Things To Look Forward To 

David Gaunt has owned Gleebooks with partner Roger Mackell since 1976.

A willing guinea pig

 - Wednesday, July 02, 2014

I’ve three new and very different books by Australian women, illustrating the diversity and strength of contemporary writing, to recommend.

The first, My Year without Matches, by Clair Dunn, is just out. I’d not imagined that I’d find the subject matter of this memoir as refreshing and challenging as I have. Dunn recounts her experience as a willing guinea pig in a year’s 'Wilderness Studies' project on a 100 acre property near Grafton with a handful of other participants. The physical challenges she describes are as formidable as they are fascinating to read about (eating road kill, skinning trapped wallaby, making fire without matches). But the book crackles and sizzles with the author’s reflections on the inner journey it entailed. It’s the (often painful) honesty of the discovery of her 'internal wilderness' that makes it such compelling reading.

The other two books are not yet published, but both are due in September. Of the first, Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett, I’ll say more next month, but it is a brilliant, profoundly unsettling novel. Hartnett’s capacity for having the worlds of childhood and adults intersect in the most disturbing ways has rarely, if ever, been more powerfully expressed. Don’t miss it.

At the same time, you should catch up with Heat and Light, Ellen van Neerven's debut novel, winner of the David Unaipon Award for unpublished Indigenous writing. This is a three-part fictional journey—two sets of stories book-ending a longer middle section. In the first, Heat introduces us to the Kresinger family, across several generations. The stories, set in both rural and urban locations, are at once discrete and connected, through the compelling presence of Pearl. The middle section, Water, is the longest, and is an oppressive and surreal vision of a people whose very existence is threatened. In the last section, Light, stories of connection and disconnection between and within family and race, challenge and intrigue the reader. This is a fine debut from a very talented writer.