Five of your personal favorite Australian novels, please!

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Five of your personal favorite Australian novels, please!

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Jan 20, 2008, 10:35am

I'm coming to Australia in August for a lengthy vacation and I thought I might squeeze in a little more Australian lit (with everything else I'm trying to do) before I go. I've read a fair amount in the past and I'm reading My Place currently. I also have a nice little accumulation of books from several generous OZ LT members in my extensive TBR pile. So, here's my request:

Please recommend FIVE Australian novels that you have really enjoyed and tell me WHY. Feel free to repeat titles also, it's good to see that many people have loved a certain book. It's possible you may list books I have already read; however, your lists will be here for others to read and I will be able to tell how well I'm doing. I will cull the list and see what else I can squeeze into my schedule. There was another thread on this group that had a similar request but you all went crazy with lists of Australian authors, it only got interesting when LTers talked about individual titles and made recommendations (which is what the user asked for in the first place).

As it stands now, I hope to do a quick reread of The Fatal Shore, read Carpentaria, and maybe a Patrick White novel. (btw, thanks for that thread re: favorite bookstores, it could come in handy).

So, FIVE of YOUR personal FAVORITE AUSTRALIAN books, please!!! (thank you in advance).

Jan 21, 2008, 8:37am

thanks, amandameale, I'm going to be interested to see which Patrick White titles show up. . . I have the Grenville and Woolfe. . .

Jan 21, 2008, 9:01am

Dirt Music by Tim Winton
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough
-lightweight, I know, but enjoyable

Edited: Jan 21, 2008, 10:45pm

Hey, I'm new to this group, thought I might add my 5 books. As a teenage reader, my 5 favourite Australian books are;

1. Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden (and the rest of the series!)

I love this book because of it's lengthy descriptions of life on the land in more recent times. And it's all so... believable.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This was an interesting book, not really about Australia though. That wasn't a very good recommendation. Sorry! Great book though, so it stays there.

3. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Now this is a great book, based on the disappearance of several school girls and a teacher at the well known landmark, Hanging Rock.

4. My Brother Jack by George Johnston

I only just finished reading this for the first time today and already I am suggesting it! It covers the period of time from the end of WWI to the end of WWII. Absolutely brilliant, really, it is.

5. Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

This is a children's book and it is beautiful! You must read this, it's hilarious! And on that note, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs is the most well loved Australian children's book... they're so cute!

I LOVE all of these. Brilliant books...

Jan 22, 2008, 7:51am

#4 and #5 I like your choices

Jan 24, 2008, 5:02am

A hard task . . .

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail and The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

Liked both of these for similar reasons. Very Australian in language and setting, and a brilliant story as well.

Anything by Tim Winton. But if I have to pick one - Cloudstreet.

He is just a wonderful author and really captures the essence of Australian-ness.

Then there is Rodney Hall. Imo The Yandilli Trilogy beats The Secret River hands down.

And one of my personal favourites is Marion Halligan. Although I loved all her books, my pick would probably be for Lover's Knots.

Hope you enjoy your time in Australia and can fit in lots of reading!

Jan 24, 2008, 6:59am

I'm not an Australian either but I been served by innumerable Australians in the bars of Britain*, and watched "Neighbours"** since the beginning.

I don't think this entitles me to any new recommendations but I will second - Eucalyptus, a truly brilliant novel; The Yandilli Trilogy, Hall is a much under-rated novelists; and Voss - most of White's work is worth searching out though.***

* Australians always tell you that Australia is the best country ever but they always tell you it after they fled from the boredom, and are having a great time in the UK. Why?
** still not as good as "A Country Practice" though.
***listening to "The Book Show" there was a program last year about Patrick White disappearing from the mainstream of Australian literature. Is this true?

Jan 24, 2008, 7:42am

>8 judylou: & 9 I have fingered Eucalyptus a few times in the past, but have always hesitated because the feedback I kept getting at the bookstore (from those coming into it) was negative. So what's that all about?

>8 judylou: thanks, I think I might have an arc of The Dressmaker around.

>9 Jargoneer: what does "disappearing from the mainstream of Australian literature" mean? He's writing about something else or he's writing something else (maybe science fiction?:-) or his books are in danger of being forgotten . . .

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 6:15pm

>9 Jargoneer: Australians always tell you that Australia is the best country ever but they always tell you it after they fled from the boredom

Yeah, I guess the perfect weather, pristine beaches, fantastic wine, friendly people, etc. etc. can get a little dull after a while. A place like Birmingham, for example, at this time of year must be so much more exciting?! ;) (just kidding, actually I'm English but grew up in Aus. As for 'Neighbours' or 'A Country Practice' tho'.... eeek! ;P)

Jan 24, 2008, 5:23pm

>10 avaland: avaland ~ Patrick White died in 1990. I think "disappearing from the mainstream of Australian literature" means his work probably is no longer on the high school curriculum here. We were made to read Voss at school and I didn't care for it much. I must try reading it again someday.

