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

The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall

Is there a sub-genre of dystopian fiction called ‘it-could-happen-within-a-decade-dsytopian-and-that’s-why-it’s-terrifying’? If so, it’s my favourite sub-genre. And we can file The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall there.

Without revealing too much of the story, it’s about a woman named Mim, whose husband Ben is missing. Everyone wants to find Ben, particularly The Department (the all-seeing government body who has fitted the entire population with a universal tracking chip in the palm of their hand to keep them ‘safe’). When Ben can’t be tracked, Mim is questioned; made to surrender her passport and those of their children, Essie and Sam; and is threatened with being taken into ‘care’ at the notorious BestLife (which is essentially a branded detention centre). Mim goes on a risky quest to find Ben. Continue reading

Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna

Afraid I need to retract what I said very recently about being okay with Sofie Laguna telling the same story over and over.

Laguna’s latest novel, Infinite Splendours, sticks to her formula of following the life of a traumatised child. In this case, it is a boy named Lawrence who is groomed and raped by his uncle. The story jumps forward decades, and we revisit Lawrence at different points in his life – at each he is disconnected, struggling to form relationships, and severely damaged. Continue reading

The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

I’ve heard of death dinner parties and coffin clubs, but a support group that talks about death-related anxiety was new to me – welcome to The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey.

The central character is twenty-something Caitlin, who is convinced she’s going to die.

Just over the horizon. Murder. Multiple organ failure. All the days, disappearing.

Caitlin had been living a ‘normal’ adult life – climbing the career ladder and planning travel with her best friend. A car accident left her believing that she was alive by ‘mistake’, and her life quickly unraveled – failed relationships; self-medicating with alcohol; and a ‘dead-end’ job as a waitress. Her weekly meetings with her support group, the Morbids, keeps her afloat. Continue reading

The Dressmakers Secret by Rosalie Ham

There’s always a risk with sequels, particularly when you love the bit that came first. And I enjoyed The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham – her signature blend of rural Australian noir, satire, and the lampooning of small-town politics was good fun. With Ham’s stories, there’s never any doubt as to who the ‘goodies’ and the ‘badies’ are – it’s the book equivalent of a pantomime, where you’re shouting “He’s behind you!”

The Dressmaker’s Secret follows Ham’s formula – there’s a bit of mystery and intrigue; and you know the villains will eventually get their comeuppance. Continue reading

Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

I didn’t need much convincing about the importance of feeling ‘wonder and awe’ when I started reading Julia Baird’s part-memoir-part-essay-collection, Phosphorescence. The book begins with Baird’s experience of ocean swimming. I know the feelings she describes. I know those feelings from the sea. I know those feelings every time I look up at the clouds. I know those feelings when I gaze at the muddy sweep of the Yarra.

Something happens when you dive into a world where clocks don’t tick and inboxes don’t ping. As your arms circle, swing and pull along the edge of a vast ocean, your mind wanders, and you open yourself to awe, to the experience of seeing something astonishing, unfathomable or greater than yourself. Continue reading