Reviewer: Maria Takolander

By this author


Culture August 14, 2021

The Chloroformist

Anaesthetists are mysterious creatures. It’s in part because of how they disappear in our memories, undoubtedly owing to the oblivion they administer at our bedsides. When we wake up, they’re always gone; only the surgeon is there to answer for what …

Culture June 05, 2021

A Matter of Death and Life

Anyone in a happy marriage – perhaps even more so in an unhappy one – ponders the prospect of their spouse dying. A Matter of Death and Life, co-written by a happily married couple who are coming to the end of their lives, is an extraordinary …

Culture March 20, 2021

The Soul of a Woman

I had my blood pressure taken recently, something that happens more frequently when you reach middle age. I normally have low blood pressure – to the extent that I sometimes have problems with light-headedness – so my GP was surprised by a reading …

Culture February 13, 2021

Minarets 11

Minarets is a New Zealand/Aotearoa-based journal dedicated to the publication of poetry from the Pacific region – “while sea-levels still permit”, as the journal qualifies. This latest issue is guest edited by the Australian poet Pam Brown, …

Culture November 21, 2020

The Fifth Season

When I first started reading Philip Salom’s latest novel, The Fifth Season, I thought I was in for a real treat. The set-up is engagingly noirish. Jack, a writer, moves into a holiday rental at the end of summer, with plans to write a book …

Culture October 03, 2020

The Mother Fault

The Mother Fault, Kate Mildenhall’s second novel, is a cli-fi dystopian thriller with a distinctively maternal twist. The novel envisions a totalitarian future for Australia, in which the population is microchipped with geo-locaters, a gamified …

Culture August 29, 2020

Summer

With Summer, the conclusion to the seasonal quartet of novels that began with Autumn in 2017, the Scottish author Ali Smith has completed her extraordinary goal of writing four novels in four years. Smith wrote each of the novels in …

Culture August 15, 2020

Overland, #238

Midnight Oil introduced me to radical politics in the 1980s. Their lyrics opened my eyes to how the world and its problems were greater than my teenage narcissism had allowed. By the time I was studying literature at university, my journal of choice was …

Culture May 30, 2020

Throat

It seems hard to believe that Ellen van Neerven’s debut poetry book, Comfort Food, was only published in 2016, given the remarkable evolution we see in Throat, the second collection from the young Mununjali Yugambeh poet. While the …

Culture May 23, 2020

Hurricane Season

Fernanda Melchor is a young Mexican novelist and journalist whose work has been generating some excitement. The award-winning Hurricane Season is her second novel but the first to be translated into English (superbly by Sophie Hughes). Presenting …

Culture May 02, 2020

Ghost Species

While we are all currently distracted by the threat of Covid-19, the environmental crisis remains front and centre in James Bradley’s new novel, Ghost Species. Earth is “past the tipping point” and entering a phase called “the Melt”. …

Culture April 04, 2020

The Animals in That Country

The Animals in That Country, the debut novel of Laura Jean McKay, has certainly hit the jackpot for timeliness. The novel is about a virus that sweeps through Australia, leading to government lockdowns and generating widespread hysteria. That …

Culture February 01, 2020

Lost Words

Lost Words is an unusual book, bringing together text fragments by the French–Australian writer Xavier Hennekinne and drawings by the Australian artist Phil Day. Unlike in a picture book or graphic novel, the text and images relate to one another …

Culture December 21, 2019

Best books of 2019 #1

When it comes to Australian literature, I have already raved about Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend, but Carrie Tiffany’s Exploded View is shockingly good. It’s the kind of book that has an uncanny somatic legacy; …

Culture November 30, 2019

We Refugees

The problems of the world have become so urgent that it seems we have finally moved beyond tired arguments about whether literature should be political or apolitical. Literature and activism now go hand in glove, as evidenced by literary responses to …

Culture November 15, 2019

Field of Poppies

The fiction of Carmel Bird, like that of Angela Carter, is known for its intermingling of fairytale and historical realism. It is also, like the early work of Peter Carey, known for destabilising the patriotic fantasies and brutal realities of Australian …

Culture October 05, 2019

The Weekend

Charlotte Wood’s new novel, The Weekend, is her best work yet. It is also one of the best novels of the year. At the same time – and I do not mean this disparagingly – it struck me as somehow old-fashioned, perhaps in part because of its …

Culture September 14, 2019

The Old Lie

An innovative tradition of First Nations science fiction has emerged around the world in recent decades. While older works in the genre imagined nightmarish scenarios of reverse colonisation featuring invading aliens – think H. G. Wells’ The …

Culture August 31, 2019

First, They Erased Our Name

First, They Erased Our Name is a work of autobiography but also testimony, bearing witness to the plight of the Rohingya, a minority Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar. After a long history of persecution, their mass exodus into Bangladesh in 2017 …

Culture July 20, 2019

From Here On, Monsters

Elizabeth Bryer’s From Here On, Monsters is a genuinely exciting debut from an Australian writer. This novel is playful, allegorical and formally ambitious, qualities that lend it a distinctly international flavour, in the way of Peter Carey’s …

Culture July 06, 2019

The Yield

The past is fraught territory, particularly when it comes to those territorial pasts marked by trauma. How can such histories be explored without proving overwhelming? It is a question raised at the beginning of Tara June Winch’s new novel, The …

Culture June 29, 2019

Hitch

A woman hitchhiking alone through the Australian outback: it is a scenario that has been used as fodder for many horror stories. It is also the scenario of Kathryn Hind’s debut novel, Hitch, which introduces readers to the vulnerable Amelia, …

Culture June 08, 2019

The Subjects

Why are dystopias more popular than utopias? The growing genre of cli-fi, for instance, is almost universally pessimistic, and the TV phenomenon of The Handmaid’s Tale will continue to air its nightmares in a third series. And why, even when …

Culture March 30, 2019

Imminence

Imminence is the title of a newly translated novel from the Argentinian writer Mariana Dimópulos. It is also a word that can allude to, among other things, impending danger or evil. In this tense and deeply unsettling novel, the impending event …

Culture March 16, 2019

The Rip

In Mark Brandi’s new novel The Rip, a homeless, young, female drug addict says to the reader: “I don’t think I could ever make you understand what it’s like for me, unless you could be me for a minute.” Of course, this is precisely …

Culture February 23, 2019

brookings: the noun

Male writers and critics seem more prone than their female counterparts to making claims about each other’s genius. After revisiting Jennifer Maiden’s work for this review, I feel it’s time to buck that trend. Maiden’s work is idiosyncratic, urgent …

Culture February 16, 2019

Imperfect

Thanks to Snapchat and Instagram filters, and cosmetic injectables and other “treatments”, modern standards of beauty are perhaps more standardised than ever. Uneven teeth, lined foreheads, body hair, jowls – you need to look hard to find them, …

Culture February 09, 2019

Green Shadows and Other Poems

Gerald Murnane’s insular, self-reflexive and obsessive style of essayistic fiction has attracted special praise of late. However, while The New York Times may have described him as “the greatest living English-language writer most people …