Edited: Jan 25, 2008, 8:44am

jargoneer, avaland, etc: In the past couple of years it has become fashionable, among certain media people, to describe Patrick White's works as "unreadable." These people are usually radio or TV personalities with some credibility but not in the area of literature. I think it all started when his former literary agent released an unpublished novel by White and some drafts of other novels. I don't think White was ever in the mainstream, if that equates with literature bought by the average reader.
Nevertheless, I can tell you that Patrick White stands alone as our finest novelist and was a worthy Nobel laureate.

*jargoneer: Australians in British pubs. I'm surprised they have anything good to say about Australia. Different strokes for different folks - I like it here.

Jan 25, 2008, 9:09am

judylou#8: you've piqued my interest with The Yantilli Trilogy and have managed to locate a secondhand copy on ABE. (It's not expensive so I won't pursue you for a refund if it's disappointing!)

Jan 25, 2008, 9:40am

amandameale, I like it there too! In fact, if I had to choose a place where I would REALLY like to live, that would be Sydney.

Jan 25, 2008, 10:30am


Got more to do with our being a bit more adventurous than the average brit who thinks going on a 1 hour trip is a long way away and a bit scary. ;-)

Probably also something to do with the youth work exchange laws, too, I'd imagine. :)

You want some older school, given you are delving into The Fatal Shore how about :-

For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke for the convict experience.
Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood = classic Australian bushranging doesn't pay novel

The Complete Henry Lawson and the Complete Banjo Paterson wouldn't hurt, either, to throw some story collections and poetry in, or selections of. A lot of which you will find at Project Gutenberg Australia and elsewhere if you just want a quick look.

and if you'd like some women

Lady Bridget in the Never-Never Land by Rosa Praed - a stubborn class and race nationality marriage story

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin shouldn't need much explanation.

Jan 25, 2008, 4:26pm

aha! I have the complete Banjo Patterson (thanks to a wonderful Australian LTer, who shall remain nameless) and have actually read it!

Edited: Jan 27, 2008, 12:51pm

Here is what the Insight City Guide to Sydney recommends I read:

Aboriginal Australia:: Archeology of the Dreaming by Josephine Flood, Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia edited by Peter Sutton, and The Whispering in our Hearts by Henry Reynolds.

History: The Fatal Shore, The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery, The Great Shame by Thomas Keneally, Manning Clark's History of Australia, and 1788 by Watkin Tench, edited by Tim Flannery.

Fiction: The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe, Cliff Hardy series by Peter Corris, For Love Alone by Christina Stead, Foveaux by Kyle Tennant, A Harp in the South by Ruth Park, Illywhacker by Peter Carey, Jonah by Louis Stone, Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey, Poor Man's Orange by Ruth Park, The Service of the Clouds by Delia Falconer, Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead, The Vivisector by Patrick White.

Jan 25, 2008, 7:04pm

I actually have one of those Cliff Hardy novels at the moment. Seems fairly generic.

For Australianness I'd say Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan books are considerably better, and better written too.

Not set in Sydney, though. :)

Jan 25, 2008, 9:15pm

I do believe the guide called these books "general interest: but I'm guessing from some of the titles that at least a few of them are set in Sydney.

I'm guessing this list is not very up-to-date? It's been quite a few years since I read Oscar and Lucinda, but wouldn't The True History of the Kelly Gang likely be more recommended these days?

Jan 25, 2008, 10:08pm

avaland, the Ruth Park's (The harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange) might be of interest. I liked them.

Jan 26, 2008, 12:53am

>14 hazelk: hazelk

visions of being followed around the streets by an unhappy hazel . . . . . . . . hope you like it !!!!

Edited: Jan 27, 2008, 1:09am

Some of my favourite Australian books were the ones I read as a child. Particularly the ones written many years ago which show Australia as it was in the early 20th century. A lot of what was written then has influenced later Australian ideas of identity and culture.

For a brief intro into classic Australian children's literature I would start with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs which also has some beautiful illustrations. It's a series of tales about 2 gumnut children and has beautiful pictures of different Australian plants as people like the terrifying banksia men.

Next I would read some books like The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and The Muddle-Headed Wombat by Ruth Park. Both are beautifully illustrated children's stories from respected Australian authors.

While we're talking about Ruth Park, I would also recommend her book Playing Beatie Bow which is set in the Rocks area of Sydney. A young girl travels back to the Sydney of the late 1800s. It is one of the few books I was made to read for school that I actually enjoyed.

