Australia is home to some amazing literature. Whether past or present works – thoughts will continue to be provoked, emotions stirred, and hearts challenged. Here are 5 must reads of Australian literature from years past and present, for 2015:
The Man who Loved Children, Christina Stead, 1940
Sam Pollitt is the father, a coruscating picture of Christina Stead’s own, whose sentimentality and narcissism wreak havoc in his family. Stead’s original Sydney setting was transposed to Washington for international publication but this nevertheless remains a startling portrait of an utterly dysfunctional Australian family, its idiosyncrasies and its cruelties.
l Life, Marcus Clarke, 1874
Marcus Clarke’s melodramatic account of convict life through the unjustly transported figure of Richard Devicen (aka Rufs Dawes). It’s a bleak, despairing picture first published in complete form in 1874. The most famous Australian novel of the 19th century remains powerful and confronting.
My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin, 1901
The novel for which Miles Franklin is best known tells the story of the spirited Sybilla Melvyn, a teenage girl at the turn of the century who won’t kowtow to the traditional mores of the times. She wants her independence, she wants to write – what she doesn’t want is to be married off. It’s an early feminist novel energised by its sparky protagonist.
Monkey Grip, Helen Garner, 1977
Helen Garner is these days known more for her non-fiction but her first book, a novel that tooks its inspiration from her own life and diaries of the time, chronicled single parent Nora’s life in a shared house in Fitzroy and her relationship with the drug-addled Javo. It was hugely influential at the time and remains much loved.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan, 2013
Richard Flanagan’s novel about prisoners on the Burma Railway and the flawed doctor who shares their predicament is written with his heart on his sleeve and a compassion that one rarely encounters on the page. It deservedly won the Man Booker prize last year and has won several awards in Australia.