Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I really, really wish Victoria Hannan hadn’t started Kokomo with a sex scene. The tone of the scene is not representative of the remaining 294 pages, which are insightful, subtle, and wonderfully atmospheric.

On the other hand, maybe that sex scene is exactly representative of the book – that all is not as it appears. The book takes it’s name from the Beach Boys song. Apt, because while we think Kokomo is a song about a tropical island paradise, it is in fact “…not even a real place … Well, it is, but it’s an industrial city in Indiana…” And like the song, the characters in Hannan’s novel appear one way, but their inner lives reveal something quite different – full of complexities, insecurities, desires. Continue reading

Unseen by Jacinta Parsons

Illness is like a natural disaster. In that way, it is simple, because you have little choice but to accept it.

Through my work, I am in contact with many people living with, or caring for others with chronic illness. COVID presents an interesting situation for these people – on one hand, they are under increased pressure because regular support services have stopped or are reduced, and with that comes isolation. On the other, many have told me that now ‘everyone’ is experiencing what they live with every single day – a sense of isolation, having to plan every outing, and being fearful for their health.

Jacinta Parsons’s memoir, Unseen, chronicles her experience with chronic illness. It was published last year, in the middle of the pandemic, and she refers to the ‘groundhog day’ elements of COVID and chronic illness – Continue reading

The Loudness of Unsaid Things by Hilde Hinton

Child characters with troubled attachments? Sign me up.

The Loudness of Unsaid Things by Hilde Hinton won me from the very beginning. We meet seven-year-old Susie, who lives with her dad in Melbourne. Her mum lives in the ‘mind hospital’, where Susie visits her on weekends.

All the times her father had picked her up and … told him that she had a nice visit, even when it wasn’t nice. Because it made it easier for her. It meant she didn’t have to talk about how hard it could be in there. How character building. Continue reading

Revenge by S. L. Lim

When you call your book Revenge: Murder in Three Parts, you’re giving your reader a fair idea of what is to come. And S. L. Lim delivers precisely what the title promises, although this is far from a traditional murder story.

So why read this book when the title is a spoiler? Because the tension, the bitterness, and Lim’s restraint is evident from the very first line (‘I’m the one who’s in charge around here’) – it is strangely compelling to inch toward a known outcome. Continue reading

Loner by Georgina Young

I was only halfway through Loner by Georgina Young when I sent a text message to one of my oldest friends telling her that she had to read it because it was like someone had stolen our uni years and put them in a book. Every word of this delightful novel felt real.

The story is about Lona – she has dropped out of her art course at uni, and while her best friend, Tab, immerses herself in university life, Lona works at Planet Skate on Friday nights and at a supermarket during the week. She has lost her creative direction (and questions whether it ever existed). There’s lots of angst.

It’s not enough to respond to a prompt. It’s not enough to subvert or to push back on the assessment criteria. Not when she relied on the rubric in the first place, to know what she should be pushing back on, to define the trajectory of her small artistic and conceptual rebellions.
Continue reading

Hysteria by Katerina Bryant

‘…the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.’ (H.P. Lovecraft)

Katerina Bryant’s memoir, Hysteria, recounts her search for a diagnosis for chronic illness. Bryant was experiencing seizures, episodes that struck without warning and where she felt disconnected from her body.The seizures left her feeling anxious, exhausted and increasingly fearful of participating in ordinary activities. Continue reading