I only have 1 more book left in my quota so I'll use it up with a series of fifteen books - The Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce. I loved these books as a child....and I am still scouring second hand bookshops to find the last 2 books in the series! It's sort of like an Australian version of Anne of Green Gables set just before and after WWI. Having said that, Norah Linton, the books' heroine, is not as much a Pollyanna character as Anne. It's set on a rural cattle station in Victoria and chronicles all the fun and freedom as well as danger of living in such a remote place at that time.

Well, there are my five recommendations, just to offset all the other more literary stuff others have suggested. I quite like all that literary stuff, but I always think that variety is the spice of life!

Jan 27, 2008, 8:22am

Yes, I'd agree with Playing Beatie Bow and the Ruth Park novels for a feeling of Australia. Also Coonardoo by Katherine Susannah Prichard. For non-fiction I would look at The Fatal Shore.

Jan 27, 2008, 8:37am

I'm lucky enough to live not far from the Norman Lindsay Gallery, and count many of the books already recommended as favourites, but one book that I found inspiring many years ago was A B Facey's A Fortunate Life and the other that I enjoyed purely because it's setting reminded me of my grandparents' home was Judy Nunn's Beneath the Southern Cross.

Edited: Feb 8, 2008, 12:51am

A Fortunate Life - It's so danged Australian, sums up the stereotype Aussie experience of my parent's and grandparent's generation without killing it and also a good yarn
Looking for Allibrandi - The new Australian experience for my generation, of coming to terms with the multicultural environment of Australia.
The Gentleman's Garden - A historical novel set in colonial Australia, deliberately paralleling Jane Austen's style, with just a touch of Dickens thrown in.
Tomorrow, When the War Began - Australian alternate reality, showing Aussies as they'd like to think they'd act in the same situation.
For the Term of His Natural Life - simply required reading for Australian history. It helps understand a large part of the Australian psyche.

Edited to add - I deliberately left out fantasy/sf written by Australian authors or about Australia, because it seemed outside the scope. Good examples of Ausfantasy are by Sarah Douglas, Traci Harding, Catherine Jinks and others.

27Reynaud First Message
Feb 8, 2008, 5:42am

This thread makes me realise the comparitive small number of Australian books that I've read. Among those, these have been the most enjoyable novels from Australian authors for me:

Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy
He Died with a Felafel in His Hand by John Birmingham
Smoky Joe's Cafe by Bryce Courtenay
They're a Weird Mob by Nino Culotta
Winter Close by Hugh Mackay

Feb 10, 2008, 9:40pm

27 - I know what you mean, Reynaud. I realised that I read very little Australian writing, and even the Australian writing that I read is not usually based in an Australian setting.

Oh, and a couple more Australian books - The White Earth and Underground by Andrew McGahan, and On the Beach by Neville Shute (although it's now a little outdated).

Edited: Feb 11, 2008, 2:41am

And don't forget Kerry Greenwood's Phryne fisher series for a take on Australia in 1920s.

I loved the Mary Grant Bruce Billabong books when I was a child too; Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and The Harp in the South are great recommendations IMHO.

ETA:My latest Australian acquisition is Carpentaria but I haven't read that yet so I am not sure whether it should be recommended.

Feb 12, 2008, 4:38am

No one has mentioned Henry Handel Richardson's trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony which has to be one of the most cautionary tales ever written -- "be careful what you wish for". It's an extraordinary story set during the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850's into the bust of the '70s.
I'm a fan, too, of George Johnston's My Brother Jack.
Janette Turner Hospital's creepy story in The Last Magician gives a wonderful depiction of the rain forest near her home of Brisbane, Queensland.

None of these would be considered "picture postcard" views of Australia, but they do contain depth and colour.

Feb 13, 2008, 5:43am

In the last 6 months I've read
Voss by Patrick White,
The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead,
Carpentaria by Alexis Wright,
The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald, The Secret River by Kate Grenville
The Silver Donkey, The Ghost's Child, and Of a Boy or What the Birds See by Sonya Hartnett, the last novel is very evocative of suburban Melbourne, and is quite gothic.

Previous favourites:
Shearer's Motel by Roger McDonald: about the author working as a shearer's cook, non-fiction.
Road to Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
Subhuman Redneck Poems by Les Murray
Every Move You Make by David Malouf; the first story is a beautiful coming of age tale of a young man on his first pig hunt (of all things). Perfect scene setting in the Australian bush. This is real outback Australia. Surprisingly sensitive about Aussie male masculinity, and the outsider.

I've heard "Dancing on Coral" by Glenda Adams is good.

Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres is about a dog's adventures in outback Western Australia, with miners and the locals.

Feb 13, 2008, 11:52am

merry10, I read Dancing on Coral many years ago, and liked it, even though not as much as The Secret River or Lantana Lane, or My brilliant career, I must admit.

Feb 13, 2008, 12:10pm

(Caveat: I'm also not Australian. I did spend a semester at the Univ. of Sydney studying Australian literature.)

