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14 May 2011

Favourite Australian Authors: General Fiction

This was a post I started writing at the beginning of April for Aussie Author Month. I was at 4000 words and still going by the 30th of April so, sadly, I missed the boat. I realised, when Aussie Author Month was created, that while I love Australian authors, they don't get as much coverage here or elsewhere online as they deserve. Unfortunately Australian fiction is a bit of a niche market - we don't get a lot of export occurring. It is really disappointing, but that is just the way things are. So, I will be doing a listing of some of my favourite Australian authors in the next little while. You can follow this using my "ausbooks" tag - Aussie Author Month may be over, but I will be using this tag for all Aussie content in the future. And next year, when Aussie Author Month comes around again, when people search that tag they will find a lot of content. I was appalled when I was looking for content for the Australian Speculative Fiction Blog Carnival just how little content is being covered around the web. I could complain, or I could champion the cause and do something about it myself! So, as part of this four-part series, I will be posting a handful of my favourite authors in the next little while, with reasons I love them and books of theirs which mean something to me. I am splitting them into four parts: General Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Speculative Fiction and Romance.

Randolph Stow

The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow is still one of my all time favourite books. I love it. He just got it! I feel homesick for hot dust, the sound of crows cawing & cool shade when I read it. The bush baby in me sighs. The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea is a semi-autobiographical account of growing up around Geraldton during WWII. You see the land and the events with the eyes of a little boy, and as he gets older he understands more of the world and people around him. I love this book. I really love it. I had to read it for university and although it was a forced reading I fell into the language and the landscape. Having grown up in the bush, also with a harsh dry landscape, and at the time living in the city for my studies, I found myself pining for the smell of hot dust and cool shade, the sound of crows and the feeling on wonder a little child has exploring his/her environment. I still find The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea to be a sentimental read. It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of a reader who doesn’t have a background in rural Australia. The Visitants (set in Papua New Guinea and sounding vaguely like science fiction?) is on my TBR pile, and I plan to buy more of his books as I find them.

Ruth Park

Playing Beatie Bow was a book that was forced on us in year nine. After the first page it was no longer something to complain about. The cover (old, ragged, with dismal, gloomy artwork) and the blurb had put me off, but the actual content was fascinating. A girl in “modern” Sydney (I think it was the 80s?) accidently slips back in time and ends up being adopted by a family living down by The Rocks in Victorian Era Sydney. It is an absolutely fascinating book, and Ruth Park obviously did her research. I am an archaeologist and have a passion for history, and now, I walk around Circular Quay wondering how it must have been to live there a hundred years ago. I have friends who have participated in archaeology digs at The Rocks that covered the time frame that Playing Beatie Bow was set, and I am envious (I was at a dig in Parramatta which covered the same eras and when back further in time, so I guess I shouldn’t complain). I still find it amazing how Ruth Park can write about this period of history in a way that is relevant to modern day teenagers. I think it must be because her characters are so well written. I also read and loved The Harp of the South, although I read that when I was 10 or 11 and found parts of it terribly depressing. It also raised more questions with me than it answered, but I suspect that was because of my age. It would be interesting to go back and read it again as an adult. Ruth Park passed away in December last year. Her website is

Thea Astley

I read Thea Astley when I was a teenager. I loved Drylands because she captured living in a small country town like the one I grew up in. The slow sleepy speed of country shops, the feel of the local pub, the interactions of a small community stuck with each other and the disrepair and despair of a small country town when people start packing up and heading for the city. There was one passage about the collection of dusty unread books in the newsagency because no one is interested in buying them, and only the main protagonist chooses to read them. She stares out her window, watching the town pass by and decides to take up writing.

Thea Astley is another author that I always keep an eye out for. She won four Miles Franklin Awards before her death, including one for Drylands.

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