Dead girl and heron: Joyce Carol Oates

Content warning: child abuse (reference), sexual assault (reference) Before reading her work, I’d assumed Joyce Carol Oates was one of those writers who churned out weepy family sagas. As many fateful reading habits begin, I picked up Daddy Love (2013) by accident. It was an entirely disturbing read, tracking the fate of a young boy…

Strange and beautiful: From the Wreck / Jane Rawson

Speculative fiction is by its very nature strange and unexpected. Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck is both of these and more. I’d heard of the title from various book lists and reviews yet I was reluctant to pick it up given its seemingly incongruous premise: a surreal blend of historical fiction and sci-fi. The history…

Why we need… The Power / Naomi Alderman

I’m tidying up this review from a jumble of notes scrawled while listening to the audiobook edition of The Power. More often than not, I post reviews after a significant procrastination mulling-over period. In this case, I couldn’t remember the last time I was so utterly, maddeningly in awe of a work. The premise of…

Woman with her throat cut: Musing on Final Portrait

An interesting thing happened during the Sydney Film Festival today. So, it’s a screening of Final Portrait, a bio-pic of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, starring Geoffrey rush. It’s a glorious film set in 1960s Paris, in monochromatic artist dwellings the same clay hues as the raw material worked by Giacometti himself. Directed by Stanley Tucci,…

I adore thee: Hag-Seed / Margaret Atwood

On the rare occasion, a book sends you reeling, completely potent with possibility and a narrative that transcends the ordinary. I’ve been a fan (nigh-on Misery-level) of Margaret Atwood after reading The Handmaid’s Tale. Since then, many of her books have become all-time favourites, including the incredible Maddadam trilogy. In both of those works, Atwood mastered uniquely…

In defence of reading genre: What Dark Clouds Hide / Anne Holt

I’m guilty of book-snobbery. My guilty genre of choice is that mysterious beast known as Scandinavian or Nordic noir. Brooding, complex, ambivalent, gritty, cold and psychologically challenging, it has all the hallmarks I love to read. Scandi-noir is notably less concerned with following a crime procedural formula. Characters in these books are flawed, and the…

Review: The North Water / Ian McGuire

The North Water is a book I suspect I’m not meant to have enjoyed. For one, it’s undeniably ‘masculine’: a miasma of semen, blood and sweat. The only women in it are whores, largely unnamed background characters that function as little more than orifices for rent. It is also a book about whaling. And I’m…

Review: See What I Have Done / Sarah Schmidt

I saw the ink-bled pigeon on the cover; it was beautiful. I heard the title; I was intrigued. When I discovered the story was about an infamous slaying, I couldn’t not read it. I must admit my approach to Australian author Sarah Schmidt’s chilling debut See What I Have Done was tinted with classic writer’s…

Musing: Nest / Inga Simpson

This is less a review than a musing on Nest (by Inga Simpson, originally pub’d 2014 – yes, I’m always late to the show). Listening to the audiobook in January, I realised how fascinating it is to hear the author of a book narrate their own work. Authors understand their work like no other person can, including…

Review: Fun Home / Alison Bechdel

It was Tolstoy who famously opened Anna Karenina with a line about all unhappy families being unhappy in their own way. To depict this in your own family must be a confronting task. Doing it well in a graphic novel means to bare the twisted, intimate details of your life, in a self-conscious visual medium…