Charades by Janette Turner Hospital (an Australian who's lived everywhere else!) (I also love her story collections Isobars and Dislocations)

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute (is it OK that he's a Brit who adopted Australia?)

Amy's Children by Olga Masters (erroneously touchstoning to Alcott, of all people!)

Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park

The Three Miss Kings by Ada Cambridge.

A couple of other comments: I think Patrick White is too sophisticated for most high school students. I wasn't even ready for him in college! I plan to re-read some of his novels to see if I can get more out of them now that I'm a bit (!) older.

Oh, and I can't help saying this: I HATE My Brilliant Career. I read it twice to make sure, and yes, indeed, I hated it. Yet... I'm still tempted to read her other stuff. Go figure!

Feb 13, 2008, 12:49pm

amysisson, it is a matter of taste! What if everybody liked the same books?? BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feb 13, 2008, 12:54pm

Oh, I totally agree. And obviously, there IS something compelling about her writing or I wouldn't be interested in pursuing it further. ;-)

Feb 14, 2008, 3:12pm

WillSteed, I wouldn't call SF&F 'out of the scope'; I've read at least three Greg Egan novels and all of Margo Lanagan's collections; and bought my daughter all the Sara Douglass Wayfarer Redemption books before they were available over here:-)

It is amazing that despite their fantastical settings, Lanagan's stories have a certain Australian 'feel' that even I recognize.

I agree The White Earth by Andrew McGahan is a terrific book.

I was recently given a terrific book by a wonderful Aussie LTer. It's called Australian Classics by Janet Gleeson-White. I took it to lunch with me today and promptly read all the entries on women authors first, then continued starting thereafter with Patrick White. I even got to revisit books I've already read. It really is a terrific book.

Feb 20, 2008, 1:02am

36 - That's cool, I wasn't sure whether they'd be appropriate becasue they don't really deal with Australia, as such. I can't believe I didn't mention Margo Lanagan. She's very good.

One of the most popular things to come out of Australia at the moment is the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. They're not literature by any means, rather they're traditional good-vs-evil junior fiction high fantasy. Quite pulpy, but a lot of fun to read.

Feb 23, 2008, 3:17am

Illywhacker, Peter Carey (or perhaps Oscar and Lucinda)
Monkey grip, Helen Garner
Three Dollars, Elliot Perlman
Lantana Lane, Eleanor Dark
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, Fergus Hume

They're not necessarily my top 5, just good Australian novels whose names I can rememeber at the moment. This year I am going to read more Australian authors, but not Shirley Hazzard, whom I have not forgiven for her loathing of Australians in The Great Fire.

Feb 24, 2008, 10:12pm

My five have probably been given to you already. What a wonderful selection to coose from.

I do recommend Mary Durack's Kings in Grass Castles and other books.

Feb 25, 2008, 4:18am

I'm being selective with my 5, I'll post the other 3 later (when I think of them :-)
2 that come to mind are
The Butterfly Man A book set in Tasmania, that is wonderful. Evocative of that little Island and a true Australian feel to it.
Four Fires This is very typical of my mother and fathers experiences growing up in country victoria in the 1950s. The bushfire fought in the climax to the story has family significance - my scottish immigrant grandfather went out with the other men to fight it much to grans disgust, she realised before he went out that he could have died in that fire and would recall, many years later, in great detail, how shaken he was by the experience.

Feb 25, 2008, 6:06am

Definitely The Secret River by Kate Grenville. Interesting historic facts amid an easily read book.
I've just read Three Dog Night by Peter Godsworthy which I much enjoyed.
The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan
Oyster by Jeanette Turner Hospital
Down Under by Bill Bryson (I think it's called In a sunburned country in the US. I recommend reading this, especially if you came to Australia from overseas and have been here for a while. I seriously laughed tears at some of his stories. Not sure how true they are, but they sure are funny.

Edited: Feb 25, 2008, 5:08pm

I think everything I want to suggest has been already, but as that's within the rules I'll add my take. I recommend:

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park, which was I had to read in school and (surprisingly) enjoyed.

An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton. I found myself able to relate to this a lot more than I did to Cloudstreet. (Being from the same part of Australia, I had to read a lot of Winton's books at school - in fact one of my English teachers had previously taught him and appears (under a different name, but hilariously recognisable!) in Lockie Leonard Legend.

The Hand of Glory by Sophie Masson. An alternative-historical-fantasy aimed at teenagers, set during the gold rush with Western Australia as a French colony, and some Basque mythology thrown in for good measure. I loved it.

The Shark Net by Robert Drewe. Not necessarily an easy read, but a wonderful portrait of my home town (is nepotism allowed?)

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. I just loved this as a teenager, probably because it was the first girly teenage fiction I'd ever read that was so strongly Australian - it made such a refreshing change from reading American books.

And if I can just sneak one more in, I'd recommend anything by Colin Thiele, especially Sun on the Stubble.

