Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 15, 2018

2018 ANZLitLovers Australian and New Zealand Best Books of the Year

As in previous years, these are the books I really liked and admired during 2018.  They are books that I read this year, not necessarily published this year.  The contenders are ANZ authors only.  If you read this blog regularly you know that I also read international authors and translations too, but for this list, well, there are plenty of other sources singing the praises of books published elsewhere.  All links go to my reviews.

Fiction Longlist

I rated all of these Australian and New Zealand books 4-stars at Goodreads, and I felt a surge of pleasure remembering them when I looked at their covers at Goodreads See What You Read in 2018 (which doesn’t, due to some glitch, I suppose, actually record everything I read in 2018 but I’ve found a way round that).  (NB I reserve five stars for a work of genius such as James Joyce’s Ulysses).  I have been brutal, removing some beaut books to get this list to a maximum of 40.  Here are my books in alphabetical order… 8 authors from New Zealand are in italics.

  1. Relatively Famous (2018) by Roger Averill
  2. Book of Colours (2018) by Robyn Cadwallader
  3. The Beat of the Pendulum (2017) by Catherine Chidgey 
  4. Shadow Sisters (2018) by Shelley Davidow
  5. A Sand Archive, (2018) by Gregory Day
  6. The Sweet Hills of Florence (2018) by Jan Wallace Dickinson
  7. The New Ships (2018) by Kate Duignan
  8. The Earth Cries Out (2017) by Bonnie Etherington
  9. Salt Picnic (2017) by Patrick Evans
  10. The Bridge (2018) by Enza Gandolfo
  11. Gwen, (2017) by Goldie Goldbloom
  12. A Week in the Life of Cassandra Aberline (2018) by Glenda Guest
  13. Heloise (2017) by Mandy Hager
  14. A Stolen Season (2018) by Rodney Hall
  15. The Year of the Farmer, (2018) by Rosalie Ham
  16. The Last Garden (2018) by Eva Hornung
  17. Stories from Suburban Road, (1983, reissued 2018) by TAG Hungerford
  18. The Bed-making Competition (2018) by Anna Jackson
  19. Dustfall (2018) by Michelle Johnston
  20. The Newspaper of Claremont Street (1981, reissued 2015) by Elizabeth Jolley
  21. Swim, (2018) by Avi Duckor-Jones
  22. Paint Your Wife, (2004) by Lloyd Jones
  23. A Perfect Stone (2018) by S K Karakaltsas
  24. Too Much Lip (2018) by Melissa Lucashenko
  25. The Everlasting Sunday (2018) by Robert Lukins
  26. Big Rough Stones (2018) by Meg Merrilees
  27. A Superior Spectre, (2018) by Angela Meyer
  28. Dyschronia, (2018) by Jennifer Mills
  29. The Fireflies of Autumn, (2018) by Giovannoni Moreno
  30. Border Districts (2017) by Gerald Murnane
  31. The Biographer’s Lover (2018) by Ruby J Murray
  32. The Children’s House, (2018) by Alice Nelson
  33. Shell (2018) by Kristina Olsson
  34. We Are Not Most People, (2018) by Tracy Ryan
  35. The Day They Shot Edward (1991, revised edition 2018) by Wendy Scarfe
  36. Half Wild, (2017) by Pip Smith
  37. Mr Hogarth’s Will (1865, reissued 1988) by Catherine Helen Spence
  38. Poor Man’s Wealth (2011) by Rod Usher
  39. Welcome to Orphancorp (2015) by Marlee Jane Ward
  40. Nyarla and the Circle of Stones, (2015) The Fethafoot Chronicles #1, by Pemulwuy Weeatunga

Non Fiction Longlist including Life Stories (BTW my original list was closer to 30.)

