I’ve just returned from my first Byron Bay Writers Festival. With a 3-day open ticket I felt like I was at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets at a swank resort, except the vast choice of delectable treats on offer was for the mind not the stomach
Reading Wasted: A story of alcohol, grief and a death in Brisbane (Text Publishing 2016) by Elspeth Muir took me back thirty-five years to a smell I’ve never forgotten. I was a trainee nurse at the time, doing a Saturday night shift in the operating theatres of a large teaching hospital in Melbourne. It was about 2am and I was prepping a girl around my age for surgery.
The Light on the Water by Olga Lorenzo
I came to The Light on the Water (Allen & Unwin 2016) by Olga Lorenzo because of the novel’s setting on Wilsons Promontory in Victoria. Not long before I’d gone on a 5-day solo hike through the region so knew something of the rigours of hiking in this area and the impenetrability and ruggedness of parts of the terrain. I was interested in Lorenzo’s recreation of place as much as I was the story line. I wasn’t disappointed with either.
A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay
The characters’ memories in A Hundred Small Lessons (Allen & Unwin 2017) by Ashley Hay eddy and meander through time just as the Brisbane River that features often in the story, meanders from mountain range to coast. The minutiae of lives are put under the microscope in this gently told story highlighting how the small acts required to build a family and a life, are often undervalued or overlooked for their importance.
Le Chateau by Sarah Ridout
Le Chateau (Echo Publishing 2016), a debut novel by Sarah Ridout, is an unforgettable story about a woman forgetting. Charlotte doesn’t remember her husband, Henri, or their five-year-old daughter, Ada. She doesn’t remember the century’s old chateau where she lives in the south of France, or its surrounding vineyard. And neither does she remember her imperious mother-in-law, Madame de Castanet, who occupies one wing of the chateau. Charlotte is amnesic after a mysterious accident that left her in a coma. Just like Dorothy in Ada’s favourite story The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte must find her way home to the family she is told is hers but is one she neither knows nor trusts.
Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett
Sleeping Dogs (Penguin 1995) by Sonya Hartnett is a young adult novel that explores the destructiveness of misguided and obsessive family loyalties. It marked the start of Hartnett’s award-winning career as a writer when it won the 1996 Kathleen Mitchell Award and the 1996 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Writing for Young Adults.
Brand New Ancients by Kate Tempest and The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter
Brand New Ancients (Picador Poetry 2013) is by Kate Tempest, a UK rapper, spoken-word poet, novelist and playwright. The Monkey’s Mask (Hyland House 1994) is by the late Australian poet, novelist, lyricist and librettist Dorothy Porter.
The Eye of the Sheep by Sophie Laguna and Leaving Elvis And Other Stories by Michelle Michau-Crawford
The Eye of the Sheep (Allen & Unwin 2014) by Sofie Laguna won the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Leaving Elvis And Other Stories (UWA Publishing 2016) by Michelle Michau-Crawford is a debut collection of connected short stories. The eponymously named story in Michau-Crawford’s collection won the 2013 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize.
Christie Nieman is an award-nominated author, editor, researcher and playwright. Her debut YA novel As Stars Fall was published by Pan Macmillan in 2014. Her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in journals and magazines including Meanjin, Overland, TEXT and The Guardian. She has been a contributing editor on the anthologies Just Between Us, (Pan Macmillan 2013) and Mothers and Others (Pan Macmillan 2015). Her critically acclaimed play, Call Me Komachi, received a Green-Room Award nomination, multiple productions, and publication by the Australian Script Centre. I interviewed Christie about her writing and current doctoral studies in ecocritcism, which she is undertaking at La Trobe University in Victoria.
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple
India has an ancient, diverse and complex culture of which most visitors can only hope to scratch the surface. William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (Bloomsbury 2009) takes readers beyond the surface and into the skin of nine different people seeking moksha or spiritual liberation. Dalrymple reveals the extraordinary commitment of these people in maintaining their faith and the often extreme rituals they perform in order to demonstrate their devotion. Nine Lives is a must-read for any traveller intending to visit India who would like to better understand this country’s exotic religious practices.