WillSteed/avaland: I haven't read a lot of Australian fantasy, but I really enjoyed Dave Luckett's Tenebran trilogy (which isn't particularly Australian) and The Stone Mage and the Sea by Sean Williams (which is) - I haven't read the rest of that trilogy yet.

Hope that helps!

Feb 28, 2008, 6:51am

Oh! How could I forget Colin Thiele. For some reason Jodie's Journey really grabbed me at primary school and I must have read it 50 times. I had it out almost constantly from the school library.

Mar 1, 2008, 8:01am

I loved Blue Fin by Colin Thiele. I remember when it arrived at my Primary School library, brand new and beautiful.

Mar 3, 2008, 12:35am

Not forgetting storm boy also by Colin Thiele.
There is another one about a bushfire that I read as a school girl, very good, but the title escapes me.

Mar 9, 2008, 8:24pm

The reference to Colin Thiele's excellent books reminds me also of one of my favourites, The Salt of Broken Tears by Michael Meehan. In our drought-ridden country this evocative tale set in northwest Victoria in the 1950's is one of the most moving books I have ever read. In a similar way, though with a much damper atmosphere, Peter Temple's The Broken Shore set somewhere along the Victorian coast is spell-binding reading.

Apr 14, 2008, 7:20am

Some more suggestions, maybe not my 5 favourites but some I'd recommend:
Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy is a really exciting classic novel about Australian political history - & The Hard Way is like a 'making of'-it's Hardy's story of being arrested for criminal libel for offending the wrong people by writing about corruption & being in the communist party. It's not quite a novel, but it reads a lot like one.
The House that was Eureka is a YA novel about anti-eviction riots in Sydney in the Great Depression.
Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas is wonderfully disturbing: though most of it's not set in Europe, it's a very Greek-Australian perspective on Europe & its haunting. His earlier novel, Loaded, is angry-young-gay-greek-man in Melbourne, is also really good.
That's five, but if I can sneak in another book, I'd recommend the short stories of Gillian Mears - they're some of the most evocative of rural Australia that I've read.

May 12, 2008, 12:23am

What a fantastic thread. I tried to just scan quickly to the bottom so I could list my 5 books but i kept getting caught reading everyone else's posts.

Taste is a funny thing. I would steer clear of Eucalyptus (see my review of it on its page to see what I think of it in detail). I see Playing Beatie Bow got a guernsey, I hate this book, but I am a boy and I 'did it' in year 9 English where I was further scarred by having to sit through the movie as well and then got told by my English teacher (in front of the class) that I "thought I was better than everyone else" because I said it was corny and had a really weak ending. It is not Ruth Park's fault that my Yr 9 English teacher was a small minded moron of course but it has forever tainted the book for me.

Illywhacker definitely is on my list. It is sort of a surrealist's Tree of man, which is also on the list as an epic telling of the one of the major foundation stories in Australian folklore. (voss is another really good Patrick White book and has a much higher body count than tree of man (although that is not really that you are likely to be looking for in a patrick white but one of his is enough for any list). I think that Oscar and Lucinda should be there too actually. My Brother Jack and My Brilliant Career cover Australian history pretty nicely.

So there is 5. The trouble is they are all pretty white aren't they. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright would add an aboriginal side to the story although it is pretty hard work and while it flies high at some points I think it struggles to be as consistently good as some of those others. I am at a bit of a loss to think of any novels of the (non-Anglo-Irish) immigrant experience in Australia except for unpolished gem by Alice Pung which I really enjoyed and from which I learned heaps. I would recommend reading it in fact, even at the expense of one of the ones on the list, just for the sake of broadening the subject matter, even though it is never going to be the "classic" that they are. Actually it is more a memoir than a novel.

May 13, 2008, 9:25am

#46 And I liked very much Stormy Weather by Michael Meehan. I wonder when he'll write another novel?

May 14, 2008, 1:33pm

#49 I just read the Amazon book description for Stormy Weather and I will definitely add it to my TBR list. It says it takes place "in the course of a day of interminable rain" - how refreshing!! But I could see from the description that even out in the wide open spaces, a close group of people can become claustrophobic with interesting dramatic results. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look forward to it.

Edited: Jun 23, 2008, 9:44pm

Five favourite books, what a limitation.
"Seven Little Australians", by Ethel Turner, and of course her other books. In the same way that those who don't like "Little Women" love What Katy Did" there is a divide between the children of Misrule, the home of 7 little Australians and the Billabong folks. But both are worth reading since they cover different time periods.
"Come in Spinner" by Dymphna Cusack for life in Sydney during WW2.
Caddie introduced by Dymphna Cusack the life of a Sydney barmaid, is autobiographical, and is a real depiction of the Australian character.
"Ride on Stranger" by Kylie Tennant similar content to My Brilliant Career, but without the expectations of being great.
The Australian Year Book put out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The 2001 edition is the centenary of federation edition. Each of the year books have some essays which highlight some of the issues of the previous years. It's worth sitting down in a library and going through just reading the essays and introductions to the various sections.