  1. A Coveted Possession, the Rise and Fall of the Piano in Australia, (2018) by Michael Atherton
  2. Trump in Asia, The New World Disorder, (2018) Australian Foreign Affairs Vol #1
  3. The Big Picture, Towards an Independent Foreign Policy, (2018) Australian Foreign Affairs Vol 2
  4. The Forgotten Notebook (2015) by Betty Churcher
  5. Letting Go, How to Plan for a Good Death, (2018) by Dr Charlie Corke
  6. Close to the Flame, the Life of Stuart Challender (2018) by Richard Davis
  7. On Rape, (2018) by Germaine Greer
  8. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, (2018) edited by Anita Heiss
  9. Mary Gaunt, Independent Colonial Woman (2014) by Bronwen Hickman
  10. The Arsonist, a Mind on Fire (2018) by Chloe Hooper
  11. How to Be Deaf (2016) by Rosie Malezer
  12. On Borrowed Time, (2018) by Robert Manne
  13. Vodka and Apple Juice (2018) by Jay Martin
  14. Captured Lives, Australia’s Wartime Internment Camps, (2018) by Peter Monteath
  15. Always Another Country (2018) by Sisonke Msimang
  16. Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries (2018) by Barbara Santich
  17. Bella and Chaim, the Story of Beauty and Life, (2017) by Sara Rina Vidal
  18. Elizabeth Macarthur, a Life at the Edge of the World, (2018) by Michelle Scott Tucker
  19. Without America: Australia in the New Asia (2018) by Hugh White (Quarterly Essay #68)
  20. You Daughters of Freedom, (2018) by Clare Wright

The shortlists

Now, how to whittle them down? Gosh, this was hard this year.  Once again my criteria was: keep the books that have I banged on about most to people in my f2f life, but that meant some really absorbing, interesting or innovative books went by the wayside, which is testament to the quality of Australian and New Zealand writing.  However, I still think it’s a good criteria, because it goes to the longevity of a book.  Once again I have read 200+ books this year and I am always talking about books online, but the books that made their way into everyday conversation with family and friends had something special about them. These books weren’t just good to read, pleasurable, entertaining, or absorbing.  I earbashed f2f people about the themes and issues and insights in these books because they discuss significant ideas. (And note Catherine Helen Spence’s Mr Hogarth’s Will—published in 1865 and still relevant today). 

For publication dates, see the longlists.

Best ANZ LitLovers Fiction Books of 2018 

  1. Relatively Famous by Roger Averill
  2. The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey
  3. The Earth Cries Out by Bonnie Etherington
  4. The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo
  5. Gwen, by Goldie Goldbloom
  6. The Year of the Farmer, by Rosalie Ham
  7. Dustfall by Michelle Johnston
  8. Paint Your Wife, by Lloyd Jones
  9. Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
  10. A Superior Spectre, by Angela Meyer
  11. Border Districts by Gerald Murnane
  12. The Biographer’s Lover by Ruby J Murray
  13. Shell by Kristina Olsson
  14. Half Wild, by Pip Smith
  15. Mr Hogarth’s Will by Catherine Helen Spence

Best ANZ LitLovers Non Fiction Books of 2018 

  1. The Big Picture, Towards an Independent Foreign Policy, Australian Foreign Affairs Vol 2
  2. Letting Go, How to Plan for a Good Death, by Charlie Corke
  3. On Rape, by Germaine Greer
  4. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss
  5. The Arsonist, a Mind on Fire by Chloe Hooper
  6. Captured Lives, Australia’s Wartime Internment Camps, by Peter Monteath
  7. Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang
  8. Bella and Chaim, the Story of Beauty and Life, by Sara Rina Vidal
  9. Elizabeth Macarthur, a Life at the Edge of the World, by Michelle Scott Tucker
  10. You Daughters of Freedom, by Clare Wright

And finally…

The ANZ LitLovers Book of the Year is… 

*drum roll*

(no surprise really, because I have raved about this book, but this has been a great year for both fiction and non-fiction!)

Shell by Kristina Olsson.  

 

.

 

Over to you

Your thoughts on my choices?  What was your best book of the year?

