Most national newspapers publish a ‘Books of the Year’ in December, and The Australian is no exception. This year journalist Stephen Romel produced a fabulous list of reading from people like J.M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and Janette Turner Hospital (Weekend Australian Review, Dec 17 / 18). What intrigued me was the overlap between these recommendations and those of my colleagues and friends. Stella Clarke (critic) and Helen Attar (Research Librarian) both enjoyed David Vann’s novel Caribou Island (described as “compelling and appalling, Jacobean in its raw depiction of a couple’s intimate cruelties”; a sort of Alaskan version of Yates’ Revolutionary Road.) Sonya Hartnett (author) and Chad Habel (Student Co-ordinator) recommended The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, for its “rollicking, wry” humour and “utterly moving” story. This was nominated for the 2011 Booker Prize, and of course the Booker Prize winner, Julian Barnes, is also being widely read.
From Australian authors, Raimond Gaita (philosopher) and Heather Taylor Johnson (Flinders University) chose Alex Miller’s new novel, Autumn Laing; Heather reviewed this in a recent issue of Transnational Literature (4.1, Nov. 2011). I haven’t heard or read a bad word about this semi-biographical novel, based on Sunday Reed’s relationship with artist Sidney Nolan.
Finally, non-fiction: Peter Craven recommended Robert Hughes’ Rome, and I enjoyed reading this and reviewing it for for Transnational literature (see the first issue in 2012). Hughes is a gifted writer, and anyone who loves Rome will take pleasure from this work on the city’s art and architecture.