Reviewer: JR

By this author


Books August 25, 2018

The Biographer’s Lover

Ruby J. Murray is the grandniece of Arthur Boyd and she has written an attractive, slender novel about an obscure but very great painter and the young biographer who creates the artist’s posthumous reputation. This is a book where lurid family secrets …

Books August 11, 2018

The Rapids

Sam Twyford-Moore, former director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, has written a weird, garrulous, scattergram of a book about mania and the experience of life at what Saul Bellow once called the speed of intensest thought. So what is The Rapids? …

Books July 28, 2018

Griffith Review 61: Who We Are

The new issue of Griffith Review is about the perennially newsworthy subjects of immigration and multiculturalism, and the lead essay by James Button and Abul Rizvi is essential reading. It offers a concise but clear-eyed account of our nearly …

Books July 07, 2018

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot’s fourth book contains many sweet, darkly beguiling set pieces, which evoke in their way a sense of the beauty that can be seen in nearly anything living or dead. In the opening pages we meet two girls about 11 years old. One of them …

Books June 09, 2018

Traumata

Traumata is about many things. It’s about a dimly recalled sexual assault by a paedophile neighbour. It’s about an absent father, an abusive stepfather and a neglectful mother with what sounds like borderline personality disorder. It’s …

Books April 28, 2018

A Stolen Season

Australia’s contribution to the Second Gulf War has not proved a fertile subject for literary fiction. Of the 75 books nominated for the Miles Franklin Award since 2003 there’s almost nothing about Iraq, Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction. There …

Books April 21, 2018

The Death of Noah Glass

Australian novelist Gail Jones is no great spinner of yarns or master of mood and atmosphere, but she does have a unique feeling for the fascinations of the fragmentary. Her books brim with literary allusions, historical anecdotes, references to scholarly …

Books April 14, 2018

False Claims of Colonial Thieves

In her poem “Simply Yarning”, Charmaine Papertalk Green writes: Yarning is a beautiful conversation / From that moment / That space / That time / Yarning puts us on common ground. Her co-author John Kinsella responds warmly with his own hymn to …

Books March 10, 2018

The Shepherd’s Hut

The Shepherd’s Hut is the outrageous story of a headlong bolt through the remotest outback by a charismatic gun-toting teenager determined to reunite with his girlfriend half a continent away. It’s Winton’s 29th book and the closest thing …

Books February 03, 2018

The Only Story

Julian Barnes is the de facto novelist laureate of the English postwar middle classes. Across his handful of novels and many short-story collections, he has held a mirror to the world of middle managers and provincial bankers, treating their myths and …

Books December 16, 2017

The Years, Months, Days

The Years, Months, Days was awarded the prestigious Lu Xun Literary Prize in 2001 and is among Chinese author Yan Lianke’s most popular novellas. It’s also a weirdly intoxicating book that moves from passages of stark realism to the most …

Books November 25, 2017

Border Districts

It begins, this mesmeric inward spiral of a book, with a digressive turn towards the past: Two months ago, when I first arrived in this township just short of the border, I resolved to guard my eyes, and I could not think of going on with this piece …

Books October 28, 2017

The Passage of Love

Alex Miller is a gifted writer whose most compelling books – Journey to the Stone Country, for example, or Autumn Laing – have a simplicity of vision, an earthiness and poignancy, an integrity and grace few can match. How surprising …

Books October 07, 2017

The Life to Come

Pippa used to be Narelle when she lived up north with her mum. She changed her name the day she turned 18 because she was convinced that no one named Narelle could ever win the Booker. And Pippa desperately wanted to win the Booker. She still does. For …

Books September 23, 2017

The Last Days of Jeanne d’Arc

It begins with the Maid of Orléans, history’s most charismatic female hero, languishing in an English dungeon. Great ladies glide through and brutish guards hurl abuse, but none suspect her secret: the warrior virgin who led an army and changed the …

Books September 16, 2017

Rain Birds

Harriet McKnight’s debut novel is a rather bleak and dispiriting portrait of two women on the verge of nervous breakdowns, and of a world on the verge of environmental catastrophe. Pina Marinelli is a middle-aged woman whose husband has early onset …

Books August 05, 2017

Her

He may have grown up on a wheat and wool farm, but Garry Disher is far from sentimental when it comes to life on the land. His latest novel is about a girl bought for a handful of coins by a villainous scrap man and pressed into a life of drudgery and …

Books July 08, 2017

Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker

The German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker was born in Dresden in 1876 and died in 1907 at the age of 31. She sold only three canvases in her lifetime but is today recognised as an artist of remarkable originality and a crucial link between the radical …

Books June 10, 2017

This Water: Five Tales

The sad news that This Water: Five Tales will be Australian writer Beverley Farmer’s last work of fiction is announced in the first line on the back cover of the book. So it is hard not to read this collection of stories as a kind of testament …

Books May 13, 2017

The Last Garden

The opening sentence of Eva Hornung’s seventh novel, The Last Garden, encapsulates how strange and how mesmerising in her clarity her writing can be: On a mild Nebelung’s afternoon, Matthias Orion, having lived as an exclamation mark in …

Books April 08, 2017

Billy Sing

Ouyang Yu’s fifth novel is a fictionalised retelling of the life of William Edward “Billy” Sing, a Chinese-Australian soldier who achieved fame as a crack-shot sniper at Gallipoli. It’s also a dark and somewhat unhinged work, full of wild diatribes, …