PS 17/12/18 An email newsletter from The Wheeler Centre tells me that

A too-relaxed festive season is like a too-sweet cup of cordial: sickly and ultimately unsatisfying. You don’t want that. No, the Christmas break must contain just the faintest sour note – a hint of anxiety; a dash of disquiet – to make it extra delicious…

So here’s my sour note:  just one of the mishmash of recommendations from Wheeler’s Centre staff also features on my 2018 List of Bests.  Bouquets to the well-read receptionist Harry Reid, who recommends The Arsonist, by Chloe Hooper which was one of my Top Ten NF list, and also The Town by Sean Prescott, a fine book which I reviewed in 2017.  Unless I failed to notice it, the only other Australian novels recommended by staff of Melbourne’s City of Literature Wheeler Centre (which one might have expected would take the opportunity to promote Australian literature with enthusiasm), are Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee; The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland (see Theresa Smith’s review here); YA titles Nevermoor and Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend; and Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s Catching Teller Crow.  There’s Blakwork, a collection of poetry by Alison Whittaker,  The World was Whole, a collection of essays by Fiona Wright; Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin; Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia by Marcia Langton and Jessie Cole’s memoir Staying.  But where are the novels for grownups??  Not many: Krissy Kneen’s Wintering, and Toni Jordan’s Fragments (on my TBR)…

***

But enough of disappointments and wasted opportunities, this, at Overland, cheered me up immensely.  Overlanders recommended a generous sprinkling of Australian fiction along with must-read NF.  Mentions include Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck, Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains, Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic and SJ Finn’s praise for books I’ve loved too: An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn, Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills, and her very best favourite, Some Tests by Wayne Macauley.  Other recommendations included Judith Brett’s brilliant biography of Alfred Deakin (see Nathan Hobby’s review); and Clementine Ford’s Fight like a Girl plus also The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser.

And there was this:

2018 was also a year of black excellence in literature, with Alexis Wright taking out the Stella Prize for her phenomenal biography of Tracker Tilmouth, Claire Coleman’s harrowing speculative fiction novel Terra Nullius winning the Norma K Hemming Award, and the shortlisting of four fantastic releases for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – Tony Birch’s Common People, Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip, Kim Scott’s Taboo, and Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork – each highly anticipated releases from writers working in the height of their powers.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

You see, best-of book lists around the world are only ever going to include Australian writing as an afterthought, and mostly only high-profile award winning books.  That’s not because our books don’t compete, it’s because people don’t know about them.   It’s up to us to give a shout-out to what we know are great books, by great Aussie writers.


Responses

  1. Oh dear. I haven’t read ANY of your best books yet, but some are on the pile. I will be posting my top reads in early January as usual, but, unlike you and all those awards judges, I won’t be naming a top top read. I just can’t do it.

    I have given Shell away on the basis of your recommendation, but haven’t got it myself. One day.

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    • I don’t usually do a best book either. I think I’ve only done it once before and that was Kim Scott’s That Deadman’s Dance. Like Shell, it was a book I wanted everyone to read!
      PS (The Next Day) *slaps forehead* How could I have forgotten? Last year I had a Book of the Year: it was Karenlee Thompson’s Flame Tip which resonates with me still, especially since reading Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist and the bushfires we’ve had already, in November…

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  2. I cant even! I thought I read a lot of books, but these are only your best! I’m too in awe of your quantity to even begin to think about quality.

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    • I don’t think it matters how many books we read… what matters is that we love them:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What great lists, Lisa – you’re pushing me over the edge on a few here I have been meaning to read.

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    • Well, don’t forget you are working, writing a bio and raising two beautiful children, while I am able to read like this because I don’t do anything else.

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  4. That is an amazing list Lisa. I am green with envy over how many books you have read this year. It has been a really slow reading year for me (64 books so far, with many of these audio books) – too busy and I have also abandoned quite a few books. I have Shell out on library loan and I looked at it last night and it looks delicious but it is obviously a book to be savoured and I am not in the right frame of mind to do that ATM so I am going to return it and treat myself to a copy.

