I know Australian Literature Month has come and gone, but my head is still floating in Oz Lit land. And so I was delighted to discover there's quite a few Australian novels being published in the UK this month. Here's just five to add to your wishlist.
The books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to the author's surname.
Elizabeth Jolley's Mr Scobie's Riddle
W. W. Norton & Co., paperback, 238 pages (February 20)
After an unplanned admission to a nursing home, Mr. Scobie must protect himself and his dreams from the soul-killing proprietress, Matron Price. Playing Brahms and reciting Wordsworth is not enough. Yet his very simple riddle and its ordinary answer may change the institution forever. Can a voice calling for dignity be heard?
Mr Scobie's Riddle, first published in 1983, won the The Age Book of the Year Award in 1983 and the Fiction section of the WA Premier's Prize in the same year. I read and reviewed it in 2010 and found it to be a deliciously dark comedy, akin to Muriel Spark and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
Gail Jones' Five Bells
Vintage, paperback, 224 pages (February 28)
On a radiant day in Sydney, four people converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Each of the four is haunted by secrets from the past: Ellie is preoccupied by her sexual experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China's Cultural Revolution. But it is a fifth person, a child, whose presence at the Quay haunts the day and who will overshadow everything that unfolds. By night-time, when Sydney is drenched in a rainstorm, each life has been transformed.
Elliot Perlman's The Street Sweeper
Faber and Faber, paperback, 576 pages (February 16)
On the crowded streets of New York City there are even more stories than there are people passing each other every day... only some of these stories survive to become history. Lamont Williams, recently released from prison and working as a hospital janitor, strikes up an unlikely friendship with a patient, an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor who starts to tell him of his extraordinary past. Meanwhile Adam Zignelik, the son of a prominent Jewish civil rights lawyer, is facing a personal crisis: almost 40-years-old, his long-term relationship is faltering and his academic career has stalled. It's only when one of his late father's closest friends, the civil rights activist William McCray, suggests a promising research topic that the possibility of some kind of redemption arises.
Dealing with memory, racism and the human capacity for guilt, resilience, heroism, and unexpected kindness, The Street Sweeper spans over fifty years, and ranges from New York to Melbourne, Chicago, Warsaw and Auschwitz, as these two very different paths - Adam's and Lamont's - lead to one greater story.
Kim Scott's That Deadman Dance
Bloomsbury, hardcover, 368 pages (February 28)
Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers. The novel's hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.
But slowly – by design and by accident – things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are "accidents" and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby's Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia...
That Deadman Dance won the Miles Franklin Award in 2011. It is currently available in the UK as a Kindle edition.
Tim Winton's Dirt Music
Picador 40th Anniversary Edition, paperback, 496 pages (February 2)
Georgie Jutland is a mess. Her days have fallen into social isolation and her nights are a blur of vodka. One morning, in the boozy pre-dawn gloom, she sees a shadow lurking on the beach below, and a dangerous new element enters her life. Luther Fox: local poacher, outcast. So begins an unlikely alliance.
Dirt Music, first published in 2001, was an international bestseller. In 2002 it won the Miles Franklin Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It has been repackaged as part of Picador's 40th Anniversary.
Please note that the release dates quoted are for the UK and are subject to change.
Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest? Or that you have read?