What We're Reading / August 2022

Take a look at what we’ve read in August – a compelling ode to Sarajevo, a contemplative literary novel, a new voice in Aussie crime, a haunting short story, a middle grade adventure and more!

Time and Tide in Sarajevo by Bronwyn Birdsall

Julia Tsalis, Program Director

time and tide in sarajevo what we're reading august

In Bronwyn Birdsall’s Time and Tide in Sarajevo Evelyn is an Australian woman teaching English to promising high school students, preparing them for an exam which could give them access to a new future. She has immersed herself in the world of Sarajevo, keen to experience life as lived by the locals, mindful of the trauma they have suffered from the war, and of their commitment to building a new future for the country. 

After a young man is killed and his attacker is freed the city erupts in protest. Through her connections, Evelyn is caught up in the unrest and finds her place among her new friends challenged. Over the days of protest, she not only discovers a new sense of herself, but that she is surrounded by a loving and supportive community. This beautifully written and tender novel captures the vibrancy of a city undergoing great change and the way in which our friendships shape and carry us forward.

Time and Tide in Sarajevo, Affirm Press

The Labryinth by Amanda Lohrey 

Rowena Tuziak, Membership & Operations Manager

the labyrinth amanda lohrey

I didn’t expect to be transfixed by such a detailed account of one woman’s mission to build a labyrinth, but Amanda Lohrey’s Miles Franklin Award winning novel, The Labyrinth, is surprising.

Erica has moved to a tiny coastal town to be closer to her artist son who is incarcerated for homicidal negligence. While there, driven by a childhood memory, she obsesses over the building of a labyrinth and, in its construction, the labyrinth becomes a source of focus for others in the town. As hints to the history of these characters are revealed, it is apparent that in building the labyrinth they are attempting to reset the stones laid earlier in their lives. This is a book about obsession, particularly artistic obsession, and its power to both strain and save.

Unlike a maze, labyrinths are designed to be meditative, and this is what reading this novel is like. It isn’t so much the plot that drives the narrative, but a desire to stroll through the labyrinth in a dream state. It is contemplative but not conclusive, leaving you to ponder themes of loss, neglect, impermanence, grief, guilt, intergenerational trauma, and ultimately renewal. It is very much a literary novel, and its joy lies in the dexterity with which Lohrey wields words.

It is impossible to read this book without googling labyrinth designs.

The Labyrinth, Text Publishing

Denizen by James McKenzie Watson

Amy Lovat, Professional Development Officer

Denizen by James McKenzie Watson

This month I read Denizen by debut author James McKenzie Watson, and I was absolutely blown away by his talent as a new writer, and by the story itself.
Denizen won the Penguin Literary Prize in 2021 and was picked up for publication. It follows the story of Parker from the age of nine, through to adulthood when he’s a father himself, told from his perspective. Brought up on a remote farm in western New South Wales with a troubled childhood (and troubled mind), Parker is a character who you don’t always love or understand, but you feel deeply for all the way through. It’s haunting and visceral and so, so emotive. Exploring the stoicism of people in country towns, in outback Australia, and the crippling anxiety of loneliness. Five stars.

Standing in the Cold by Nasrin Mahoutchi-Hosaini 

Isaac Wilcox, Administration and Digital Services Officer

Nasrin Mahoutchi-Hosaini Standing in the Cold

I’ve recently read a short story by Nasrin Mahoutchi-Hosaini called Standing in the Cold.

It’s about – let’s call spoilers here just in case. The story follows Mr Razi, an elderly Iranian gent living in a sleepy neighbourhood. He meets some of his neighbours and weirdness ensues. I say weirdness but oddness would be a better word because oddness pervades the writing, creating a great sense of something just on the edge of vision.

I love this story. It wraps you up, the writing making the world both familiar but also hauntingly unknown. It’s exciting and quite spine tingling. So, it’s a ghost story? I’m hesitant to call it a ghost story because, well, I’m not sure. Part of that elusiveness is what makes it so mesmerising.  

Some of what Mahoutchi-Hosaini deals with is that unsurety of mind. As a migrant writer she recognises that space and works with it, allowing and recognising the way we live within our own heads, and how the world around us can be quite alien to that. She often writes from the perspective of the everyday, sometimes with the sharp staccato of revulsion, or like here, the eerie silent pervasiveness. Not that the writing is bland, far from it, her characters are rich with life. Colours and smells are picked out with a deliberate and painterly hand. It’s just a pleasure to read. She’s recently published a collection of short stories of the same name and is someone to watch out for and cherish.

Standing in the Cold, Ginninderra Press

We Run Tomorrow by Nat Amoore and Mike Barry

Keira Baker, Project and Communications Officer

we run tomorrow nat amoore what we're reading

Nat Amoore’s latest book is part roadtrip adventure, part superhero quest, cleverly interspersed with pages of Mike Barry’s graphic novel-style illustrations.

Sticks, Maki, Jed and Tommy live on the same street. When the adults around them begin to make decisions that threaten tear the friends apart, there’s only one thing they can do – go on the run.

Things aren’t perfect on Lockett street. Stick’s parents are too busy worrying about her older brother, and Maki has to move all the time because of his dad’s work. Jed’s got a prosthetic arm and is stifled by his overprotective parents. Tommy lives with his ageing grandma. After tragedy strikes, the friends discover their favourite comic book series, ‘The Screensavers,’ is being made into a movie, and decide to run away to the Gold Coast to audition.

It’s at this point that Mike Barry’s illustrations take reigns of the story. ‘The Screensavers’ comic cleverly parallels the lives of Sticks, Maki, Jed and Tommy – with each of the friends taking on a heroes’ persona.

We Run Tomorrow will appeal to inner superhero nerds but also provides a really well-handled portrayal of some more serious themes like grief, disability and domestic violence. It’s character-driven and a really beautiful depiction of the four kids’ friendship. I was especially drawn to the protagonist, Sticks, a gritty kid who’s always getting into fights and sticking up for her friends. It’s not revealed until the end of the book that Sticks is a girl. (I’m intrigued to pass this on to my 13-year old brother, who HATES books about girls, as an experiment.)

We Run Tomorrow, Penguin

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