    I have only read one fiction title on your list – The Year of the Farmer – which I liked but not as much as you, I think. I have just borrowed The Bridge from the library as yours is the second recommendation I have had of this book recently. I haven’t read any on your non-fiction list but I am really looking forward to reading Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia which you so kindly sent to me.

    Using your criteria, my favourite fiction reads for the year were Pat Barker’s Life Class trilogy which I reread this year, Smile by Roddy Doyle and Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman.

    My favourite non-fiction reads were Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air.

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    • Not quite using your criteria as mine are not all ANZ authors 😐

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      • Yes, you’re right about Shell, it’s a book that needs to be savoured. You need some long lazy summer days to enjoy it properly.

        I love Pat Barker’s writing. I have her Silence of the Girls on the TBR and am looking forward to reading it. And *snap* Claire Coleman was just on Radio National talking about Australian Spec Fic as I drove home tonight from dinner out with my French class:)

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        • PS I’ve just looked up When Breath Becomes Air at Goodreads, that sounds like an inspiring book. I’ll look out for it at the library, thanks for the recommendation.

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  5. I’m thrilled to be on your list!! And will add ‘Shell’ to my must read list. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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    • It’s such a beautiful book, Sara, and if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s the one NF book that is about hope. In the worrying world we live in, it’s good to read a book that shows that people can transcend hatred and horror.

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  6. Hi Lisa, what a great varied list. I will be certainly looking for some of them at the library to read. I just finished reading the Silence of the Girls, and really enjoyed the read. I have had many good reads during the year, so can’t choose the ‘best’ one.

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    • Yes, it’s crazy really, because so many books I’ve read have given me such pleasure. I often find myself thinking that some author has given up years to write the book that I’ve read and loved, and the only way I can give thanks is to tell everyone that I liked it in a review.
      So a this-one-in and that-one-out list is really a silly thing to do.
      I excuse it because I’ve been asked to do it and I assume it’s because people need suggestions for gift-giving.

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    • I’m looking forward to that one too, but I’m reading Melmoth right now, so many people have recommended it:)

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  7. I have read Elizabeth Jolley, Lloyd Jones, and Gerald Murname (I couldn’t understand Border Districts at all). For Jones and Jolley, not the ones on your list but others. I recognized the name Rodney Hall. Other than that I don’t know any of these writers.
    At one point I considered myself fairly well-versed in Australian and NZ literature, but I guess that was historical.

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    • LOL well that’s the aim of this blog, and this list, to raise awareness of OzLit and KiwiLit:)
      But re Murnane: if I may presume to know what he’s on about, you’re not meant to ‘understand’ him… the idea is to let his thoughts lead yours off on tangents too, and to look at what you see, inspired by him, in a more intense way. You remember that part about the stained glass near the beginning of the book? Every time I see stained glass now I see it differently.

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  8. What a wonderful list Lisa, with reviews for readers to check out so as to make the choosing easier. ‘Shell’ is next on my TBR list then!

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    • I think you will love it.
      And I must apologise (see my comment to Sue), I had forgotten that I chose Flame Tip as my book of the year last year…
      I got it out again just recently, when there was a huge grass fire on the urban fringe and authorities were warning us that anyone who lives within cooee of parkland needs a bushfire plan. I re-read your piece that’s a newspaper ad for things lost in the fire, wondering if any plan can prepare us for that kind of loss.
      I am waiting as patiently as I can for news of your novel-in-progress:)

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      • Haha, I didn’t notice the comment. Yes, the newspaper ad piece ‘Lost’ seems to resonate with so many people. I don’t think anything can prepare us and everyone goes through it in their own way.
        The new novel continues . . . I worry away at it in the early hours. Parts of it are on the fifth draft. It is certainly taking me longer than I had anticipated but I hope it will be worth the wait.

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        • I’m sure it will be. Since #MyLipsAreSealed I know a little bit about what it’s about, I can’t wait to see it in print, but I know I must wait patiently because good writing takes time…

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  9. I’ve read a few on your shortlist and agree that they were excellent. I think, from memory, that Half Wild was on my top reads list last year. There’s a few on your list that I am yet to read but have waiting on my shelves. I am also keen to have a read of You Daughters of Freedom. I’ve read some favourable reviews recently.

