The following is a selection of my book reviews. I hope you enjoy reading them – to read more, please browse Writing Reviews on TallAndTrue.com.
Jennifer Mills sets her novel, Dyschronia , in the run-down coastal town of Clapstone. Sam is twenty-five-years-old. The townsfolk view Sam as their oracle and depend upon her visions to bankroll their survival. And yet a great catastrophe has occurred, far worse than any in the past (and there have been many disasters and misfortunes): the sea has disappeared, seemingly taking with it Clapstone’s last hope for renewal as a seaside theme park destination.
This ancient-world whodunnit, A Roman Death , is set in 45 BC. Julius Caesar is at the height of his power, yet disquiet grows under his dictatorship. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the Ides of March looms and that Rome will soon descend into turmoil. For now, the Roman elite live a pampered existence, attended to by slaves, enjoying life's pleasures, and plotting how to increase their wealth and standing.
Sweeties opens on an "ordinary Monday morning", an image invades 67-year-old Abel Marvin's thoughts as he swims his regular laps: the "twisted, burned-out hulk of a wheelchair with two welded, gaping red and black skeletons". It's a scene that's haunted Abel for most of his adult life and he buries his face in the water to drown it. But Abel's breathing becomes forced and pain enters his chest. He realises he is dying, but feels "warm comfort" at the prospect of finally ridding his memory of the "burned relic with the fused skeletons".
In the summer of 1952, Kip and his older brother, Tommy, find the entrance to a cave hidden in the hills above the family farm in the central north of Tasmania. The boys take every opportunity to explore their secret place, pushing further and deeper into it, never telling their parents about its existence, always lying about what they have been doing with their spare time. It is now 2002 and middle-aged Kip has returned to the Mole Creek cave, from where 50 years ago he ran back to the farm without Tommy.
It is October 1998 and Chasca Broderick has rushed home to the USA from her work with the War Crimes Tribunal in Sarajevo to attend her grandfather’s funeral. Theodore Broderick had been a lawyer, an eminent legal academic, an adviser to presidents, a Supreme Court Justice, and a defence attorney at the Nuremberg Trials in Germany after World War II.
Portland Jones’ debut novel, Seeing the Elephant , is set in 1962, when a small contingent of Australian soldiers, called the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), were sent to Vietnam, under the leadership of the CIA, to help the Americans train South Vietnamese soldiers and villagers to fight the North Vietnamese Communists and Viet Cong insurgents.
Vu Tran’s debut novel, Dragonfish , opens with a letter from a mother to her daughter, with whom she has lost contact. She recounts the first night of their escape from communist Vietnam, in a small, overcrowded boat, soon to be wracked by ‘thirst and hunger, sickness [and] death’. The mother confesses she had not wanted to leave behind her homeland and husband, and that she blamed her daughter for having done so.
Patrick White won the inaugural Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1957 for Voss. A year later Randolph Stow won the award for To the Islands . He was 22 years of age and had already published two novels, A Haunted Land (1956) and The Bystander (1957) and a collection of award-winning poems, Act One (1957).