May 22, 2008, 8:02am

So what's with Eucalyptus? I once had the book, picked it up used but then after hearing some negative comments, I let it go. Since I've been on LT, I've heard some passionate comments for and some pretty tepid comments. I seldom go to a book's review page because of spoilers and because I don't want those reviews to taint my reading, so I'm basing this on comments in posts. I did just pick up a collection of short fiction by Bail, though.

May 23, 2008, 12:13am

Five favourite books for me:
Salt Rain by Sarah Armstrong
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
Eucalyptus by Murray Bail
Deadly Unna? by Phillip Gwynne
The Running Man by Michael Gerard Bauer

Margo Lanagan's writing is unique. She would be my favourite.

May 23, 2008, 8:54am

avaland, I am one of the ones who enjoyed Eucalyptus. But you won't know if you do unless you read it :)!

camelspit, an excellent selection.

May 28, 2008, 9:03am

what a tease! too bad I wasn't going to get down to the Melbourne area:-)

May 28, 2008, 7:32pm

Regarding the Colin Thiele book about the bushfire, it might be Jodie's Journey (the one I mentioned earlier). It's about a girl who develops juvenile arthritis and she's home sick from school one day when the bushfires hit Adelaide and she heads out to the stables to get her beloved horse out even though she can barely walk.

Edited: May 29, 2008, 3:47am

It sounds like the right plot, I still remember lying on the top bunk bed in the caravan at the coast crying my eyes out while reading the part about trying to save her beloved horse, brings a tear to my eye even now...and a sick feeling when I recall the Canberra bushfires.

Looking For Alibrandi is a wonderful book and Caddie I loved that book.

May 29, 2008, 10:46pm


I had been overseas for 6 weeks at the end of 2002/start of 2003 and when I flew back into Sydney on Jan 19, the first headline I saw was "Canberra's burning!". I was going to relocate there in 3 week's time and I wasn't even sure if the university I would attend was even still standing. What a way to be welcomed home!

May 30, 2008, 3:55pm

I thought Colin Thiele also wrote another book about bushfires, and while googling Thiele to try to find the title I discovered that there's quite a little mini-genre of children's books about bushfires, an idea that I found strange and fascinating but (after a few minutes thought) perfectly natural. Bushfires are a big part of life in Australia, especially for those who grew up in rural areas (like me). I have a very vivid memory from when I was young of a huge headline in the newspaper saying 'NSW BURNS', and I can remember my dad leaving very early on Boxing Day one year to help fight wildfires. I've read a few of the books listed too, like Jodie's Journey and Ivan Southall's Ash Road. This article was quite interesting:

Jun 2, 2008, 10:09am

btw, I wanted to thank you all for contributing to this thread. We are now two months from our 3 week excursion to your wonderful country and are very excited. We are now trying to calculate how many books to take for 23 hours on a plane (well, 2 planes) and which ones because we intend to leave them in Oz:-) (But don't think we won't be taking some back. . .). We will probably not get as much read beforehand as we anticipated, but certainly my TBR pile has increased greatly!

Jun 24, 2008, 7:02am

When I went to Ireland for 6 months I tried to make some impression on the mass of Irish literature. Now this was obviously a fool's quest as there is a lifetime of literature there but it was made worse by my making Ulysses my fourth book (after angela's ashes, The Dubliners and a book of Irish Mythology) and I never got any further than that. I didn't get past the library on that attempt at Ulysses and it took most of the second three months there. Anyway, hopefully avaland will have more luck with their Australian reading. (I have since had another go at Ulysses and managed to get as far as the Lying in Hospital- I can feel another crack at it coming on soon too).
Have a great trip anyway.

Edited: Jun 25, 2008, 7:33am

I know I've already listed my five, but the fact that this year's Miles Franklin Award has just been given to Steven Carroll for The Time We Have Taken reminded me that if you were on a desert island and only had the Miles Franklin winners to read, you would be having a fabulous Australian holiday! More info on Australia's most prestigious literary award at:

Bon voyage!

Aug 28, 2008, 11:02am

Thanks again to all who contributed to my pre-Oz trip TBR pile. I didn't get much Australian lit read ahead of the trip (overcommitted to too many group reads! not to mention school work). I did manage to visit four bookstores during the trip. A used bookshop in North Sydney with Amanda Meale (bought 4 books), a small bookshop called Ariel in The Rocks section of Sydney (on George Street, I think) where I bought two older Kate Grenville's I didn't have. A bookshop in the Todd Mall area of Alice Springs that specialized in Australian books and authors. Didn't buy anything here, was disgusted there was such a lack of women authors in the literary fiction section. And lastly, the gift shop of the Art Museum of NSW where we picked up a book on the Australian Art collection of the museum.

