For the past 26 years I’ve moved back and forth between my native Australia and my adopted home of Ireland, my husband’s home country. The Internet keeps me in touch with all things Australian news-wise, but I also read as much Australian fiction as I can, to stave off homesickness, and to keep me connected in emotional ways too.
Here are 10 recently-read books that are not only very Australian in setting and characters, but also entertained, informed and challenged me. They each brought me back home in many different ways.
- Emily Maguire, An Isolated Incident: I read this psychological thriller in one sitting, gripped by its plot and characterisation and the many insights into modern media, the grieving process, and the damage caused by rumour and suspicion.
- Jane Harper, The Dry: A so-worthy winner of Book of the Year in the Australian Book Industry Awards. This atmospheric crime thriller and psychological study evokes country town life so vividly and also menacingly.
- Tricia Stringer, Heart of the Country: The first in Tricia’s Flinders Ranges epic historical trilogy, set in 1848 and following the fortunes of a newly arrived Englishman, Thomas Baker. She weaves colonial history with Indigenous history, against a backdrop of family feuds, greed and romance. I’m looking forward to reading books 2 & too.
- The Heat, Garry Disher: I couldn’t turn the pages of this thriller/crime caper fast enough, and was instantly transported with Wyatt, the detective hero, from suburban Melbourne to tropical Noosa.
- Charlotte Wood, The Natural Way of Things: Again, a read-in-one-sitting that has stayed with me. Set in an undetermined future that feels all too possible, a dystopian story of Australian society, misogyny and forbidding landscape. Disturbing and also deeply moving.
- Josephine Moon, The Beekeeper’s Secret: Josephine writes what she describes as ‘foodie fiction’, bittersweet stories set in the world of chocolate, tea or in this case, honey. She also writes beautifully about place – this novel evokes Queensland life while also exploring darker themes of institutional abuse and family secrets.
- The Other Christy, Oliver Phommavanh: A funny family story for younger readers (and older readers like me), about life in an Australian-Cambodian household and the perils and pleasures of school friendships.
- Helen Garner, Everywhere I Look: Helen Garner’s clear-eyed essays are moving, challenging, always entertaining and perfect snapshots of Australian life, society and thinking.
- Annabelle Brayley, Bush Nurses: I love Annabelle’s continuing series of stories from rural and remote Australia. This one is based on interviews with nurses, midwives, Aboriginal health practitioners, even a volunteer ambo.
- Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey: The justly acclaimed, award-winning tale of small town Australia, friendship, mixed-race prejudice, secrets and lies. Moving, funny, gripping. I’m looking forward to seeing the film too.