Wake In Fright by Kenneth Cook.
Written in 1961, this oppressive and claustrophobic novel is about a young teacher who gets stuck in an imaginary town in outback NSW. Cook gives us a remarkably modern critique of all that’s wrong with the myth of Aussie male mateship.
The Dry by Jane Harper.
A struggling Australian farmer has died, apparently at his own hands, after first killing his wife and son. The drought stricken locals are shocked. Federal policeman Aaron Falk, a school friend of the dead farmer, returns to his old town to attend the funeral. Falk agrees to stay and investigate the crime, believing that not everything is as it seems. But Falk, as it turns out, is not all he seems either. Jane Harper has written a cracking yarn, and has captured perfectly the blowflies, searing heat, utes, guns, and stifling dynamics of a small country town.
Losing Streak: How Tasmania was Gamed by the Gambling Industry by James Boyce.
In 1968, on the banks of the Derwent, Wrest Point Casino was built. It was supposed to be a place for high-rolling tourists, Vegas-style cabarets, and dancing girls. 50 years later, it is little more than a pokies barn, and government after government has allowed its owners to monopolise and grow their pokies business into pubs and hotels all over the state, mainly in low socio-economic areas. If what Boyce says in his book is right, our political leaders have a lot of explaining to do.
A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and a Great War by Joseph Leconte
Tolkien and Lewis both fought in World War I. According to Leconte, both men have taken the horrors of those wartime experiences and used them to devastating effect in their novels set in Narnia and Middle Earth.
Solomon’s Noose by Steve Harris
In 1837 Solomon Blay was transported to Van Dieman’s Land. Three years later he answered an advertisement to become the colony’s first hangman. He got the job and was granted his freedom. But can a man be truly free if his job makes him an outcast of society? This superb work of non-fiction shows that, written well, history is fascinating.
Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi
Translated from Italian, this short novel set in Lisbon in the 1930’s, with Nazism beginning to seep into Europe, is a model of beauty and economy. Our protagonist, the widower Pereira, is an overweight journalist struggling to keep his integrity as the paper he writes for becomes more and more aligned with a political positon he abhors. Contemporary much? Pereira’s final act of quiet revolution is up there with the most satisfying endings I have ever read.
The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis
I read this book to my two sons earlier in the year. I know there are some who will say this is Lewis at his best, but compared to other stories in the series, we found it hard going.
Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd
A man is accused of a crime he hasn’t committed, and attempts to make himself invisible by getting off the grid and hiding himself by the river Thames. The coincidences that help bring this novel to its resolution are too far-fetched to be believable, even for me.
One Forever by Rory Shiner
I preached a series this year on the doctrine of Union with Christ and read this book as I prepared. Shiner writes effortlessly as he helps us get to grips with who we are in Christ. And he also shows how wonderfully practical this doctrine is for all believers. Perfect for anyone.
Edgar Allan Poe meets The Twilight Zone meets Mary Shelley. Not for everyone. But for me, hypnotic and otherworldly.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
How to describe this novel? A woman is dying in hospital. She is confused about how she got there. Sitting beside her is a young boy, who is not her son, interrogating her as she dies. She recounts to him the circumstances that have lead to her current predicament. He seems to know everything that has happened, and why it has happened. But it is not at all clear to her, or to the reader. And then it’s all over. Edgar Allan Poe meets The Twilight Zone meets Mary Shelley. Not for everyone. But for me, hypnotic and otherworldly.