Tuesday 30 August 2016

Books from Down Under

Those who follow my sporadic blog will know that travelling and books feature quite often. I haven't achieved my aim of travelling to every country from where I have a read a book, or even managed reading a book from every country I have visited, although I'm working on it.

My next planned trip is to Australia in a few weeks, and at least I can say I have read a number of Australian books. The first, which I read as a child, was my mother's copy of Seven Little Australians by Ethel M Turner. My mother had been a little Australian herself, coming to UK when she was ten years old. I later read Under Australian Skies by Phyllis Power. The former is still hailed as a classic, while the latter is, I suspect, now politically incorrect and has been brushed carefully under the carpet. Then there were, of course, the Lindsay books: The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay.

My Australian reading continued through my teens to adulthood. I read Colleen McCullough, when The Thorn Birds was all the rage in the late 70s, but much preferred Nancy Cato's All the Rivers Run, another epic. Marcus Clarke's For the Term of His Natural Life took a bit of reading but I was engrossed by it while My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin left me cold! I also read a couple of Peter Carey's novels and two of Bryce Courtenay's.

More recently I read Geradine Brooks' Year of Wonders which I enjoyed, and March, which I wasn't so keen on. I loved Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, but have yet to read his other novels. 

One book that interested me was Murray Bail's Eucalyptus. (You don't get more Australian than that, so much so that my mother planted one, which of course she called a gum, in the garden of my parents' place in Devon where it flourished. Unlike the character in the book, I can't identify the exact species.) 

I like Kate Grenville's books, but loathe The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. It gained critical acclaim, but although I thought the initial premise was an interesting one, I didn't consider the novel delivered anything worth saying and the author missed an opportunity to really examine his theme.  And I'm pleased to say that none of the Australians I have met are as repellent as the characters he created. I would have happily slapped every one of them. I hope I won't encounter them on my trip!

Another disappointment, that I gave up on, was The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham, which I couldn't seem to get into. Clearly others disagreed with me as it, too, received critical acclaim so maybe I should give it another go. On the other hand, Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project and its sequel kept me laughing out loud. His third novel, The Best of Adam Sharpe will be released the day before I set off on my travels and is a book I'll be looking out for.

On my Australian to-be-read list is Tim Winton - but do you have any other Australian recommendations?