Out of all the hundreds of books published in Australia and New Zealand every year, very few make it into the hands of Northern Hemisphere readers — unless, of course, they've had a huge marketing push and international rights have been sold. This often means we only ever hear about the big-name or prize-winning writers, aka Tim Winton, Peter Carey and Eleanor Catton, instead of promising new authors who perhaps don't have the same kind of commercial backing.
That said, it's been pleasing to see debut novelists Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project), Fiona McFarlane (The Night Guest) and Hannah Kent (Burial Rites) getting lots of attention here in the UK. But what about all the others that never get exposure beyond ANZ shores?
I asked Australian blogger Lisa Hill, from ANZ Lit Lovers, to recommend some authors we should look out for and was delighted when she submitted the post below. Be prepared to extend your wishlist by a dozen new novels!
It's ANZ Literature Month at Reading Matters, and Kim has asked me to come up with a list of 10 debut Australian and New Zealand authors with a promising future. That was easy, because there is a wealth of new talent here in the antipodes, the hard part is whittling the list down a bit. In the end I cheated: I allowed myself nine titles for Australia, because we have six states and two territories, and three for New Zealand because they have two islands. And then I added one more from each country because I couldn't help myself. Here they are, in alphabetical order by author:
I loved this book! Clayton draws on real New Zealand history for his narrative, a gripping tale of Maori resistance at the time of First Contact, set in the lush green landscape and told in the style of the ancient storytellers.
Darkness of the Edge of Town by Jessie Cole
An emotionally gripping tale that shows remarkable maturity for a young writer. A single parent in his forties with a 16-year-old daughter rescues a much younger woman and finds himself in moral peril...
The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr
I was very impressed by this novel, and so were the Miles Franklin Award judges because it's just been long-listed for Australia's most prestigious literary award. Tracy hails from New Zealand, and I interviewed her in Meet a Kiwi Author late last year.
The Peastick Girl by Susan Hancock
As I said in my review of this novel, it takes a while to read this book because on almost every page there is an arresting image, a deftly-expressed insight, or a perceptive commentary about New Zealand life. It’s not a page-turner: it’s a book to savour, to provoke contemplation, to mull over.
Cat and Fiddle by Lesley Jorgensen
I had the pleasure of chatting with Lesley Jorgensen about this stylish debut when I chaired the panel at this year's Stonnington Literary Festival. It's a satire on the Bangladeshi marriage market as it operates in contemporary Britain.
Just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth
This is a cautionary tale for our times: a teenage girl gets into one of those internet relationships while her oblivious mother fights her own demons. The characterisation is highly skilled, and the book will leave you wondering what the future holds for young people today.
The First Week by Margaret Merrilees
The First Week won the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award at the 2012 Adelaide Writers Week: it is gripping. It’s the story of a woman whose quiet life is shattered by the actions of her adult son. Her world is destroyed and her search for meaning in what he has done takes her on a journey of discovery which is painful and confronting. It's just been nominated for the Glenda Adams Prize for New Writing in the NSW Premier's Awards.
The Tower Mill by James Moloney
This is a compelling story about life in Queensland when it was run by corrupt politicians. It's a jolly good read, but it's also a wake-up call to use your vote wisely...
A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson
It may surprise some that I've included this because I am not at all keen on dystopian fiction. But the character of Caddy got under my skin, and the book was nominated for the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction.
The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs
Historical fiction featuring the Etrsucans and their oppressors, the Romans. Etruscan women had much more freedom than Roman women did, so Storrs has been able to create a strong female character without any loss of credibility.
Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba
Not an easy read, but a powerful one. Written by a South Sudanese refugee who narrowly escaped this fate himself, it's the story of Obinna, a boy soldier recruited into a rebel army in South Sudan. He is forced to prove his manhood by committing atrocities in order to survive. Unputdownable.
The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson
This unforgettable novel fictionalises a raw episode in early Tasmanian history; it won the 2011 Australian/Vogel Literary Award and was nominated for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award Fiction prize in the same year.
There are so many more great debut authors that I could have included here — but they're easy enough to find on my blog. Just click the Debut Australian Fiction tag or the Kiwi one, and follow the links to my reviews.
Thanks, Lisa, for composing this wonderful list — my wishlist has now grown by, ummm, 12 novels! The good news is that almost all of these books are available as Kindle editions here in the UK, and two or three are also available to purchase as paperbacks.
Has anyone read any of these books? Or can you suggest other debut novelists from Australia and New Zealand worth looking out for?