Alan Vaarwerk

Alan Vaarwerk is the editorial assistant for Readings Monthly. He is also a freelance writer, editor and proofreader. Find him at alanvaarwerk.com.

Reviews

Barking Dogs by Rebekah Clarkson

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Set in Mount Barker, a once-sleepy country town now enveloped by Adelaide’s urban sprawl, Rebekah Clarkson’s Barking Dogs brings together multiple stories and perspectives to form a vivid snapshot of…

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True Girt by David Hunt

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Like a good many others, I found the version of Australian history taught to me at school fairly dry and boring – nowhere near as colourful or scandalous as ancient Greece or Egypt (or my personal fa…

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Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Goodwood is a quintessential NSW country town – sandwiched between a river and a mountain, known for its timber and its fishing – the sort of town where not much happens, everyone knows everyone else…

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The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Somewhere in the latter part of the 21st century, the planet has reached breaking point, the world watching grimly on as Pitcairn Island gradually, inexorably sinks into the Pacific. It’s a kind of d…

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The Toymaker by Liam Pieper

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

From the opening pages of Liam Pieper’s The Toymaker, the reader is left with no doubt as to what kind of man Adam Kulakov is. The head of a successful toymaking company inherited from his Holocaust-…

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Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Comprising twelve darkly funny and allegorical stories spanning spec-fic, black comedy and mock journalism, Sydney writer Julie Koh’s Portable Curiosities is full of biting reimaginings of Australian…

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An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

The NSW Riverina town of Strathdee is fictional, but that doesn’t stop the setting of Emily Maguire’s fifth novel from being all too real. The storyline is familiar too, both in fiction and reality –…

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A loving, faithful animal by Josephine Rowe

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

One of the many threads that run quietly through the background of Josephine Rowe’s first novel is the idea of holidays – Easter, New Year, times of year that are meant to bring families together, th…

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Fear is the Rider by Kenneth Cook

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Kenneth Cook doesn’t beat around the bush – from the opening lines of Fear is the Rider, the reader is thrust headlong into the baking heat and choking dust of the outback, and into the terror and th…

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Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

In 2014, Colum McCann was assaulted in a one-punch attack in Connecticut. In Thirteen Ways of Looking, the Irish novelist processes this traumatic event through multiple lenses. As McCann writes in a…

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Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

After a brush with death, the wistful young misfit Lucien Minor decides to embark on a new life, leaving his idyllic dead-end village to take up a post assisting the majordomo of a remote castle belo…

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Arms Race by Nic Low

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

The stories in Nic Low’s Arms Race all take place in worlds that are, in one way or another, at a tipping point. The New Zealand-born writer, now living in Australia, spans geography, time and genre …

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You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

On a trip back to the US from his dead-end academic posting in Wales, Greg ‘Marny’ Marnier is wooed by an old college friend, tech entrepreneur Robert James, to be part of a large-scale experiment: J…

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The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Israeli writer Etgar Keret is widely regarded as one of the leading figures in contemporary flash fiction. In The Seven Good Years, the author of The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and Suddenly, A K

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Leap by Myfanwy Jones

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Three years on from a tragedy that claimed the love of his life, twenty-something Joe loses himself in menial work, parkour and his mentorship of a teenage delinquent, using burnout and exhaustion as…

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Fallen by Rochelle Siemienowicz

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

From the outset of Fallen, Rochelle Siemienowicz openly acknowledges that while her memoir, which began life as a novel, is a true story, it is first and foremost a story. Events have been merged and…

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The Well by Catherine Chanter

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Seeking a new life in the wake of a crisis, Ruth Ardingly and her husband Mark escape to the Welsh countryside, taking up residence on a farm known as The Well. Lush and picturesque, the couple envis…

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A Man Made Entirely of Bats by Patrick Lenton

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

The debut collection by writer, playwright and possible mad scientist Patrick Lenton pulls apart icons of 21st-century pop culture and reassembles them in an ungodly mixture of satire, fan fiction, n…