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    • Hi Theresa, well, I’ve found some good reads thanks to your reviews and Half wild was one of them. But I should edit the post to put in the year of publication, I think…
      I’ll aim to do it today, but I have some small neighbours coming to “help” decorate the Xmas tree so my time is not my own today.

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      • A very Christmassy day then, for you. Likewise, there are many good reads I wouldn’t have discovered if not for your reviews. A whole lot of book purchases that have been made but not yet read as well!

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        • LOL I could perhaps have added a pile of new books on the TBR, but I’m in denial about how many there are…

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  10. Thank you so much, Lisa, for another year of wonderful insightful reviews. Your lists are amazing! For me it wasn’t such a great year in reading, since I read a lot of books in my bookcase of titles that I wanted to read one day and most were disappointing. Shell is such a terrific book that I put it away after the first few pages to read and savour over Christmas. I hadn’t realised that I’d missed a novel by Lloyd Jones. He’s such a great writer and I’ve recently read ‘Here at the End of the World’, which was a terric novel from said bookcase!

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    • I’ve had that happen too, buying books that were a disappointment by the time I got round to them. I think it’s less likely to happen to me now because I get most of my recommendations from bloggers I trust, whereas some of the books languishing on my TBR date back to when all we had to go on was a bookseller’s advertising catalogue and a blurb.
      Here’s a to a great year in 2019!

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  11. Thanks for including me on your shortlist! I really need to read Shell, and a bunch of other books on your list.

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  12. […] Kristina Olsson, Shell (Australian) (ANZLitLovers’ top read for 2018) […]

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  13. I have Shell on my TBR thanks to your review – do you think it will be a contender for next year’s Stella? Same re: The Arsonist – both I’m desperate to read (but will have to wait until next year – I’m travelling at the moment and only carrying my Kindle {I always buy hard copies on Aus authors from my local bookshop}).

    A couple of others on your long list that I have waiting, including Book of Colours that I’m very much looking forward to after reading The Anchoress last year, a book that has really stayed with me.

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    • The Stella: yes definitely to Shell and to The Arsonist, also The Bridge should be on the Stella radar, plus Dustfall, and The Biographer’s Lover. Would Growing Up in Australia be eligible?

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  14. Also… my Aus books of the year? Fighting it out between a bunch of memoirs: Reckoning, The Green Bell, In My Mother’s Hands, Staying.

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    • I haven’t read it, (too sad) but I reckon Staying must be brilliant, I have heard so much about it, plus heard Jessie Cole talking about it on RN.

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  15. Thank you for including me in your list, Lisa. It really is an honour. And, as you always do, you’ve prompted me to look into some interesting reads that I may otherwise have passed over. Love your work!

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    • Thanks Michelle, and I look forward to seeing some of these as Stella nominees in 2019!

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  16. […] know the answer to this one if you’ve checked out my 2018 Best Australian and New Zealand Books.  It’s Shell by Kristina Olsson.  I just loved it, and I know I will revisit […]

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  17. Shell is on my TBR – I really must get to it sooner rather than later after reading this :-)

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    • I look forward to your review… I think you’re a bit younger than me so you will probably notice different things about it:)

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  18. Hi Lisa – I’ve just started Axiomatic – it is irritating me. Did you review it – what did you think. Cheers, Sara

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    • Hello Sara, it’s nice to hear from you:)
      I haven’t read Axiomatic… and I don’t plan to. I read Traumascapes and I didn’t like the lofty judgemental tone. So even though I know that Axiomatic is much-admired, I don’t think I would get on well with it. Sue at Whispering Gums had a guest reviewer who found is “unrelenting”, “not balanced or fair”, and ultimately nihilistic, which confirmed my decision not to read it.

      But then Sue read reviewed it herself – favourably, see here https://whisperinggums.com/2019/01/13/maria-tumarkin-axiomatic-bookreview/.
      So opinions are mixed!

