Fiction

May 2017

Cloud Cuckoo Land Pastoral

'In place of the dystopian world of post-Soviet Moscow in Dog Boy, Hornung’s new novel land us in a cloud cuckoo land pastoral. Of course, pastorals, no matter how Arcadian, always have their darker sides. This is no exception. The Last Garden begins with a murder-suicide.'

The Restorer by Michael Sala book cover

Swaying Ground

'The Restorer is dramatically immersive, thematically confronting and — despite its flaws — moving. Like The Last Thread, it is in large part about difficult reckonings with family histories, and the challenge of wresting back control of a precariously positioned life. Sala highlights what I take to be a core moral of the story insistently, but perhaps good advice is worth repeating. For most readers, the skilful characterisation will outweigh all instances of heavy-handedness. I only hope that in future treatments of similar themes the vile men are friendly-seeming white collar workers who patronise the arts. I hear they exist. After all, what use is a topical novel unless its readers are made to feel uncomfortably close to—and complicit in—the issue it addresses?'

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The SRB is an initiative of The Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University

April 2017

A Change in the Lighting by Amy Witting book cover

A Reckoning

‘In capturing Ella, Witting captures how any of us might look or think at our worst, holding ourselves up against any available measure in a desperate effort to find some argument for, some defence of who we are or what we’ve done.’

Paul Auster 4321 book cover

Piling It On For Posterity

'Auster’s attempt to borrow from the chronology and geography of his own life to create a masterful multi-noded bildungsroman is an interesting idea, but 4321 is ultimately far too long-winded and sententious for that idea to properly work.'

The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink book cover

Legal Fiction

'The key distinction between The Woman on the Stairs and Schlink’s earlier fiction is that the past acted on those characters in ways that were hidden to them, but drawn out through the narrative. Here, an unspoken past acts on the protagonist and the narrative asks us to believe that his conversion to a man of empathy occurs without any direct confrontation with his personal and national history.'

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett book cover

No Need Of A Story

For as much as this is a book about the way we skirt around the truth, avoiding the secrets and failures, the ordinariness, with which we might be confronted should we approach truth directly, Pond is also about the way we read'

Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing book cover

Two Lives

'If, for much of our lives, we regard our parents as indispensable to ourselves, defined and understood by their relationship to us – whether loving or fractious, distant or close – then this last work is Lessing’s gift to hers: a belated acknowledgement of Alfred and Emily as individuals, separate from her and from one another. She offers them a world without the war; without each other; perhaps most intriguingly, without their daughter – and by extension, without their author.'