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Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Nobody writes short fiction like Kelly Link. Get In Trouble, her first collection for adults since 2005’s Magic For Beginners, showcases the author’s unique brand of magical realism, blending fantasy…

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The Dangerous Bride by Lee Kofman

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Lee Kofman loves her husband deeply, and he loves her. But in a marriage full of romance but increasingly devoid of sexual passion, the Russian-born Israeli writer – addicted to freedom and pleasure …

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The Family Men by Catherine Harris

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

AFL player Harry Furey should be on top of the world – his team has won the premiership and his place in his family’s footballing dynasty looks assured. But Harry is tormented by the sordid events of…

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To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

New York dentist Paul O’Rourke is an avowed atheist in search of something to believe in. Disaffected and lonely after a succession of failed relationships, which saw him less ‘whipped’ than ‘gripped…

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The Glass Kingdom by Chris Flynn

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Amid the dusty showgrounds of bleak regional Australian towns, ex-soldier Ben Wallace and his sidekick Mikey run the Target Ball sideshow in a travelling carnival called the Kingdom. Alongside the re…

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Dear Leader by Jang Jin-Sung

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

North Korea and its ruling Kim dynasty are often ridiculed in the West as eccentric megalomaniacs with odd habits and funny hair. But for those living under the country’s totalitarian regime, whose d…

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Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

It’s a setup as bold as it is absurd: Adolf Hitler wakes up inexplicably in 2011 Berlin. Things have changed – there’s no Nazi party, no bombings; the modern Germany is liberal, multicultural and run…

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Geek Sublime by Vikram Chandra

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

For most of us, computers and the programs that run on them are tools, designed to make our lives and work easier. But for the developers who build this software, the lines of code that underpin what…

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Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Ned, a California anti-war activist, and his wife Nina are trying to conceive – he is 48, she is 37, and the clock is ticking. When Ned, without warning, travels to upstate New York for the funeral o…

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The Antibiography of Robert F. Menzies by Bernard Cohen

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

In the early years of the Howard government, the Liberal Party regularly evoked the legacy of its founder and Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. The Menzies era sy…

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Cairo by Chris Womersley

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

Languishing in a country town in the 1980s, 17-year-old Tom Button yearns for escape. When his favourite aunt passes away, he seizes the opportunity to move into her old apartment in a run-down Fitzr…

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The Beethoven Obsession by Brendan Ward

Reviewed by Alan Vaarwerk

In the world of classical music, the 32 piano sonatas from the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven are considered the pinnacle of the art form, collectively recognised as ‘the greatest piano music ev…

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News

Australian podcasts I got hooked listening to this year

by Alan Vaarwerk

For delicious nuggets of storytelling: Story Club

I’m super jealous of all the cool stuff that goes on at Sydney’s Giant Dwarf Theatre – luckily, podcasts like Story Club help to ease the pain. Hosts Zoë Norton Lodge (author of Almost Sincerely) and Ben Jenkins present a selection of short, snappy stories recorded at their monthly storytelling nights, featuring emerging writers and comedians a…

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A look at the winners of Seizure’s Viva La Novella Prize 2015

by Alan Vaarwerk

It’s often difficult for emerging writers, particularly of longer works, to find spaces to showcase their craft – and the same is true for emerging editors, who can find it difficult to make a name for themselves in a role which is meant to be largely invisible. Seizure’s Viva La Novella Prize, now in its third iteration, combines the two in a yearly competition, teaming up emerging editors with …

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The beginner’s guide to Kelly Link

by Alan Vaarwerk

Kelly Link has in the past been described as “the best short story writer out there, in any genre or none”. Over five collections for both YA readers and adults (with some crossover between the two), the American writer and publisher has developed somewhat of a cult following, which is now expanding with the release of her latest collection Get in Trouble.

While often categorised alongside write…

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