Friday, August 26, 2011

Reading Lists: Australian Fiction

Welcome to this week's installment of our newest feature here at The Blue Bookcase: Reading Lists. Every week either one of us or a guest blogger will post on one of his or her favorite topics and provide a list of books he or she is familiar with on that topic. At the end of each post we will invite you to throw out any suggestions of books, fiction or non-fiction, that you have read or know about on that topic and we will add them to the list on that post.

These lists are not comprehensive by any means, but may be useful in helping you find your next read. Enjoy!

This week, Lucia is compiling a list on Australian Fiction.

The questions of what Australian is and what it means to be Australian are asked multiple times a day. I consider myself Australian because I, along with my parents, was born here, I speak English as my first language, my passport says so, and I've never called anywhere else home. On the other hand, I, like an extreme number of others in Australia, have European ancestry. But what about Indigenous Australians or our connection with Asia? Tricky questions, no doubt. I have only very recently begun to actively pursue the reading of Aus fiction, because up until recently I didn't know what it felt like to be homesick for my comparatively quiet state capital . So, in terms of Australian literature and fiction, I've decided to go with books written by Australians which include an opinion about something significant to Australia.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox. Probably the most famous Australian children's book, this is the story of Hush who has been turned invisible by Grandma Poss. Their quest to make Hush visible again takes them all around Australia, discovering icons in Aussie food. “Once upon a time, but not very long ago, deep in the Australian bush, there lived two possums. Their names were Hush and Grandma Poss. Grandma Poss made bush magic…”

The Boat by Nam Le. Le is a Vietnamese author who migrated to Australia. The Boat is a collection of the most beautiful short stories, with the title story addressing one of the biggest issues in Australia today: boat people. One of my favorite stories was Waiting For Elise, about an ill and aging painter, mourning the loss of his lover and the daughter he doesn't know. Somehow, impossibly, the voice of the story is unbiased towards the situation of the narrating character. I believe that this reflects the title of the story, in that the central character is waiting as opposed to actually doing, and he knows this. I think the reader can sympathise with this because at the heart of the story is a commonly felt fear. Read the rest of my review here.

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. As I've mentioned, many people (including myself) come from a European background, and this young adult novel deals very realistically and often hilariously with this. The story is a wonderful twist; Josie Alibrandi is caught between a gaggle of gossiping Italians and the backdrop of Aus culture.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I love love this book, although it's hardly set in Australia (and I think I've gushed about it on several posts before, though not actually written a review). Brooks is Australian, though, and she is brilliant. The references to Aus come up like jewels in the plot. An ancient Jewish prayer book, supplies the core of this novel. When an Australian restorer is asked to work on the book after it is found in broken Sarajevo for the first time since World War II, her discoveries form the stems to the different segments which compile Brooks' text. Capturing diverse societies and covering several centuries, Brooks expertly draws together the pieces and people who became part of the book. The way in which she moves through the centuries and countries is evident in the colloquialisms and style of prose. Brooks' observations contributing to this are impressive; her use of modern day Australian language to everything from conversational tones of the Inquisition, to that of ancient African slaves. Her diversity is astounding.

And I hope to read so much more classic Australian fiction soon!

Your Suggestions:
(Let us know in the comments and we'll add them to the list!)
The White Earth
by Andrew McGahan (recommended by Beachreader)
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (recommended by Ellie and mummazappa)
(YA) Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix and Children's Illustrators Robert Ingpen and Shaun Tan, and YA writers Markus Zusak and P.L. Travers (recommended by Befabian)
Sorry by Gail Jones (recommended by L)
Breath by Tim Winton (recommended by mummazappa)
Red Queen by Honey Brown (recommended by mummazappa)
How It Feels by Brendan Cowell (recommended by mummazappa)
Anything by Kirsty Eager (recommended by mummazappa)
I for Isobel by Amy Witting (recommended by Christina)
The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden (recommended by SarahSparrow)
Rhubarb by Craig Silvey (recommended by BookLoverBookReviews)
Wanting by Richard Flanagan (recommended by BookLoverBookReviews)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (recommended by BookLoverBookReviews)
The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard (recommended by BookLoverBookReviews)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (recommended by Becky at Page Turners)
Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan (recommended by Becky at Page Turners)
My Brother Jack by George Johnson (recommended by Becky at Page Turners)
Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park (recommended by Becky at Page Turners)
The Households Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide (recommended by Becky at Page Turners)
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (recommended by Becky at Page Turners)
Ransom and An Imaginary Life, both by David Malouf (recommended by Susan at Reading World)
And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Munro, both by Nick Cave (recommended by ParrishLantern)

Do you consider yourself particularly well-read on a certain topic? Or maybe you find yourself drawn to books about specific people, places, or things? We would love to have you write a Reading List post for us! If you are interested please email us at