Some of our favourite Australian books

Australia Day Blog HopWe’re rather proud of our Australian heritage here at A&U, as well as our place in the Australian literary landscape, and what better time to showcase it than Australia Day and as part of the blog hop organised by Book’d Out.

As part of the giveaway, we’ve picked out a selection of from our vast catalogue of fine Australian authors, offering an opportunity to look at Australia past and present through the eyes of literature.

As a relative newcomer to Australia, I’ve probably learnt as much (if not more) about this nation and its inhabitants through literature than through friends, and many of these books have contributed greatly to that knowledge (along with the obligatory Down Under/In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, which provides a wealth of useful and useless information, along with a love of Big Things!).

The Slap - Christos TsiolkasThe Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

In the case of The Slap (and more recently Barracuda), I have seen a side to Australian culture that is unlikely to be advertised widely. As an unflinching look at a cross section of Australian society, I can understand the difficulty that many Australians may have with the book as it cuts so close to the bone.

In your face writing tackling big issues, but told through the minutiae of daily life, this was the book that brought the bold writing of Christos Tsiolkas to a huge audience who loved and hated it in equal measure.

Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretser

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser

In a similar vein, the perspectives presented in Michelle de Kretser’s multiple award winning Questions of Travel capture beautifully the good and bad of Australia, and in particular Sydney, as well as the wider world.

In Ravi I can clearly see my own sense of wonder and occasional bafflement when wandering Sydney streets upon arrival, and having also moved from London the observations of Laura often ring true in her comparisons of life on opposite sides of the world (and the challenges being away from home brings).

And then there was the writing itself, beautiful prose that is to be read and reread, to be savoured and pondered. Very much a book to get lost in, and one that lingers on long in the mind after its devastating conclusion.

Jasper Jones by Craig SilveyJasper Jones – Craig Silvey

Beautifully capturing a different side to Australian life was Jasper Jones, which provides insight into small town country life in WA in the 1960s amidst a coming of age story which also tackles Australian prejudices and racism.

It too is full of wonderfully evocative passages which, for me, paint a picture of those days where school holidays stretched on forever but instead set them in the sticky heat of an Australian summer.  And while not a huge follower of cricket, I couldn’t help but be caught up in Silvey’s description of Jeffery Lu’s dominance in the oval!

 

Snake Bite by Christie ThompsonSnake Bite – Christie Thompson

Another coming of age tale, but this time capturing life in modern day suburbia. While set in Canberra, it is equally applicable to anywhere you find the young and restless, with its tales of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

An in your face writing style similar to that of Christos Tsiolkas (read about when Christie met her literary idol here), Snake Bite is filled with humour and biting observations on growing up, families and feminism.

 

Australians: Origins to Eureka by Thomas Keneally   Australians – Thomas Keneally

Another raw insight into this nation, but during the very early days, comes from Thomas Keneally’s Australians series. Through the eyes of the Aborigines, as well as the settlers and convicts that descended upon them, Keneally brings to life the early development of Australia in a way that only he could.

We’re thoroughly looking forward to his third instalment of this series hitting bookstores later this year as Keneally celebrates 50 years of published writing in 2014 – an Australian institution.

Awards: Vogel’s, Miles Franklin and more…

A large part of our Australian heritage here at A&U can be traced back through our involvement with The Australian/Vogel’s literary award, which has helped launch the careers of some of the most successful writers in the country such as Tim Winton, Kate Grenville and Gillian Mears.

From this list of Vogel winning writers you’ll find some of the country’s most celebrated authors – with multiple winners of the Miles Franklin and Prime Minister’s Literary Awards amongst them. While last year drew a blank in terms of awarding a winner, we know that this year there will be the opportunity to announce a great new talent in Australian writing – you’ll just have to wait to find out who! (We’re not even sworn to secrecy on this, we actually don’t get to know!).

Foal's Bread by  Gillian Mears

Our final three books come from such award winners, and all speak longingly of the land in which they’re set, and offer a look at rural Australia through the ages.

Foals Bread – Gillian Mears.

Gillian Mears won The Australian/Vogel’s award in 1990 for The Mint Lawn, and here we offer her award winning Foal’s Bread. A love story which, like those of Alex Miller, presents a beautiful affinity with the land, while her rich characters explore emotions of love, jealousy, frustration and disappointment.

 

The White Earth by Andrew McGahanThe White Earth – Andrew McGahan

The White Earth was the 2005 Miles Franklin Award winner from 1992 Vogel’s Winner Andrew McGahan. While that novel, Praise, captured the youthful grunge lifestyle of early 90’s Australia, The White Earth is far bigger in scope, capturing 150 years of white settlement in Queensland and tackling more recent political tensions.

McGahan has constantly shown that his writing can’t be pigeonholed, from the dark humour of Praise, 1988 and Underworld to work also spanning sci-fi and children’s novels.

Journey to the Stone Country – Alex Miller

Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller

Which leads on to another award winner, and one which The White Earth is often compared to – Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller, his second Miles Franklin winning novel back from 2003. A love story of a white woman and an Aboriginal man, Miller brings forth issues of black politics and reconciliation as well as many of the complexities of contemporary Australia.

Miller deals with themes touched upon by many of these books – displacement, identity and a sense of belonging, all of which are well worth pondering on Australia day.

Win all these books!

For your chance to win these eight brilliant books just leave us a comment below telling us about your choice of book that best captures Australian life. And if you’ve read any of these, let us know what you think of them too – how do they fit with your image of Australia and sense of identity?

Congratulations to our winner Karen Crook!

Be sure to check out some of the other participants in the Blog Hop for more great Australian books.

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