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“There is only one genre in fiction, the genre is called book.”

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“You cannot lie down behind your badly made decisions and call them fate or determinism or god.”

Evening clouds, Geilston Bay. August 2021. Everything Under   by Daisy Johnson Remix of the classic Oedipal myth? I found it alienating, abstruse and far too tiring to become absorbed in the story. Far too often I scratched my head wondering "Which character is this now? What timeline is this happening again?" only to sigh and keep going because the whole thing is too dreary and confusing to worry too much about it. For me, the mix of bleak social realism with a neo-classical retelling of a Greek myth just didn't work. The shifting timeline, fragmented storyline and preposterous plotline were more tiresome than energizing. There is a cold and 'deliberate' artifice that never gave me a sense that the author has just relaxed into the story. What we're left with is a self-conscious and turgid mess. ⭐ 1/2

“A hush is a dangerous thing. Silence is solid and dependable, but a hush is expectant, like a pregnant pause; it invites mischief, like a loose thread begging to be pulled.”

Light on the hill, Macquarie Street, Hobart. August 2021. The Keeper of Lost Things   by Ruth Hogan This is not the book for me. I found it cloying, overly sentimental and filled with banal observations and predictable twists. Crikey, I'm bored just thinking back on it. If superficiality is your thing, and you won't bristle at the guileless, dated presentation of developmentally disabled characters and lazy anachronisms in the overused flashbacks, you might find this more bearable than I. ⭐ 1/2

“Maybe we'd all be much more effective communicators if we all shut up more.”

The bins are out, Geilston Bay, August 2021. Boy Swallows Universe   by Trent Dalton After delivering a rather scathing critique of Dalton's last book -  All Our Shimmering Skies  - I am glad that I succumbed to the badgering of my darling wife to give his much-praised debut a chance. She is correct. This is the infinitely superior book. I suspect that this is largely because Dalton is treading more familiar ground. Unlike the new book, there's an authenticity to the place and characters despite the shaggy dog tale that emerges. This is a likeable coming of age tale that will have appeal to anyone with memories of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in 1980s Australia. There's a heart to what could have been a bitter and unpleasant tale. Still, Dalton pulls no punches, and there are no shortage of triggers for anyone who grew up in violent, tumultuous households. I appreciated the sophistication that the author has sensitively explored the concept of how young people

“As you got older and time went on, you realized that the distinction between truth and fiction didn’t really matter because eventually everything disappeared into the soupy, amnesiac mess of history. Personal or political, it made no difference.”

Good morning. Federation Dock, Hobart. August 2021. A God in Ruins   by Kate Atkinson A "companion piece" rather than a sequel to one of my favourite books that I've read this year ( Life After Life . Much like the first book, this one is also experimental in form. Timelines skip backwards and forwards but (largely) avoid the 'parallel realities' that marked the earlier work. The experimentation did not disrupt the experience, and I found that it again afforded Atkinson the power to explore the concept of memory, fiction and imagination. If I didn't quite enjoy it as much as its predecessor, it was due to the presence of the distasteful Viola. Without a doubt, her character is an essential exploration of the intergenerational shift, but I did find her irritating to the point of distraction. There is a fine art to the wilful disruption of chronology that goes some way to explaining Viola's attitude. The resolution of the piece - like  Life After Life  - is

“It takes courage to keep love at the center when you know just as well as anyone else the real state of things! It’s easy to get angry, anyone can do that. It’s making good that’s the hard part, it’s staying hopeful that’s the hard part! It’s staying in love that’s the hard part.”

Sails above. Pier One, Salamanca, Hobart. August 2021. The Years of Rice and Salt   by Kim Stanley Robinson This is an immense book in all sorts of ways. Just shy of 800 pages, it is quite unlike anything that I have ever read before. A sprawling, opulent alternative history novel about human civilisation beginning with a twist that eliminates European influence from events post-1400. We begin with a small detachment of Mongol soldiers stumbling across the fact that nearly all of Europe has been killed by a plague of such magnitude that it has emptied most cities and towns, leaving on a few survivors to scrabble on. From here, we travel through a series of chronologically spaced sections over the next seven centuries on an alternate Earth in which the societies of varying forms of Islam, the vast Chinese empire and other Buddhist states dominate global affairs in the absence of western Christendom. The conceit is fabulous, and in embracing a broad approach to reincarnation, we can foll

“You know,” George said, “when I look in the mirror in the morning I see a miserable old bastard looking back at me. Yet when I see you, I take great comfort, knowing how much progress I have left to make on that same path.”

  Sunrise over the Tasman Bridge. Hobart. August 2021. The Sweetness of Water   by Nathan Harris A terribly sad and decidedly still novel, this is not at all as I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by the light touch that Harris has applied to what is a brutal tale. Set in the south in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, I understood that the book would tackle issues of race and sexuality. Before starting, I was prepared for either an affected and anachronistic (but largely 'worthy') book or one that embraced the usual machismo (with a queer twist). This is neither. It weaves twin narratives quite effortlessly in a quiet way. The weak but thoroughly decent George Walker is at the centre, who anchors the novel to allow the natural exploration of themes not usually found in such books. Reminiscent of Sebastian Barry’s work,  The Sweetness of Water  is a lovely, lyrical novel. Moreover, Harris's fine writing achieves the complex interweaving of the grand and the intima