Must Reads: Australian Fiction

As mentioned in my last Must Reads, seeing as the majority of recommended books that I came across were either American or UK based, I decided I should do an Aussie one. Especially seeing as I’m Aussie, I figure I should do a list as an Aussie reader. I should really read more Australian based books…

The problem with that list was people speaking about Australian fiction from 2010 isn’t as popular as fiction from everywhere else and a lot of awards and what have you are announced in the next year, mid to late year next year, so instead I’m putting together a list of 15 Australian Novels from before now that have been popular or highly recommended.

As per usual this list isn’t influenced by my personal opinion or tastes, but is a result of me scrounging around on the net and gathering what bloggers and forum posters etc say.

15 Recommendations of Australian Fiction (in no particular order)

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Struggling to rebuild their lives after being touched by disaster, the Pickle family, who’ve inherited a big house called Cloudstreet in a suburb of Perth, take in the God-fearing Lambs as tenants. The Lambs have suffered their own catastrophes, and determined to survive, they open up a grocery on the ground floor. From 1944 to 1964, the shared experiences of the two overpopulated clans — running the gamut from drunkenness, adultery, and death to resurrection, marriage, and birth — bond them to each other and to the bustling, haunted house in ways no one could have anticipated.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

When a man slaps a child who is not his own at a neighborhood barbecue, the act triggers a series of repercussions in the lives of the people who witness the event-causing them to reassess their values, expectations, and desires.

Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden

Six teenagers spend five idyllic days camping in a remote and tranquil beauty spot called Hell. But when they return to their homes they find their families gone, their farms deserted and the animals lying dead in the fields. That’s when they begin to understand the real meaning of hell.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

It begins in the early years of this century when Paddy Cleary moves his wife and seven children to Drogheda, an Australian sheep station, owned by his autocratic and childless older sister. For more than half a century we follow their fates, particularly those of Meggie, the only Cleary daughter, and the one man she truly loves, Ralph de Bricassart – stunningly handsome, ambitious, and a priest. As background to the Cleary family’s lives there is the land itself: relentless in its demands, brilliant in its flowering.

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

The gruff widower Holland has two possessions he cherishes above all others: his sprawling property of eucalyptus trees and his ravishingly beautiful daughter, Ellen. When Ellen turns nineteen Holland makes an announcement: she may marry only the man who can correctly name the species of each of the hundreds of gum trees on his property. Ellen is uninterested in the many suitors who arrive from around the world, until one afternoon she chances on a strange, handsome young man resting under a Coolibah tree. In the days that follow, he spins dozens of tales set in cities, deserts, and faraway countries. As the contest draws to a close, Ellen and the stranger’s meetings become more erotic, the stories more urgent.

Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

On St Valentine’s day in 1900, a party of Australian schoolgirls set off with two schoolmistresses on a picnic to a place called Hanging Rock. Some were never to return. What began as a pleasant and happy day out ended in terror.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

“Eat, Jozzie, eat. Oh, Jozzie, Jozzie. Look at your hair. Why, Jozzie? Why can you not look tidy?” My grandmother says that to me every afternoon. She says it with a painful cry in her voice as if she is dying. I’m not sure if anyone has ever died of the fact that their granddaughter looks untidy, but I’m sure my grandmother will one day because she’ll strain her voice so much she’ll choke.

For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mum, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic private girls’ school where the nuns couldn’t be any stricter. But that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into Josie’s life, including her father!

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian nonna Katia, the no-nonsense wisdom of her mother Cristina, and the boys who continue to


mystify her, Josie is on the ride of her life.

I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall

Alan Marshall’s classic account of his childhood spent on crutches after contracting polio at the age of six is funny, tough, moving, profoundly Australian, yet completely universal – and inspirational in the best sense.

The Boat by Nam Le


In the magnificent opening story, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father’s experiences in Vietnam—and what seems at first a satire of turning one’s life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. “Cartagena” provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In “Meeting Elise,” an aging New York painter mourns his body’s decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees, where a young woman’s bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.

The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

Shaken by a recent scrape with death, his physical and emotional scars still raw, detective Joe Cashin is posted away from the Homicide Squad to the quiet South Australian town where he grew up. But his hometown offers little in the way of a tranquil recovery; Cashin is soon embroiled in a highly publicized murder investigation. Prominent local businessman Charles Bourgoyne was brutally attacked in his own home, and three Aboriginal boys have become the lead suspects. When a shootout erupts between them and Cashin’s team, the truth itself becomes a moving target, and the evidence raises more questions than it answers. As the secrets of the Bourgoyne family begin to unfold, Cashin unravels a web of deceit while confronting his own haunted past.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

Hornung tracks young Romochka’s growth over two difficult years from a four-year-old whelp to a taut, street-smart alpha dog. The boy’s evolution from tolerated outsider to trusted leader of this canine crew is believably portrayed, and Hornung capably draws a tawdry world of trash-pickers, beggars, and occasional friends. As he grows, so does his curiosity about the world of humans he has fled, leading to an inevitable collision when Romochka is captured by a scientist who wants to use him to further his career. Hornung knows how to wring emotion from a scene, making the bond between boy and dog deeply felt, while rarely running afoul of sentimentality.

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.

Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery.

With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu.
And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

For The Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke

The classic novel of convict Australia, For the Term of His Natural Life is a narrative of enormous power, but also great suffering and inhumanity. There is no attempt made to soften the truth of degradation and cruelty of the convict existence, yet the novel is filled with life and peopled with unforgettable characters: Frere, the magnificent barabarian; Sara Purfoy, aglow with colour and vitality, attracting men as moths to light; John Rex, the consummate villain… And woven through the story is the golden thread spun from the faith and hope of Sylvia, the innocent child who loves the luckless Rufus Dawes, condemned to transportation for life for a crime he did not commit.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins. When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle – an experience that leads to the deaths of many. Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result. After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs.

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