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Bookseller Bron is again taking over the ‘What We’re Reading’ section this month! As you may have guessed, she is a prolific reader, burying her nose in a book whenever she can. This month she has read some amazing, risk-taking novels and memoirs from Australian authors. If you are ever at a loss for what to read next, find her most days behind the Roaring Stories counter! Her recommendations are golden.

Bron is reading…
Truly brilliant Australian authors

We are certainly spoilt for choice this summer with a fabulous array of Australian stories.

I am a huge fan of Robbie Arnott. His latest novel, Limberlost is his most realistic and personal storytelling to date. I loved the magic realism that dazzled me in his previous two books, however Limberlost felt like a more complete story, with a satisfying ending that the previous books didn’t quite manage. Flames was daring and interesting, The Rain Heron was majestic and mesmerising, while Limberlost has a more subtle, gentle tone that drew me in from the very first words. One thing all three books have in common though, is the stunning Tasmanian landscape. Arnott weaves Nature into all his stories until it feels like the natural environment is another character to care about.

Loosely based on a summer in his own grandfather’s life towards the end of WWII, trapping rabbits to sell while waiting to hear about the fate of his two older brothers, Limberlost is a coming-of-age story, that shows how one summer and the decisions made at that time can stay with you for the rest of your life. One of my favourite reads of 2022.

This Devastating Fever by Sophie Cunningham is an exotic, exciting mix of bio-fiction, metafiction and autofiction. With so much going on and so many jumps it could have been easy for this story to get away from the reader – instead I was seduced and bewitched at every step. I had so much fun with this book, and with Sophie, and her protagonists Alice and Leonard Woolf as they moved between colonial Ceylon and modern day Sri Lanka, WWI, the Spanish Flu, WWII and the Covid-19 pandemic in Victoria, Australia.

One of my favourite aspects were the times when Alice talked to ghost Leonard and ghost Virginia. This device allowed Cunningham to modernise their voices and opinions, injecting a playful, humorous narrative. Real quotes from their diaries and letters turned up in these conversations, but they also expressed their opinions on things that had happened after they had died.

Cunningham took some writerly risks with this book, and I was there cheering her along the whole way!

Heather Rose certainly takes us somewhere completely different and unexpected in her new memoir, Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here: A Memoir of Loss and Discovery. As the title suggests, death and grief have had an impact of Rose’s life from a young age. This is her story about the many different, unusual and sometimes extreme ways she found to process her feelings. Some of her stories are not for the faint-hearted.

The natural world and the paranormal world are closely bound together in Rose’s life. Chronic pain is something she also manages every day. I will not go into the details about all the different ways that Heather tried to work through her grief and loss (you will have to read it for yourself to find out). Her story does remind me though, that everyone has their own journey to take when it comes to losing someone you love. There is no right or wrong way, it’s simply your way.

With compassion she explored how this loss not only affected herself, but her family over time. Grief, compounded by feelings of guilt and ‘what if’s’ had roll-on effects for everyone concerned. Relationships changed dramatically, creating their own traumas. This was not always an easy read, but it was utterly compelling and unforgettable.

I have just started reading the new Gail Jones book, Salonika Burning, set during WWI on the Macedonia Front. Jones has taken four real life people who were there are the time – writer cum kitchen hand Stella Miles Franklin, Australian ambulance driver Olive King, British surgeon and painter Grace Palithorpe and artist Stanley Spencer – and reimagined them meeting and interacting around the time that Salonika burned (August 1917). This is a war story told from the sidelines, by those bearing witness with creative, artistic eyes.

Finally I want to take this opportunity to shout out a local author and friend, Ruth Armstrong, who earlier this month was awarded the Olga Masters Short Story Award for her story, Sandcastles. It was published in the November issue of Island Magazine and will appear on the Olga Masters website early next year. Miriam Webster was the runner-up for her story A Look of Extreme Festivity which is available to read now. Congratulations Ruth!