Change is in the air. Women are being heard now, like never before. Speaking up and speaking out, demanding recognition and respect.
We put the spotlight on some remarkably talented women by nominating some of the rising stars in Australia’s literary scene, the women writers whom we are convinced, are set to dazzle this year:
Her novel Dyschronia (Picador) tells the story of Sam, a young girl who lives on a coastal Australian town and is haunted by migraines that cause her perceptions of time to splinter, giving her a glimpse into the future. What she sees is near-apocalyptic: the ocean disappears, and her hometown becomes a ghost town, a tourist attraction, a failed experiment.
Possibly the most thoughtful and imaginative novel of the last few months, simply because it weaves together fantasy and reality with the effortlessness of books such as Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Mills is also the author of The Diamond Anchor, Gone, and a collection of short stories The Rest is Weight.
Dervla McTiernan’s The Ruin (HarperCollins) has zoomed up the Australian bestseller list, fuelled by its excellent word of mouth long before the rave reviews could begin to appear. The story follows Irish policeman Cormac Reilly who is forced to revisit a cold case from twenty years ago. Lauded for blind sighting readers with its great twists, singular unpredictability, rich use of language and skilfully drawn characters, all features that easily qualifies The Ruin as the most addictive crime debut of 2018 and its author one to watch out for.
Writing a novel is never easy, but Irish-born Dervla who now lives in Perth, faced more challenges than most. Not only was The Ruin written in the dead hours between putting her daughter and son asleep, and getting up for work the next day, she revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald that she’d received two pieces of life-changing news in one day: First, that she had a brain tumour, then that a literary agent wanted a copy of her manuscript. Dervla is at the forefront of what is being called a new golden age of Australian crime writing, alongside some other very talented Australian women writers.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Echo/Bonnier) is a beautiful, haunting novel, based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, prisoner 34902. Sokolov was a Slovakian Jew, held prisoner during World War 2 in the now infamous Auschwitz prison camp. After being apprenticed to the camp Tätowierer, he eventually became the chief tattooist, a position that came with certain privileges. He ate in an administration building. Was given extra rations and slept in a single room.
As chief tattooist, Sokolov was forced to mark each prisoner with one of the enduring and most immediately recognisable symbols of the Holocaust – the small blue numbers tattooed on prisoners’ arm. He learned the rules quickly: Keep your head down. Don’t cause trouble. And above all, tattoo whoever comes off the train and lines up in front of you, man, woman or child. One such prisoner was a young woman named Gita and in a place full of hate, Lale and Gita somehow fell in love. Their amazing love story and tale of survival that ends with them moving to Melbourne after the war, is one of great beauty and hope.
Heather was born in New Zealand but has spent much of her life living in Melbourne, where she studied scriptwriting. Having met Lale Sokolov and his incredible story, she first started writing The Tattooist of Auschwitz, as a script. In this form, it won the International Independent Film Awards competition in 2016. Inspired by this success Heather converted it into a novel.
The Fortress (Echo/Bonnier) is the third novel from S. A. Jones, a Melbourne-based author who worked many jobs over the years before turning her hand to writing. She has published two previous novels: Red Dress Walking and Isabelle of the Moon and Stars.
The Fortress is a boundary pushing book that lingers long in the heart and mind. The Vaik, an all-female civilisation, exist alongside the everyday world in a self-sustaining city-state called the Vaik. Men are only allowed into The Fortress as supplicants, and this story’s protagonist, Jonathon Bridge, enters on the condition that he is forbidden to ask questions, to raise his hand in anger and to refuse sex. Absorbing, moving and confronting, this novel is a feminist-charged conversation starter that asks questions about consent, power, love and fulfilment.
Choosing Kelly for this list kind of seems like cheating, since she’s already sold more than 600,000 digital copies of her previous four novels: Me Without You, The Secret Daughter, When I Lost You, and A Mother’s Confession. But her latest novel Before I Let You Go (Hachette) is special because it’s the first time Rimmer is being published in print across Australia and New Zealand.
Before I Let You Go is the story of two sisters embroiled in a murky legal and moral predicament. It begins when Lexie, a physician who is accustomed to receiving emergency calls in the dead of night, wakes up to a call from her sister Annie who is high on drugs and believes she’s dying. Lexie has no idea how drastically her life is about to change. Although she urges her drug-addicted sister to call an ambulance, Annie doesn’t want to go to hospital because she’s pregnant she confesses, and terrified authorities will take her unborn child away.
What follows is a dilemma like no other: one in which Lexie must confront her own profession and the rules that govern it in order to protect her younger sister from losing her family.