Your books are so expensive! We really could only justify buying titles we knew we couldn't get back in the states.

Aug 28, 2008, 7:33pm

Yes, avaland, books in Australia are ludicrously expensive. It's costly when one is trying to support local independent bookshops, and the postage if ordering from overseas is often exorbitant. To justify the delivery charges some people wait until they have a list of ten books or so before ordering over the net - or they get together with their friends and order en bloc.

People are simply finding ways *not* to buy books locally. It's a real shame.

Sep 7, 2008, 7:18pm

I'm surprised you all haven't started buying from the UK's Book Depository. Of course, the other option would be to become devoted (and frequent) library patrons.

Hm, I've just discovered the new Kate Grenville seems only to be available (at the moment) in Australia. Guess we are going to find out how patient I can be! *struggles to put book out of her mind*

Sep 7, 2008, 10:58pm

Perhaps lots of us Australians *do* buy from the Book Depository, avaland, I don't know, but some of us - particularly in small towns with only one independent bookshop - are trying to buy locally so that we don't lose these shops altogether. I must admit, though, that I have been sorely tempted to start buying from the Book Depository and might have to give in to that temptation soon.

I, and most of my friends, are regular users of our local library, but there are quite a lot of books that are unavailable from that source.

Off to buy the new Kate Grenville now.

Sep 9, 2008, 9:52pm

As a former independent bookseller, I thank you on behalf of all independent booksellers out there - even in Australia. It's a very noble deed if one can afford it.

(actually it was an LT Aussie who told me about the BD...)

Oct 18, 2008, 7:51am

We've got one bookstore in a town of 12000 people (and a newsagent who sells popular stuff). I buy my books to keep the bookstore. I am also a member of the local library, because I can't afford to buy everything I want to read;-)

Oct 19, 2008, 2:29am

you can always get a book via inter-library loan, don't forget that! :)

Oct 19, 2008, 5:36am

My wife is an ex-librarian. When we met, I would buy every book I wanted to read. Now I don't buy unless I **really** want it. I usually have five inter-library requests in at our local library. Way to go!

Oct 21, 2008, 3:57am

Can anyone recommend Robert Drewe's A Cry in the Jungle Bar? I enjoyed the novels mentioned, The Bodysurfers and The Shark Net, and was intrigued by The Drowner, but the cry from the jungle bar sounds darker and more pessimistic than the others.

I hadn't heard of this novel until today. It seems that novelists like Drewe and Rodney Hall go on scribing away in the shadows of the big names like Tim Winton and Elizabeth Jolley.

Oct 21, 2008, 6:03am

Strangely enough (because I haven't read much of my own country's literature), i happen to have read A Cry In the Jungle Bar. I thought that it was pretty good, so did my wife. I haven't read anything else by Drewe, Jolley or Hall, so can't compare it to them. I enjoyed some of Winton's more, but some less.

Jan 4, 2009, 4:29pm

Hi avaland

I'm sorry to hear you had such a negative response to the Todd Mall bookshop. I am the kind of bloke who tends to miss those kind of issues so I will have a look myself this week when I head back to Alice (a frequently visited town for me). I must say, I have a real soft spot for htat bookshop and have bought heaps of books there over the years but it does have the advantage of really standing out from the alternatives (none at all) for the surrounding 2000km in any direction.


Jan 5, 2009, 12:36am

Have a look at the archives of the (Aussie and NZ members only) ANZ LitLovers website (now superceded by our blog for an interesting list of contemporary Oz Lit with some classics as well.
Because there's such a wealth of wonderful Australian writing around, I'm going to recommend just one - My Brother Jack by George Johnston. It was written in 1965 but I think that reading this one (which won our Miles Franklin Award) will give you an insight into the Australian character, sense of humour, history and culture. The story revolves around the lovable larrikin Jack and his introspective brother Davey and how their characters are shaped by WW1 and its effects on their parents. (WW1 had a disproportionate effect here because we sent nearly half a million men at a time when our population was only 5 million. Australia lost a whole generation of its best and brightest with over 60,000 war dead (i.e. more than half the USA's 117,000 dead, from a population of 100 million). This impacted on our economy, politics and culture for decades thereafter.)
Lisa Hill, Melbourne.

Edited: Jan 10, 2009, 8:50am

As I didn't see my personal number one Australian novel in the posts above, I thought I'd throw it in here...

Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook

Mar 8, 2009, 5:34am

I'd have to agree, gunung, with the importance of My brother Jack. This is magnificent story about families, and finding yourself as a young adult as well as having a wonderful sense of place and time. I loved it.

