Anna Snoekstra is a young Australian novelist who has impressed us with her most recent crime mystery, Little Secrets. It sheds itself of all the typical thriller tropes and manages to excite and surprise from the beginning until the end.
We spoke with Snoekstra to find out the books that have inspired her work.
Words || Anna Snoekstra
You have to shield your eyes to look directly at the tinsel strung up around the city, the PA on public transport reminds you to keep hydrated, you’re already seeing the brown strips of tan lines on the tops of your feet. That’s right, summer is here. The time for fantasising about air-conditioning and swimming pools and snow. Here are ten books that swelter, scorch and sweat as much as Australia in December.
The Heat in Albert Camus’ The Stranger is almost a character itself. Meursault, the protagonist, believes the extreme weather of his home of Algiers is responsible for driving his actions. He describes the sun as inhuman and oppressive, consistently throbbing, shimmering and ultimately pushing him to commit the senseless act that drives the narrative.
The Well by Elizabeth Jolley is an Australian classic. One I’m ashamed to say I only read for the first time recently. It simmers with tension as a middle-aged woman and her young ward live alone together on an outback station. Their obsessive relationship and manipulative games spin out of control when they hit something in their truck one night in the dark. I’m a sucker for a good depiction of a folie à deux, so I loved this.
Another novel that captures shared madness beautifully is The Girls by Emma Cline. Set in California during the summer of 1969, fourteen-year-old Evie is intoxicated by a group of girls she sees in a public park. Listless and lonely, Evie is quickly seduced into the life of these girls and follows them to a ranch outside of town where she meets their enigmatic leader. Knowing that the book was inspired by the Manson family murders makes this book as painful to read as it is to put down.
Sometimes, one summer can change everything. That is what happens to Rose when she goes to stay at a cottage in a sleepy seaside town with her family. They go every summer, but this year is different. What I love most about the graphic novel This One Summer by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is how tenderly they depict the messy and confusing transformation between childhood and adolescence.
Another graphic novel that I absolutely loved was Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash. It is a memoir of Maggie’s own experience about coming out at an all-girl summer camp in the Kentucky Appalachians as a teenager. Through her simple watercolour illustrations she manages to be both brutally honest and hilarious. Maggie depicts the strangeness of the experience fantastically, from the ankle leash that she has to wear to stop herself sleepwalking, her magical Backstreet Boys performance to the girls’ civil war re-enactments. When Maggie is subjected to a routine lice inspection by older female counsellor Erin it triggers the beginning of her awakening.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was originally poorly received when it was released in 1937. It is now considered a seminal work in African-American literature as well as women’s literature. Set in perpetually hot West Florida, the story is told by Janie Crawford to her friend Phoebe. Janie tells Phoebe about her sexual awakening, her three marriages, and her quest for identity and liberation.
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire is a harrowing read. Mostly because it so effectively captures Australian society’s attitudes towards violence against women. Set in a small, hot, dusty Australian town, it follows the aftermath of the brutal murder of 25-year-old Bella Michaels. It’s a hard read, but well worth it.
The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt is a collection of short stories which I devoured earlier this year. Surreal and sweltering, these stories delve into the transgressions and metamorphoses of an array of characters, mostly women. From the wife who wakes up every night as a deer, to the pregnancy pact of a group of teenage girls, the stories read almost like fables as they explore unspoken fears, nightmares and desires.
The frightening and visceral Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin definitely belongs on this list. Set in the bleak landscape of rural Argentina, the story crackles with tension and threat. This novella is structured as dialogue between a woman and a young boy as they uncover a haunting story of power and desperation.
I still remember reading Bonjour Tristesse, or Hello Sadness, by Francoise Sagan. It was lent to me by my housemate in the summer I turned twenty-one. The story follows seventeen-year-old Cecile who is spending her summer in a villa in the French Riviera with her father. When her father becomes engaged, Cecile plans to find a way to prevent the marriage. I read the whole thing in one day and when I finished it I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
About the author
Anna Snoekstra was born in Canberra, Australia in 1988. She studied Creative Writing and Cinema at Melbourne University, followed by Screenwriting at RMIT University. Anna’s short films and music videos have screened around the world. She has written an array of published and award winning short fiction. She has written two novels, Only Daughter and Little Secrets.