Saturday, 25 May 2013


I have been mildly chastised for the recent post about my desert island must-haves. Some readers have complained I haven’t said what the books are about and why I delight in them. Pedants. Must be teachers.  Don’t they trust my enthusiasm? Apparently not. So…sigh…I will oblige, even though it feels like I’m spoon-feeding year 10 students who won’t read a book without first seeing the movie of it. 

At this point I must digress to confess that the latest screen adaption of The Great Gatsby may be the only reason I bring myself to read that book. F. Scott Fitzgerald is on a par with Patrick White, in my estimation.

Now for a quick prĂ©cis of some of the blurbs. The rest, you’ll have to google.

Dirt Music: Georgie is 40, near alcoholic, on the run from her past and living in a relationship of convenience with a widowed fisherman.  A chance meeting with an abalone poacher has her on the run again.  Like all Winton’s writing, this one, too, has forgiveness and redemption at its core.

Oyster: Arriving at an opal mining community, two strangers search for family members who have disappeared. They are drawn into the twin cultures of rough-as guts bushies and religious fundamentalists. But no one wants to talk about the cult messiah, Oyster.

The Playmaker: This story is based on historical fact, and concerns a group of convicts in Sydney Cove in 1789, who stage a performance of ‘The Recruiting Officer’, a comedy by George Farquhar, to honour the King’s birthday. The convicts lives begin to parallel the characters in the play.

The Ancestor Game: Writer, Steven, sets out to discover the mysterious background of his friend, Chinese- Australian artist, Lang Tzu. The mystery links past to present and takes Steven on a journey between Melbourne and Shanghai as he unravels the meaning of family and homeland.

People of the Book: Hannah, a renowned book conservator, travels to Bosnia to work on The Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish prayer book. As she traces its amazing survival she is drawn into the dangerous life of the young librarian who has risked everything to save it from the ruins of the war-torn city.

The Water Boys: Set several decades into the future, the conflict between indiginous and European Australians is about water, not land. Every water source is militantly governed and guarded and there is a fierce, underground war for access. The action alternates between dreamtime, colonial times and present reality. It is eerily prophetic.

I forgot to include The Ballad of Les Darcy in part 1.This is a biography of the famous boxer in the early part of the last century. While it’s not fiction, it is nevertheless fine story-telling and meets my criteria for great Australian writing.

All the titles listed have a powerful sense of place and time, and that sense of poetry in language that makes me as proud as all else of my literary heritage.

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