Review – ‘Portable Curiosities’ by Julie Koh


It’s the end of the year and I’m running on empty, but I enjoyed Julie Koh’s collection of short stories, ‘Portable Curiosities’, released this year through UQP, so here’s a real short review because a) UQP is an awesome publisher and deserves all the coverage it can get, b) the book was good and c) look at the cover. Look at the COVER! Amazing .

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Review – ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline


I read this in one sitting, literally couldn’t put it down. This story of Evie, a teenager who joins a Manson-like cult in the summer of ’69, really drew me in with its incredible evocation of girlhood and adolescence in all its rawness. Interestingly, this story is less about the allure of Russell (the fictionalised Manson figure) and far more about ‘the girls’ that accrue about him. Evie is desperate to be noticed, to be loved, to be someone, and the girls – particularly their aloof quasi-leader, Suzanne – seem to Evie to offer her the sense of belonging and purpose she craves.
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Review – ‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper


I feel like I must have missed something with this book, considering the almost universal praise it’s received! To me, everything about this book was fine. Not terrible, but not outstanding. Just fine. I read and watch a lot of crime drama so I guess I have fairly high standards? Don’t know! I did enjoy the way Harper created the vibe of a small country Aussie town though. I think that if you’re Aussie or have lived here for any length of time – whether you were born here or not – everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the danger of a live flame in the bush during fire season. Harper creates and draws upon our collective dread of the ‘dry’ really well and it felt real and convincing, as well as providing an eerie threatening backdrop for a set of pretty gruesome murders.
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Review – ‘Harriet Said’ by Beryl Bainbridge


Bainbridge’s first novel written (it wasn’t her first published -it came out in 1972) is apparently loosely inspired by the Parker-Hulme murder case in New Zealand (which you may know from Heavenly Creatures, the Peter Jackson film) however the stories are only similar in so far as they both focus on young girls who intentionally set out to cause harm to an adult; in Harriet Said, though, the goal is not murder, but just really hardcore bullying and stalking. It’s weird and upsetting and sometimes violent.

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Review – ‘The Good People’ by Hannah Kent


A lot of readers are going to love this book, I’m sure of it. Set in early 19th century Ireland, it follows a bunch of women in a rural and highly superstitious community who believe that a baby with a disability is a changeling (a dupe for the real baby, taken by the fairies). Obviously this is a really disturbing narrative, and it gets more and more disturbing as the women turn to the local folk-magic-witch to help ‘get the fairy out’ of the child. It’s dark and oftentimes violent, but Kent also fleshes out the backstories of the women and the entrenched nature of the superstitious beliefs in the community, which creates a weird and powerful dynamic where on one hand you are repulsed by the characters and on the other can sympathise with them (in the sense that you can see they don’t know any other way of living).
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Overland 224 incl. ‘Broad Hatchet’ is out

A bunch of friends and family have been asking how they can read ‘Broad Hatchet’, my short story from the Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize. The edition that it’s printed in is 224, but you can just read the story and judge’s report online now, for free! Yay. If you really feel like forking out the print edition is available at indie bookstores like Readings, The Paperback, Hill of Content, etc, and also from the Overland website.

The runner-up stories are AWESOME – ‘Acorn of Sadness‘ by Ashleigh Synnott, which started off in quite a humorous tone, took me to a dark and upsetting place that I was in no way expecting. I still feel weird and disturbed, three days after reading it (in a good way). Ben Walter’s ‘All Hollows‘ is beautifully written, also darkly comic, and focuses on the existential crises / insomnia of three trick-or-treaters (or real monsters – can’t tell!).

The rest of the journal is cracking, too, as always.


Review – ‘The Salamanders’ by William Lane


This is a really beautiful book. It’s a slow burn, and the story is not so much plot driven as it is an extended and poetic meditation on origins, both in terms of family (ie. what we inherit from our parents, whether we can escape their influence or not), but also our evolutionary biological origins as humans – and the origins of life or existence itself. The Salamanders is published by Transit Lounge (who also published Black Rock White City by A.S. Patrić, winner of this year’s Miles Franklin) so it was no surprise to find the writing was of high quality.

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