Terra Nullius – Claire G. Coleman

Terra Nullius was a recent breath of fresh air for me from debut author Claire G. Coleman. Jacky was running, running away from the Settlers, hoping to return home to his family if he could find where home is. This daring escape causes a sense of unrest within the Natives and the Settlers are eager to establish peace as soon as possible. Starting off just how you imagine colonisation was all those years ago when the British first invaded Australia but as the plot progresses the reader discovers not all is what it seems.

 

Terra Nullius was a fascinating work of speculative fiction, strong for a debut novel. This novel really puts the reader in the shoes of the Natives under the control of the brutal Settlers. A very important perspective to take on in current day Australia amidst current political debates (*cough* change the date *cough*). Coleman has managed to write a great, fun, memorable story on a superficial level and has eft some important lessons in there for the reader if they choose to see them, for which I salute her. On both levels I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

 

I found the multiple personalities and enjoyable method of teaching the reader about both the Natives and the Settlers and enjoyed learning about each of the characters. Terra Nullius was fast-paced and immersive, I devoured this one in little over 24 hours and already know I will read it again. This is one I hope to see taught in high school around the country in the years to come as I feel it provides an important insight into our countries history, while being relevant and standing on it’s own as fiction. A great read and one I urge you to pick up asap. I give Terra Nullius four stars.

 

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Every Lie I’ve Ever Told – Rosie Waterline

Every Lie I’ve Ever Told is Rosie Waterland’s second book about her life and experiences. Like most of Australia I fell in love with Rosie’s hilarious recaps of The Bachelor, honestly, making work weeks much more bearable laughing along to her astute and hilarious observations. Ever Lie I’ve Ever Told is a collection of personal essays that each begin with the premise of a falsehood that Rosie has told herself or others. What follows is hilarious and heart-breaking in equal measures.

 

Every Lie I’ve Ever Told is Rosie at her absolute best. I honestly could have read it in a single sitting if I was given ample time. Sadly I did not and had to make do with finishing it in three sittings across two days. This book is laugh out loud funny, embarrassingly so. I honestly was constantly sniggering, probably irritating the hell out of my colleagues when I read it at work during lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the format – particularly the chapter names and reading all her lies. Rosie has a unique talent for blending humour with tragedy and still managing to discuss important social issues.

 

Honestly, the most important thing about this novel is that it opens the dialogue for some incredibly relevant issues. Issues such as the honesty of mental health, how grief works differently in all of us, abusive and dysfunctional relationship, standards towards women and even abortion (echoing Lindy West, who I watched discuss the same issue at writers week earlier this  year). Rosie is so brutally honest like no-one else I have ever read, from fart-sniffing to sexual escapades to mistakes on social media. There is zero pretence, which in a world where we live by social media standards, is such an important gift. To realise we are all a little weird and if you aren’y, you are lying.

 

In this book you will laugh and you will cry. This is a strong second book and I know I’ll eagerly anticipate anything else Rosie swings our way in the future. I would urge you to give this book a go if only to raise you aren’t along in this cray world. I give Every Lie I’ve Ever Told four Polly Pockets, the best toy of our childhood.

 

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Draw Your Weapons – Sarah Sentilles

Draw Your Weapons was a non-fiction novel thrust into my hands on Love Your Bookshop day. Something different to try, I was so glad I went out of my comfort zone. A difficult one to summarise as it is nothing like anything else I have read. A collection of anecdotes, snippets of information about everything from war and violence to art and photography to psychology and theology. This book examines the relationship we have with violence and war and how it interacts with all these mediums and theories about how we relate to it. Plus there are personal stories from the author and her experiences with several people who have travelled these paths.

 

This book was compelling, fascinating and heart-breaking. This book may kill your faith in humanity a little but the content is so important and something we all should consider at some point. You want to race your way through, consume it all at once but also you know that you want to savour it, linger over the concepts, drawing meaning from the words. I will warn you, if you read it your Google history may end up looking a little dodgy. I found myself googling waterboarding, Nazi conspirators and internment camps for the Japanese during WWII, just to name a few.

 

Draw Your Weapons is something that you can read over and over and learn a little more from it each time. As I have mentioned the format is unlike anything else I have read before. The paragraphs may seem random at times but it somehow all works together perfectly. This is an exceptional piece of work, one of the most thought-provoking tinges I have read and I’m so glad it found it’s way into my hands. I know my descriptions don’t really do it justice, it is such a hard book to encapsulate in a few paragraphs but I would urge everyone to pick this one up immediately. I give Draw Your Weapons five bombs ready to blow.

 

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Emma – Jane Austen

The next classic on my pile to tackle is Emma, which I was excited to get into and it had nothing to do with the movie Clueless (jks). Emma is smart, rich and beautiful women. Independent in the limited way women could be back in those times but happily living it up single. Even happier when she could try her hand at matchmaking, with her new friend Harriet her next target. Despite the warnings of her brother-in-law Mr Knightley Emma persists in her plans to disastrous consequences leading to more than a little self-reflection.

