Harry Hendrick’s girlfriend has left him and his job as a journalist for the local paper is going nowhere. He awakes with the mother of all hangovers and a tattoo he doesn’t recall getting. He could write it off as a wild night but when the tattoos keep coming, accompanied by nightmares and memories that are not his own, he is compelled to find out what’s going on. In his search for the truth, Harry is thrust into a world of corrupt politicians, boat people, SAS missions in Afghanistan, murder, tattoo parlours, bikies, psychics and a mysterious woman. Set on the ‘mean streets’ of Brisbane, Gary Kemble’s debut novel is an imaginative, fast-paced page-turner that combines crime-writing with a delightful serving of the supernatural. Kemble’s other life as a journalist is evident in his writing and his convincingly realistic characters, while topical issues such as asylum seekers and shady politicians are handled deftly and credibly. Skin Deep is a fine debut for both Kemble and Echo Publishing, which offers more than a passing nod to John Birmingham and Stephen King. This novel will appeal to readers who devour crime, thrillers and speculative fiction.
Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller. This review first appeared in Books+Publishing magazine Issue 2, 2015. View more pre-publication reviews here.
I have long been an admirer of the work of Brisbane writer Krissy Kneen, who I believe is one of Australia’s hidden literary gems. With each new book, I find myself hoping that readers will finally discover her quirky, sexy and incredibly beautiful writing. Her foray into literary fiction, Steeplechase, was sadly overlooked by many readers but remains a favourite of mine. Witty and seductive, sexy and funny, with just a hint of the surreal, The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine is a book that I can see appealing to many readers new to her work. Holly White is young, beautiful, seductive—and abstinent! Engaged to the supposed ‘love of her life’, and with a promise ring on her finger, Holly spends most of her time hiding from her own burgeoning sexuality. But something is awakening within her, and it is not going to go away. Invited to join a book club with a difference, Holly discovers whole new ways to look at sex as she explores sex literature from the Marquis de Sade through to James Salter with her new friends. Holly White should appeal to those awoken to the possibilities of sex literature by the popularity of books such as Fifty Shades of Grey, but looking for something more sophisticated. Fans of Nicholson Baker and Angela Carter will be in heaven! A riotous romp through the imagination of one of Australia’s most accomplished sex writers.
Angie Andrewes is a bookseller and reviewer. This review first appeared in the Books+Publishing magazine Issue 1, 2015. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Following Emily Bitto’s shortlisting for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, The Strays became one of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2014—and it certainly lives up to the hype. It tells the story of Lily, a young girl wooed by a progressive group of artists living in 1930s Melbourne, in what was then a very conservative city. Together, their days are spent making and debating art, their nights a blur of parties and dangerous liaisons. It is only when Lily looks back as an adult that she can acknowledge the childish antics that tore apart their idyllic existence, and better understand the complex artists who changed her life irrevocably. You could lift out any sentence in The Strays and admire the sheer artistry of its melody and composition. What’s especially wonderful about Bitto’s literary novel is that the story never feels weighed down by the style. It’s an immensely pleasurable read that covers a wide canvas: art history, modernism, a young girl’s coming of age. It’s clear that Bitto is a hugely talented writer and destined for a promising career.
Emily Laidlaw is the online editor at Kill Your Darlings. The Strays is the winner of the 2015 Stella Prize for women’s writing. This review first appeared in the Books+Publishing magazine Issue 1, 2014. View more pre-publication reviews here.
When Laura and Vik are children, their eccentric mother disappears during a flash flood on the family’s struggling property in rural Victorian. Though just a girl herself, Laura is forced to grow up fast and becomes a surrogate mother figure for Vik, compensating for their grief-stricken father’s shortcomings. As she progresses into young womanhood and eventually to middle age, the legacy of this reluctant childhood obligation underpins the choices she makes in adulthood, including her marriage to Luc, a charismatic environmental activist who is the inverse of her inarticulate farmer father. Laura’s is a small but heavy life, defined by a thoughtless act committed in her childhood and a guilty secret kept for decades. Though the narrative pacing is slow, Laura is a compelling character and Alice Robinson’s prose is lyrical and elegiac. The depictions of rural life—the caprices of native Australian wildlife, the grisly but necessary daily tasks of farming, the crucial significance of weather and increasingly dire effects of climate change—are reminiscent of Gillian Mears’ Foal’s Bread and Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship With Birds. Readers who enjoyed these novels will find Anchor Point is likewise an exquisite literary novel, and an accomplished character study. This is Robinson’s first novel.
Veronica Sullivan is online editor of Kill Your Darlings. This review first appeared in the Books+Publishing magazine Issue 1, 2015. View more pre-publication reviews here.