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      • Nihilistic is spot on. Thank you. I have many wonderful works awaiting. glad I got this from the library. sending best wishes. Sara

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        • I think I need someone to explain to me what is nihilistic about it. I can’t seem to get my head around how this book is nihilistic.

          I can understand how some readers might find it unrelenting. I found it eye-opening and fundamentally humane, but that’s all in the eyes of the reader isn’t it?

          Unbalanced and fair are interesting issues – she’s arguing some cases from a certain view of the world. I don’t think she needs to be balanced – unlike the ABC! She just needs to argue her case which her readers may or may not agree with?

          Again, though, I wonder about “fair” – what do we mean by being “fair”? In the book she’s “fair” to a lot of people who have had really unfair lives. She points out how, for example, the justice system doesn’t take into consideration the whole story of an disadvantaged person’s life resulting in what some of us would see as “unfair” sentences or treatment. She tells of a child abandoned in the street by his parents during the Holocaust when the police come for them – they walk off with the police with nary a look back at him. He thinks his mother rejected him but she feared that if she looked back the police would identify him and take him too.

          (I didn’t discuss these on the post on my blog because I hadn’t read the book when I posted Amanda’s guest post, and the time seemed past.

          And, I haven’t read Traumascapes which may be very different in tone and style.)

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          • Well, I can’t comment, (except to say that I didn’t like what I’ve read of her work which I’ve argues elsewhere in my review), so to be fair, I’ve sat on the fence and quoted both the reviews on your blog!

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            • Yes, you were very fair – my questions were to Sara really since she agreed with “nihilistic”. I really am puzzled by this – my poor little brain can get its head around it.

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              • Ah well, as we know, books speak differently to different readers. Sara is the author of Bella and Chaim, about her parents who had a Holocaust experience which would have crushed many. Yet Sara has written an exquisite book that speaks of the power of hope, inspired by their life story. (See https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/01/26/bella-and-chaim-the-story-of-beauty-and-life-by-sara-rena-vidal/).
                I’m not speaking now on Sara’s behalf, but I can well imagine that that Tumarkin’s tone (as I have encountered it) might seem nihilistic to someone who tends to interpret other people’s behaviour from a positive perspective. (Though we didn’t use the term ‘nihilism’ you and I had a bit of a discussion about this when I reviewed the book).

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                • Thanks Lisa… I’ll go back and look at that conversation.

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  19. Wow – I unintentionally started something – perhaps Amanda’s ‘unrelenting’ is a better description. I enjoy difficult books – so it’s not that – perhaps I’vl put it aside because I can’t see what I’ll get out of reading it at this time – I am trying to write of my own experiences with illness, suicide, trauma and am a bit tender at the moment. I’m reading my freshly written pieces to my writing group – these are wrung out of me in flow of consciousness; I sobbed when reading out the last one a few nights ago. I got terrific feedback for it: verbal and written. ‘moving’, relevant’ ‘understated’. I’m writing on similar topics to Maria so perhaps it is that I’m not objective; I also find the lack of referencing really annoying. If an idea is taken from somewhere to me it is essential that that idea/phrase/whatever be credited – I’m not sure what it was that jolted me on this – it may have been a play on Tolstoy’s Happy Families (without referencing him) – I’d have to read it all again to find what it was. Indeed most the ‘axioms’ appear in my book – explicitly or implicitly. I think my original approach of not reading these contemporaneous books is the way for me to go. But who knows, I’m intrigued that this is so highly thought of – so may give it another go – I’ve only skimmed the first story- so very strange for me to go and make such an assertive statements. Perhaps it’s professional jealousy at the attention this book is given while mine seems to be flying under the radar. Maybe it is just that I am of a different generation. Anyway this is all very stimulating and motivating!! It makes me want to find more time to write! thanks all
    cheers, Sara

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    • Sara, I hope you keep that tenderness! I wouldn’t worry, if I were you, about what’s highly thought of, there are fashions in publishing and not all of them are worth our time!