 

In the Jane Austen way it took me a long time to get into Emma, to get my head into the language and times and keep all the characters straight. Much longer than it took with Pride and Prejudice, a firm favourite of mine. I do have to say this novel did not capture my heart in the same way that Pride and Prejudice did. Some of the blame possibly lays in the fact I spent the entire time comparing Emma to Clueless (another favourite) and, therefore, was able to anticipate all of the novel’s twists and turns.

 

I found most of the characters to be frivolous or irritating and not in an endearing way either. Mr Knightly was abut the only character I truly cared for and to be honest, Emma was just not as likeable as Cher. I found Mr Woodhouse incredibly tedious, Miss Bates was potentially one of the most irritating characters I have ever encountered. I would tune out every time she spoke. Mr and Mrs Elton were insufferable and Frank Churchill selfish and indulgent. The lack go attachment to the characters inhibited my ability to completely fall in love with the novel.

 

That being said, I still found it very much worth the read and look forward to continuing my plan to read all of Austen’s novels. I give Emma three stars but in all honesty, I’m off to rewatch Clueless.

 

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Days Without End – Sebastian Barry

Days Without End came onto my radar while long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. This novel follows protagonist Thomas McNulty and his best friend and partner in crime John Cole. After forming their friendship under a bush in the pouring rain the two boys are inseparable and find themselves signing up in the US army to fight in the Indian Wars and later the Civil War. What follows are moments of great brutality showing the very worst of humanity and moments of profound love and tenderness. Adopting a young Indian girl along the way the reader wonders how can their happiness survive in such a precarious world.

 

For me this was a fascinating story which I just could not put down. The novel takes the reader to such extremes. The ugly and dark violence of men at war in both the Indian and Civil wars. These times were full of brutality and bloodlust where men caught up in the moment will do anything. Then the reader is privy to moments of peaceful beauty within relationships and the family unit, although a highly unconventional family in those times. I found myself almost too invested in the relationship between Thomas and John Cole. The devotion and love our protagonist help for John Cole was touching. I was almost panicked at the thought of an unhappy ending for the men.

 

I was able to lose myself in Barry’s memorable writing. I did find at times if I wasn’t concentrating properly I would lose the thread of what was going on – so definitely a read you wan to consume yourself in, not a light one in my opinion. I found myself having to reread passages several times to ensure I took in what was going on but ultimately loved the style and tone employed by Barry. In fact there are so many beautiful passages and scenes that I can’t stop thinking about.

 

This truly is a novel of contrasts and in my opinion is well worth picking up. I can definitely understand why this was included on the Man Booker long-list and I hope to see it short-listed in the coming months. Days Without End is full of beautiful prose, tender moments juxtaposed with moments of brutality and violence, which was so dominant in that era. I give Days Without End four donkeys leading our heroes out of danger.

 

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Taboo – Kim Scott

I realised that I haven’t read nearly enough fiction about Indigenous Australians. A few of my earlier reads this year, Where The Trees Were and Storyland, have touched on the theme but I certainly need to read more. Enter the mysterious sounding Taboo. Taboo tells the story of the unspeakable past and of the present returning to the taboo. Of mending old bridges and culture and family. Of resilience and addiction and abuse. The story of the Noongar people living in the present day with ever present spiritual connections that cannot be broken.

 

Taboo is built on a great concept straddling several genres. We see shades of drama, historical fiction and fable just to name a few. The story starts with the all too familiar concept of several wrongs do not make a right: white man does something insensitive, indigenous men retaliate with a crime, white mob massacre any indigenous person they can get their hands on. An all too common and tragic story from Australian history.

 

This is a strong novel dealing with intense themes. It gives an honest depiction of drug and alcohol addiction in our indigenous community, manipulative and charismatic men in power, the importance of family and community and culture. I love that this novel crosses into, not magical realism, but spiritual realism. A window into our indigenous culture that I’m ashamed to say I don’t know enough about. An understanding of the culture and connections to the land. This aspect is not at all overwritten, almost blink and you will miss it.

 

This novel left me wanting more. More knowledge about indigenous Australian culture (recommendations, please). More from Kim Scott, who himself comes from an indigenous heritage and is a two time winner of the Miles Franklin award. A unique and haunting novel and one I would highly recommend, particularly to Australian readers. I give Taboo four skulls, a reminder of the Taboo.

 

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Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

Dark Matter was another quick read for me, started and finished in a day. Jason Dessen is in the throes of middle-age with a wife, son and your average day job until one night is abducted, knocked unconscious and his whole world changes. He wakes up, strapped down to a stranger welcoming him back. Where is he? What happened? The novel is a race to find all the answers before it is too late.

 

Part thriller, part science fiction this is another thought-provoking novel. Are you happy with your life? Would you do anything different? Are there any decisions that changed the course of your life? This book is fast-paced from the get go with the reader thrown in the thick of things straight away. Dark Matter is a great exploration of the multi-verse concept and I very much enjoyed exercising my brain with all the twists and turns that ensued. Just when you think you have the idea nailed down you get another curve ball thrown at you.

 

The writing is compelling with a unique and fun concept. Dark Matter is well worth a read, especially if you are a fan of sci-fi or even if you are someone wanting to dip your toe in the pool for the first time with an easy read. Given this novel dips it’s toes in several genres it is a good one for those starting out. I give Dark Matter four stars and predict if this one turns into a movie Matt Damon will be our Jason.

 

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