Although she has been known as a Fairfax and Guardian journalist for some years now, The Ways Things Should Be (Echo/Bonnier) is Bridie Jabour’s first foray into fiction. The story is a beautiful microcosm of the expectations and disappointments faced by people and captures the experience of tense family relationships gone haywire.
The novel centres on four adult siblings in the lead-up to a wedding in a country town, exploring themes such as ‘the complex relationships between parents and adult children, what we expect and what live gives us, and how our relationships evolve with our siblings, friends, and ourselves.’
Another debut novel, this time co-written. Book Ninja (Simon & Schuster) is a clever, funny and wryly observed story about books and discovering who you really are. The authors, Ali and Michelle, created the Books on the Rail initiative in 2016 to encourage people to distribute and circulate books on public transport.
Sometimes love means having to broaden your literary horizons. Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or a date with a semi-normal person will do. It’s not that she hasn’t tried. She’s the queen of online dating. But enough is enough. Inspired by her job in a Melbourne bookstore, she takes fate in her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment.
Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams . . . will it work?
Holly has already had a novelist’s upbringing, and there’s sure to be a memoir somewhere down the track. She grew up in her mother’s Northern Australian tropical garden. When she was nine, her family lived in a campervan and travelled through North America for two years. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Now she lives between the UK and Australia. Phew!
Now, about the novel. Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the desert, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (HarperCollins) follows Alice’s unforgettable journey as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.
Brooke Davis has already sung its praise, calling it ‘vivid, compelling, utterly moving’ and Kate Forsyth said it was ‘heartbreaking and life-affirming.’
A rare, original and stunning novel with echoes of Jasper Jones and Cloudstreet, about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that truth doesn’t always set you free. It’s Ackland’s second novel, her first being The Secret Son, a Ned Kelly-Gallipoli mash-up about truth and history.
In Little Gods (Allen & Unwin), Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful, and on the cusp of something darker than her small Victorian town has ever known. When she learns she had a baby sister who died, Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and quest to find out what happened, has seismic repercussions for her family and the rest of the community.
Lauren Chater is based in Sydney even though her fiction is not. Her debut novel The Lace Weaver (Simon & Schuster) is historical fiction that emphasises women’s stories during 1941, Estonia.
It follows Katarina and her family who battle against Stalin’s brutal Red Army to protect their grandmother’s legacy – the weaving of gossamer lace shawls stitched with intricate patterns that tell the stories passed down through generations. All the while, a different woman flees Moscow for Estonia, desperate to uncover her mother’s Baltic heritage and yearning for freedom from her prison of privilege.
Vanessa’s debut novel The Florentine Bridge was published last year to much acclaim, so it’s no wonder we’re so excited to hear that her next book The Memories That Make Us (Harlequin) is ‘a warm, hopeful and distinctly Australian novel that reminds you what is important in life,’ as Sally Hepworth puts it.
After an accident leaves Gracie with severe amnesia, she is forced to decide to live a life that is made up of other people’s memories of who she was, or start a new life on her own. Leaving her fiancé Blake behind, she moves to the country where she takes on the task of reviving her late mother’s abandoned flower farm.
While deciding whether to let Blake back into her life, she forms a deep connection with Flynn, her neighbour, and feels the kindling of new love. The novel asks: if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?
Rebecca wrote her debut novel Hot Pursuit (Pantera) in the early hours of the morning before sunrise. She is one of those multi-talented writers who can juggle a husband, three kids, and a job for the South Australian Government while managing to write fiction.
Hot Pursuit is about a missing rockstar, a suspected murderer on the run, and a chase through some of the world’s most romantic destinations. Sarah Burrowes is left with a shattered heart and a huge mortgage after the love of her life runs out on her. Heartbroken and fed up, Sarah takes an assignment of a lifetime in Europe, writing for a gossip magazine. But there’s a catch: she’s paired with Nick, her ex’s best friend. But when things take a sudden dark turn, she discovers there’s more to the story than meets the eye . . .
Sally Seltmann’s debut novel Lovesome (Allen & Unwin) is a tender, funny and romantic entry into the literary world by the Aussie songwriter and performer.
In 1995, 21-year-old Joni Johnson is fresh out of art school and loving life. Lucy, the owner of the French restaurant that employs her, and the chef Dave, make her evenings entertaining and complicated. By day, Joni sets up her easel in her backyard, turns on music and paints.
But when Joni’s best friend Annabelle arrives on the doorstep one night, ecstatic in love, everything changes. The life Joni has built for herself seems lacklustre in comparison to Annabelle’s rising star. And when Annabelle makes a beeline for the one man who seems interested in Joni, it looks unlikely that their friendship will survive.