In a recent post, Whispering Gums has listed the results of the Australian Book Review’s poll of the favorite Australian novels. You correctly might ask what right do I have to put together a list of favorite Australian novels? I’ve never been to Australia, probably won’t get there, can’t even remember meeting in person anyone from Australia.
Somehow Australian fiction has become attractive to me. The first great Australian novel I read was “The Man Who Loved Children”. This novel transported me into a world I’d never experienced before. Since then, quite a few Australian novels have done that for me.
My apologies go to Nicki Gemmell, and many other writers whose books I haven’t read yet. I’ve read and enjoyed several novels by both Peter Carey and Kate Grenville, but their novels are surely much too straightforward for Australian fiction. If I wanted to read straight ahead stories where point A always leads directly to point B, I would read, god forbid, English novels. Australian novels are best when they are off the map.
- Patrick White – as a lifetime achievement award, Patrick White gets first place, so that the six novels ‘The Tree of Man’, ‘Riders of the Chariot’, ‘The Solid Mandala’, ‘Voss’, ’The Vivisector’, and ‘The Eye of the Storm’ don’t take up six places on this list. White was perhaps the best novelist ever.
- ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahony’ by Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson) – This is perhaps the one novel that would rank above any individual novel by Patrick White
- “Harp in the South” and “Poor Man’s Orange” by Ruth Park – Life in the Sydney slums with the resilient Darcy family
- ‘The Man who Loved Children’ by Christina Stead – This is a satire; the title is ironic. Randall Jarrell single-handedly reclaimed this novel from obscurity in 1965, and it has taken the acclaimed place it deserves.
- ‘Fredy Neptune’ by Les Murray – A raucous novel in verse. I can’t believe that the Australian Book Review left this book off even their longlist.
- Cloudstreet by Tim Winton – the exhillarating, wild, funny story of the Pickles and the Lambs.
- The Voyage by Murray Bail – An Australian piano designer-manufacturer goes to Austria and romance ensues.
- ‘The Great World’ by David Malouf - Malouf has written several excellent novels, so I will pick one of the more Australian of his works. I’m looking forward to reading ‘Ransom’.
- ‘Tirra Lirra by the River’ by Jessica Anderson – a humorous story of a woman escaping her marriage by going to London
- ‘Three Dollars’ by Elliot Perlman – The Australian Book Review did not mention this novel in their longlist, but they did mention ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’. I must read that book soon, the Perlman novel not the William Empson classic work of literary criticism which I also own.
- ‘The Spare Room’ by Helen Garner – How can someone laugh during cancer therapy? Read this novel, and you will understand.
- ‘Eucalyptus’ by Murray Bail - A humorous fairy tale. Too bad they didn’t make it into a movie, isn’t it, Russell Crowe?
- ‘How the Light Gets In’ by M. J. Hyland – Hyland has the clear-headed quirkiness I like in Australian writing. I hope she doesn’t lose it in London.
- “Gould’s Book of Fish” by Richard Flanagan – The entire history of Tasmania through the eyes of a prisoner.
- “Gilgamesh” by Joan London – An incredible journey from the wilderness of western Australia to the wilderness of Armenia told in a blunt and powerful style.
- “The Watch Tower” – Elizabeth Harrower – the story of a really terrible husband, a domestic horror story.