Edited: Mar 20, 2009, 3:15am

I agree! Before I took up residence in Australia 30-odd years ago, My Brother Jack was a book I read that did more to "put me in the picture" than any other. Even after all these years it still resonates. Since then I have been fascinated by how the "Australian character" has been depicted by authors. One of my favourites is the extraordinary Edith Campbell Berry, protagonist in 2 novels, Grand Days and Dark Palace by Frank Moorhouse.

Edited: Mar 20, 2009, 4:28am

Wake in Fright was one I did to death in highschool. Read the book, saw the movie over and over.....
Analysis in class then wrote The Report.
Not sure what was more horrific the story or the process of going through it over and over again!
Very traumatic, I would never have remembered it, but for ....thx petermc!

I guess it has its merits, but be blowed if I can remember them ;-)

ETA New Age bloody open plan highschools, why couldn't we have done something nice and gentle like....Shakespeare !!!!!!!!

Mar 27, 2009, 9:20am

I'd like to nominate two very good Australian books not previously mentioned in this thread:

The Seven Rivers by Douglas Stewart. Stewart was a New Zealand-born poet and fisherman who moved to Australia around 1938. He was the literary editor of The Bulletin for about 20 years. The book is about youth and fishing, and family and pig-hunting, and poets, and snakes.

Australia Twice Traversed by Ernest Giles. Giles may be the most literate or literary of the inland explorers. His published journal is certainly more enjoyable than those of Sturt or Stuart or Leichhardt.

Both books are well-worth reading. Giles is long out of copyright - there should be a free version available.

Mar 31, 2009, 6:59pm

This is TOO hard, but here goes:

Patrick White's VOSS is hard to miss. It combines the mystical with the physical, the spiritual with the cultural in a truly mesmerising way.

Elizabeth's Jolley's THE NEWSPAPER OF CLAREMONT STREET or any by her - her dark wit and acerbic eye captivate me every time. More universal I think than Australian but that shouldn't discount her.

Murray Bail's EUCALYPTUS is a fairy-tale with an Australian twist. Beautifully written.

Thea Astley's DRYLANDS or any by her. She's won more (still I think) Miles Franklin awards than anyone else and deserves wider recognition than she has.

Tim Winton's CLOUDSTREET. Just because there has to have a Winton. (Then again, there should be a Peter Cary as well but I've run out of numbers!).

Do tell us what you decide...

Jun 1, 2009, 8:55pm

I think of myself as belonging to a very small intrepid band who've read Ernest Giles' Australia Twice Traversed. I read it more than 30 years ago and some bits are still fresh in my mind, close to verbatim. Thanks for mentioning it snickersnee

Jun 1, 2009, 11:47pm

Patrick White's TREE OF MAN. Sumner Locke Elliot's EDEN'S LOST. Amy Witting's ISOBEL ON HER WAY TO THE CORNER SHOP. Jessica Anderson's TIRRALIRRA BY THE RIVER. Peter Carey's OSCAR AND LUCINDA. And lots of other stuff, but you said five... ;)

Jun 2, 2009, 5:13am

>80 snickersnee:, 82. I'm part way through Ludwig Leichhardt's Journal of an overland expedition in Australia and I have Ernest Giles Australia Twice Traversed on the shelf, based on your recommendations I'm looking forward to reading that one. Thanks

Jun 23, 2009, 11:15pm

Too many Aussie books I love - but first 5 that come to mind as faves:

'The Orchard' Drusilla Modjeska
'The Children' Charlotte Wood
'The Slap' Christos Tsolkas
'The Time we have Taken' Steve Carroll
'Power without Glory' Frank Hardy

Jul 18, 2009, 1:41pm

An amazing story about a real aussie family.
(Almost Perfect) by ((Kelly Denley)).
I may be slightly biased though

Edited: Jul 19, 2009, 10:10am

Only 5, that's a hard one, but here goes.
Cloud Street - Tim Winton
Gilgamesh - Joan London
Swords and Crowns and Rings - Ruth Park
Australia Felix - Henry Handel Richardson
All the Rivers Run - Nancy Cato

Jul 20, 2009, 9:45pm

I would have to say my favourites would be

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
The Shiralee by D'arcy Niland
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
For the term of his natural life by Marcus Clarke
I read all of these books as a teen, and growing up I also loved The magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

Edited: Jul 20, 2009, 10:58pm

After reading more Aus Lit I'm
Updating my list (but it is getting harder to stick to 5 only):
Sorry by Gail Jones
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Eucalyptus by Murray Bail
The Butterfly Man by Heather Rose
Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay

ETA- I know that you've come and gone now to Aus, avaland and that you have even read Sorry & 2 others on my list but this was such a good idea for a thread, I cant stop :-)

Jul 20, 2009, 11:32pm

KimB, it's getting so hard that I've given up ever contributing to this thread in a meaningful way!

Jul 22, 2009, 8:12am

My 5 are all covered already - except for Fredy Neptune which must be among the greatest Ozlit achievements

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