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    • Thanks very much Sara, this is a great response. I really appreciate your taking time to answer my questions. I’m going to respond to a couple of your comments, but please just ignore me if you want to back off and keep your own head clear.

      That’s an interesting point about referencing. I usually like referencing and often check them, in fact, but somehow this felt like more personal essays where I don’t expect formal citation. (That said, I wouldn’t like to think there was plagiarism here?) Ah, I’ve found your reference. She writes “every unhappy school will always be unhappy in its own way (OR: only happy schools are alike)” I’ve written in the margin “Ha -> ref to Tolstoy”. It didn’t bother me because I saw it as an allusion (like you find in fiction – but can find anywhere, I think, including in the creative nonfiction form that this book is) rather than as a quotation needing referencing. Later in that same essay she quotes Didion and cites the book.

      I have experienced suicide very close to me – 30 years ago now, but still painful. That first story moved me immensely. Time doesn’t heal, there is no closure, you don’t “get over it”. Time just softens the edges, and, as one person says in the book, you learn to “live with it”. But we are all different, aren’t we, in how we experience things. I can certainly understand your preferring to write your own experiences without reading those of others.

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      • my parents lost their entire families, my mother suffered most terrible loss and loneliness, she wanted to kill herself but did not, I tried several times to suicide and my husband underwent a slow form of self-destruction finally succeeding and dying horribly 19 years ago at the age of 57. He used to say we are all disabled in some way. Many of us are traumatized in some way big or small. my writing is about the enterprise of the possibility of rising above the instinct to escape life. Most days I talk to the grandmothers I never knew and to my husband gone so long – the ache for them is a constant. We are all different but I have found that nearly all of us have a well of pain. Re the referencing – I’m an architect and all my previous wrings were either at uni (BARCH 1968 and critical theory subjects 2000) or or a policy or project/planning nature. So I have an academic approach in my work and I expect other ‘true’ works to do the same. I’m very uncomfortable that we do not attribute things properly as I think this gives a sense that everything ‘clever’ is recent. I groaned when I saw that Tolstoy quote, not putting in a citation could lead someone unfamiliar with that famous quote to think it is her invention. She does not reference her Axioms either. They are commonly found in works through the ages and this kind of discussion is not unusual Some of these have a fascinating history. I do not mean to be critical – it is something I’m seeing in many well-received Australian works and it is making me suspect that those judging these works do not realise or know of or care about the connections to past wisdom. I think tribute to and acknowledgement of the giants on whose shoulders we stand ( and gosh I used this giants /dwarfs phrase in my book and did not cite any source – oh dear – and the link I just found is very interesting) ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants#Attribution_and_meaning
        is part of understanding the events and thinking of the past and if we do this properly perhaps we will build on it instead of repeating it. WOW not sure where that came from or whether it makes sense but this book is one in a pile of many that I’ve struggled through or given up on and I’m puzzled by. Anyway I’m reading Paul Mason’s POSTCAPITALISM and that is more my cup-of-tea.
        BTW the great thinker A.C. Grayling in his introduction to his THE GOOD BOOK declared that he’d not cite anyone and that is (in my opinion) the downfall of what could have been marvelous – because I wanted to know where every tiny bit came from, I soon got tired of his apparent cleverness so gave up. Perhaps his book would be a wonderful project for someone to go through and identify all the missing links. Indeed I’m sure that somewhere that is happening and if I had my life over perhaps that could be a task for me. So, I think if something is based on fact it should be fact, and choosing to do it sometimes and then not do it is not ‘right’. There has been a similar debate about ‘The ‘Tattooist of Auschwitz’ which I have not read. Anyway it is marvellous that difficult subjects are being written about and sparking so much discussion. thank you and good night.

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        • Thanks very much Sara. I’m really sorry for the terrible things you’ve experienced and had to live with.

          This all makes good sense. An academic approach is important, but I do think context is important. Writers of all sorts, fiction and non-fiction, allude to past works all the time without citing them. Many readers would not know that something they’ve said is biblical or Shakespearean or Sophocles or whomever. I do think allusion and direct quotation are different.

