Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 1, 2016

Venice (2016), by Nick Earls

VeniceVenice is Book 2 in Nick Earls’ Wisdom Tree series of novellas; it follows Gotham which I reviewed last month.

The title is a reference to the Venice Biennale, where an invitation to exhibit would be a highlight of any artist’s career.  The narrator, Ryan, recently ‘let go’ from a downsized mining company, is eking out his separation payment by staying with his sister Natalie who is preoccupied with her chances at the Biennale, while her husband Phil is preoccupied with being a successful dentist.  They are a very successful couple:  she has an installation in the NGV; they have a Margaret Olley on the wall and a pool in the garden; there are wine fridges full of expensive French wine, and their living-dining area is the size of a house like mine.  But they are not at all preoccupied by their four-year-old son Harrison.  For his part, Harrison is preoccupied by his tablet.

Ryan, who keeps his thoughts to himself about all this, is worried about the amount of screen time that the child has, and the lack of meaningful interaction in his life.  Harrison is programmed into a routine of events, with day care, swimming lessons and scheduled days with his mother – when she’s not too busy.  And since Uncle Ryan is now the de facto manny (i.e. a male nanny) he discovers that Harrison isn’t the best swimmer in his group because (despite the pool) he doesn’t practise at home; and that he has not had a turn at show-and-tell at day-care because (as we all know) parents have to invest a bit of time in the selection of the item with which to show and tell.  Ryan has not had a lot of practice at being an uncle, but he ad-libs and is able to turn to advantage events that come their way.

From the hyper-macho world of mining to the domesticity of child-care, Ryan is the process of redefining his definition of what it means to be a man.  His hosts find ways to pay him without embarrassing him, and he gets some satisfaction out of identifying the kid’s needs better than they do.  But to me, it looks like just another form of competitive male behaviour to be ‘better’ at parenting, and since Ryan is still job-hunting this new version of Ryan seems unlikely to last.

I don’t have much patience with parents who have children and then don’t have time for them, but I found Venice a bit holier than thou.  And was it just that I was on hyper-alert, or is Earls a bit harder on the working mother than the father??

I’ll be interested to see what other readers think of this one.

Author: Nick Earls
Title: Venice
Publisher: Inkerman and Blunt, 2016
ISBN: 9780992498597
Review copy courtesy of Inkerman and Blunt via publicist Brendan Fredericks.

Available from:

  • Inkerman and Blunt where you can sign up for the other four books in the series as they are released;  The Wisdom Tree series will be available to download as audiobooks from May 2016 from
  • Fishpond: Venice: Wisdom Tree 2




  1. The best thing about following ANZLL is that it makes my reading feel far more up to date than it really is. (Though you also often make me feel guilty about good authors I haven’t read or haven’t read enough). I’m happy enough to avoid Earls, still I’m glad he’s addressing the problem of Australian male stereotypes, even after 120 years it seems to me Henry Lawson’s independent bushman is still the dominant paradigm.


    • Guilt is an unproductive emotion. Ignore it.
      Especially since reading *your* blog is patching my ignorance about aspects of Oz Lit I know too little about!


  2. […] was Australian author Nick Earls on his recent series of novellas. Wisdom Tree. (Lisa has reviewed the first two at ANZLitLovers.) Novellas aren’t new of course, but Earls sees them as meeting the needs of […]


  3. […] sponsored by 1010 Printing for The Wisdom Tree Series, (Inkerman & Blunt).  (See my reviews of Venice and Gotham too). […]


  4. […] Lisa (ANZLitLovers) has reviewed 1. Gotham and 2. Venice. […]


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