Dear Reader, October 2019
I think we’ll remember 2019 as a stellar year for Australian fiction. Our book of the month is There Was Still Love, the much-anticipated third novel from Favel Parrett. This quiet gem of a novel speaks the truth of familial love, particularly of the special relationships that exist between grandchildren and their grandparents, and explores timely themes of exile, home, and cultural memory. Two Stella Prize winners bring us their new novels this month; Heather Rose publishes Bruny, a political satire set in Tasmania, while Charlotte Wood brings us The Weekend (published mid-month), a story revolving around a coterie of aging friends. Anna Krien’s debut novel, Act of Grace, has been ten years in the making. Elliot Perlman returns to matters arising from workplace precarity in Maybe the Horse Will Talk. JM Coetzee’s The Death of Jesus concludes his trilogy. Look out for an anthology of new Australian writing published by Kill Your Darlings. Meanwhile, 2018’s crime blockbusting Australian authors, Christian White and Chris Hammer, each bring us their second novels.
People everywhere have fallen for The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili. This epic 900 page novel was a German bestseller, and the appearance of this compulsively readable, all-consuming book in English is nothing short of a literary event: my bookmark is currently at page 420, and I have to finish writing this column so I can get back to it … I am all in! Also out this month are novels from Ann Patchett, Edna O’Brien, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Stephen Chbosky, Benjamin Myers, Laura Purcell, Emma Donoghue, and Ben Okri, plus reissued classics from Gayl Jones and William Melvin Kelley, and collections of short stories from Zadie Smith and Etgar Keret. Does it feel like Christmas already to you, too?
Our Nonfiction Book of the Month is Guest House for Young Widows, Azadeh Moaveni’s unique, meticulously researched, and compellingly written book about women who travelled one way or another to join ISIS: it’s another brilliant work of narrative nonfiction to appear this year illuminating the lives of ordinary women. Also out this month is Thomas Mayor’s essential celebration of the Uluru Statement, Finding the Heart of the Nation; Unfollow, a book by a former member of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church; biographies of David Gulpilil and Penny Wong; memoirs from Edward Snowden, Hilary McPhee, Ali Wong, Louis Theroux, Tove Ditlevsen, and Shaun Bythell; plus new work from Rebecca Solnit, Bill Bryson, Ronan Farrow, and Jonathan Safran Foer. There is a proverbial avalanche of music books coming your way this season … this month it’s the turn of Elton John, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Joni Mitchell, Andrew Ridgeley, and Patti Smith. May your Rachel-Cusk-a-thon continue this month with the publication of a collection of her nonfiction essays, Coventry, in handsome hardcover.
And finally, dear reader, please may I draw your attention to the existence of Dorodango. I can tell you this is a book about the Japanese meditative practice of making mud balls, but this bald description does not convey the beauty of the book, or the fascination you will find for the objects this practice creates.