News from Australia’s annual bookselling conferences

Martin Shaw reports back from the Leading Edge Books and Australian Book Industry Award 2015 conferences.

So we’re all fresh from our annual conference which, as ever, re-charged the bookselling batteries with previews of the many highlights on the literary calendar for the remainder of 2015. Perhaps the book carrying the biggest buzz was the latest novel from Jonathan Franzen – Purity – advance copies of which naturally disappeared fast. But there were also some home-grown authors causing a stir – Readings’ own Miles Allinson gave an introduction to his lauded debut novel Fever of Animals, and I noticed proof copies were a hot item at the Scribe stand at the trade show the next day.

Several other Australian writers made big impressions: the legendary Tom Keneally spun a wonderful tale when talking about his forthcoming novel, Our Great Friend, based on Napoleon’s exile on the island of St Helena, and the connection that exists with a family who settled in Mt Martha on our very own Mornington Peninsula. Then there was film director-turned-author Shirley Barrett with her wonderful novel set in Eden, Rush Oh!, which recounts its whaling history and, most notably, the killer whales there who routinely assisted the whalers with their hunt.

A personal highlight, too, was hearing Stephanie Bishop talking about her forthcoming novel, The Other Side of the World. It’s been ten years since her debut, The Singing, but it’s been worth the wait. This novel about a family whose identity is torn three ways – between England, Australia & India – is a compulsive and enormously affecting read.

There was also a presentation from Gail Jones about her fascinating-sounding novel A Guide to Berlin; Charlotte Wood also captivated listeners with the story behind her disturbing and provocative novel The Natural Way of Things; and George Megalogenis offered some intriguing insights into where Australia is going wrong in a discussion of his forthcoming book, Australia’s Second Chance.

Martin Shaw is Readings’ Books Division Manager.

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