenth century Australia.

Peter Carey’s visionary brilliance, and his capacity to delight and surprise, propel this story to its stunning conclusion.

Taboo by Kim Scott

Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar’s descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife’s dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.

But the sins of the past will not be so easily expunged.

We walk with the ragtag group through this taboo country and note in them glimmers of re-connection with language, lore, country. We learn alongside them how countless generations of Noongar may have lived in ideal rapport with the land. This is a novel of survival and renewal, as much as destruction; and, ultimately, of hope as much as despair.

Breath by Tim Winton

When paramedic Bruce Pike is called out to deal with another teenage adventure gone wrong, he knows better than his partner – better than the parents – what happened and how. Thirty years before, that dead boy could have been him.

More than once since then I’ve wondered whether the life-threatening high jinks that Loonie and I and Sando and Eva got up to in the years of my adolescence were anything more than a rebellion against the monotony of drawing breath.

Breath is a story about the wildness of youth – the lust for excitement and terror, the determination to be extraordinary, the wounds that heal and those that don’t – and about learning to live with its passing.

Breath confirms Tim Winton as one of the world’s finest storytellers, a writer of novels that are at the same time simple and profound, relentlessly gripping and deeply moving.

Tracker by Alexis Wright

Alexis Wright returns to non-fiction in her new book, a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth, who died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.

Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.

Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them. Having known him for many years, Alexis Wright interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together in a manner reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize–winning author Svetlana Alexievich. The book is as much a testament to the powerful role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of an extraordinary man.

Banjo by Grantlee Kieza

A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson is rightly recognised as Australia’s greatest storyteller and most celebrated poet, the boy from the bush who became the voice of a generation. He gave the nation its unofficial national anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and treasured ballads such as ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and ‘Clancy of the Overflow’, vivid creations that helped to define Australia’s national identity.

But there is more, much more to Banjo’s story, and in this landmark biography, award-winning writer Grantlee Kieza chronicles a rich and varied life, one that straddled two centuries and saw Australia transform from a far-flung colony to a fully fledged nation.

Born in the bush, as a boy Banjo rode his pony to a one-room school along a trail frequented by outlaw Ben Hall. As a young man he befriended Breaker Morant, and covered the second Boer War as a reporter. He fudged his age to enlist during World War I, ultimately driving an ambulance before commanding a horse training unit during that conflict. Newspaper editor, columnist, foreign correspondent and ABC broadcaster, he knew countless luminaries of his time, including Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Haig and Henry Lawson. The tennis ace, notorious ladies’ man, brilliant jockey and celebrated polo player was an eye-witness to countless key moments in Australian history, and saw Carbine and Phar Lap race.

Extensively researched and written with Kieza’s trademark verve, Banjo is a lively and captivating portrait of this truly great Australian.

The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

The new book from the bestselling author of Flesh Wounds. A funny and frank look at the way Australia used to be – and just how far we have come.

‘It was simpler time’. We had more fun back then’. ‘Everyone could afford a house’.

There’s plenty of nostalgia right now for the Australia of the past, but what was it really like?

In The Land Before Avocado, Richard Glover takes a journey to an almost unrecognisable Australia. It’s a vivid portrait of a quite peculiar land: a place that is scary and weird, dangerous and incomprehensible, and, now and then, surprisingly appealing.

It’s the Australia of his childhood. The Australia of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Let’s break the news now: they didn’t have avocado.

It’s a place of funny clothing and food that was appalling, but amusingly so. It also the land of staggeringly awful attitudes – often enshrined in law – towards anybody who didn’t fit in.

The Land Before Avocado will make you laugh and cry, be angry and inspired. And leave you wondering how bizarre things were, not so long ago.

Most of all it will make you realise how far we’ve come – and how much further we can go.

Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman

In the near future Australia is about to experience colonisation once more. What have we learned from our past? A daring debut novel from the winner of the 2016 black&write! writing fellowship.

‘Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.’

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.

This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history. This Terra Nullius is something new, but all too familiar.

This is an incredible debut from a striking new Australian Aboriginal voice.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She 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.

Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family’s story. In her early twenties, Alice’s life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. In this otherworldly landscape Alice thinks she has found solace, until she meets a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

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 follows Alice’s unforgettable journey, as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.


Comments

  1. Chris

    LOVE The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. Highly recommended.

  2. Gayle

    I too thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. I am currently reading Breath, which I am also enjoying.

  3. Helen Gottsh

    Toss up between Breath & Oscar and Lucinda

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