Dear Reader, March 2020
Vivian Pham is one of those incredibly talented and bright young people whose list of achievements at an early age will make you seriously wonder what you have been doing with your life. Case in point: Pham’s debut novel was signed by Penguin Random House two years ago when she was still at high school. Reading the ﬁnal product, The Coconut Children, a story set in the late 1990s in the Vietnamese diaspora living in Sydney’s Cabramatta, it’s easy to see why people are so excited about this bold new voice. Our reviewer calls Pham ‘a writer of formidable skill – her words ﬂow like poetry’. So please, take note of this author as she begins her luminous career: she has written our Fiction Book of the Month. Australian writing is so strong this month, with new works of ﬁction from Liam Pieper, Felicity Volk, and Margaret Bearman, and debut novels from Madeleine Watts, Anna Goldsworthy, Sophie Hardcastle, and Catherine Noske, plus Dervla McTiernan’s third crime novel, The Good Turn.
In international ﬁction, you’ll ﬁnd new work from a bunch of authors you know well – Anne Enright, Louise Erdrich, Colum McCann, Graham Swift, Sebastian Barry, Aravind Adiga. I am utterly obsessed with Jenny Oﬃll’s Weather, already one of my books of the year: far out, it’s good. I was thoroughly won over by the uneasy and unhappy female protagonists of Marina Popkey’s Topics of Conversation, Cho Nam-Joo’s Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy, and Emma Jane Unsworth’s Adults, while Deepa Anappara’s Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is so good it broke our reviewer’s recent reading stalemate. On 5 March, the international embargo on Hilary Mantel’s long-anticipated novel, The Mirror and the Light, will be lifted, to much excitement and fanfare. Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, the ﬁrst two parts of this Tudor trilogy, each won that year’s Booker Prize, and I can’t wait to see if she will repeat that achievement for an unprecedented third time.
Our Non-ﬁction Book of the Month is Ellena Savage’s Blueberries, a work that our reviewer says, ‘deﬁes categorisation but is fervently experiential, candid, and original’: thank goodness there are publishers who aren’t afraid to publish experimental and creative work like this, and a readership hungry for challenging reading. Our reviewers also recommend the new work by acclaimed historian Cassandra Pybus, Truganini; Donna Ward’s honest and feminist account of living an unattached life, She I Dare Not Name; and a new take on feminist history, Difficult Women. Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology will be in stores in the second half of March. Also this month: Michael Mosley turns his attention to sleep (or how to cure a lack of it) in Fast Asleep; Stephanie Convery investigates death in the boxing ring with After the Count; Samantha Maiden performs another autopsy on Labor’s 2019 election loss in Party Animals; Sophie McNeill reports from the front line in We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know. Our House Is On Fire is a memoir of the Thunburg famly, Greta being the most well-known of the clan.