          I love that you write about the possibility of rising above the instinct to escape life. That is SO important for people to know and believe.

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          • I am wrestling with writing about that and it making me very emotional. At present I’m just one big flowing tears maker. but I have ‘learnt’ some survival techniques so will continue trying to put them down in a context that is readable. There is another issue here. that is looking after the reader/viewer. Take ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. I think that is the name of the movie. I’ll have to check. I kinda wish I’d not seen it and when it comes up on TV I do not rewatch it. There are some ideas and/ or images that you wish you’d never seen/heard, and when writing need to consider whether you want to gift/impose that onto the reader. So for me the question always is: What do I want the reader to feel? So far my answer is: I want the reader to laugh and cry, be happy and sad. ie feel alive.

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            • I’m glad Sara – that you’ve learnt survival techniques, I mean. That’s important.

              That issue about looking after the reader is a really interesting one. The problem as I see it is that readers vary so much in what they are able or willing to see or read. I have a pretty high threshold for reading (though I definitely don’t seek horror, and don’t read horror or thriller genres), but way less so for seeing. Mr Gums and I recently stopped watching a well-regarded DVD series (about a sociopath) given to us by our 30-something kids because it was just too too unpleasant.

              I’m not sure whether you saw this article in The Conversation on trigger warnings – https://theconversation.com/when-literature-takes-you-by-surprise-or-the-case-against-trigger-warnings-101251 – but I have kept it open on a tab on my browser ever since it was published because I want to keep thinking about it.

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              • I remember that article, it’s such a vexed issue, isn’t it?

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  20. I can’t cite what I am about to write because I can’t remember who it was, but yesterday it was reported that someone talked about how we need to restore a proper kind of discourse – a willingness to listen to an opposing point of view and address the issues without resorting to the kind of unpleasantness that has become the hallmark of public discourse and social media. Sue, and Sara, you have come together here to talk through some most difficult issues in a way that is a gift to us all, and I thank you for it.

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    • Thanks Lisa. Yes, agree. Need to respect each others experience and sensibilities. Thank you for providing a safe platform in which to do.that.

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      • You’re welcome, take care, Lisa

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      • Thanks Lisa – and Sara. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion. In fact, I was just telling my brother (while we were at the hospital this afternoon) about our discussion, and how nice it was to have such a respectful discussion in which we genuinely wanted to explore and share perspectives. I’ve learnt a lot. These discussions aren’t necessarily about changing the other person’s mind as about better understanding the other person’s mind. I think too many discussions get into that frame of trying to convince the other person to think your way.

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        • Yes, I think so too. This is what I like about our kind of blogosphere: it is a place for good discussion and sharing of ideas.

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  21. I am just reading your favourites list, Lisa, and I love it! You have read some amazing books last year! The Fireflies of Autumn (by Giovannoni Moreno) – I love this title! So evocative! Is the author of ‘A Coveted Possession, the Rise and Fall of the Piano in Australia’, Michael Atherton, the cricketer? I have never heard of anyone else called Michael Atherton and that’s why I asked.

    I loved this passage from your post – “You see, best-of book lists around the world are only ever going to include Australian writing as an afterthought, and mostly only high-profile award winning books.  That’s not because our books don’t compete, it’s because people don’t know about them. It’s up to us to give a shout-out to what we know are great books, by great Aussie writers.” So beautifully put! Thanks for championing ANZ literature, Lisa! I admire you so much!

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    • Hi Vishy, thank you!
      I don’t think Michael Atherton the author has any cricketing connections… I met him in the café at the Non Fiction festival and we had quite a chat over lunch, and he didn’t say anything about sport:)
      I guess you might feel the same way about Indian Lit? I follow the DSC Prize on Twitter and I am always amazed to see the profiles of so many authors we never hear of in the mainstream media. Too many to keep up with, but I do wish Australian bookshops had more Indian books available. I know from personal experience that it’s not always easy to import from Indian publishers, but it would be great if we had access to more than we do.

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