The Easter break fell at the end of March this year, giving us four glorious early autumn days to devour books like they were hot cross buns. Here’s what the Writers’ Centre team read over the long weekend and throughout the rest of the month.
Jane McCredie, Executive Director
I’ve been reading Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, a fascinating survey of Aboriginal technological achievements before the arrival of Europeans. Pascoe has combed through the diaries of early settlers and explorers, as well as the archaeological record, to uncover evidence of Aboriginal farming, aquaculture, food storage technologies, and dam building and irrigation.
This thought-provoking study offers a really different slant on our history, undermining the common perception that all pre-contact Aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers.
Julia Tsalis, Program Manager
This month I read Martin McKenzie-Murray’s Murder Without Motive: The Killing of Rebecca Ryle. It is a beautiful examination of a tragic incident and a reflection on our prejudices and assumptions about place, people, and motives.
Instead of focusing on the perpetrator, McKenzie-Murray considers the environment that he came from as a way of trying, and ultimately failing, to understand why. He gives his attention to the family of Rebecca Ryle and the effect of losing their daughter so close to home and so violently.
You are left with a sense of the strength that it takes every day to live with such profound loss without it destroying your life or your relationship, or making you bitter. I lived in Perth in the ’80s and this book captures the feel of the place. I didn’t live in the area that McKenzie-Murray writes about, but he not only captures those places but also the rest of Perth’s relationship to them.
Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Program Officer
I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Armenia, Australia and the Great War by Vicken Babkenian and Peter Stanley. Drawing on a wide range of new research, the authors detail the history of the Armenian genocide and share the stories of the Anzac soldiers and POWs who witnessed the genocide during the Gallipoli campaign.
The authors reveal the stories of the Australians who drove local campaigns to aid Armenian survivors, which formed part of the world’s first international aid campaign. This book is an important contribution to our understanding of Australian history and a fascinating read.
To balance this rather serious topic, I also read Best Australian Comedy Writing, a collection of 24 of Australia’s comedic writers – the most you can legally stuff between two covers. Editor Luke Ryan’s mildly stated manifesto demands Australians take comedy more seriously and see comedy writing as the art form it is.
The collection’s wide variety of styles and voices demonstrates the versatility of comedy: here it entertains, persuades, undermines and shocks. The crown jewels in the collection include excerpts from Zoë Norton Lodge’s exaggerated memoir Almost Sincerely and Patrick Lenton’s superhero extravaganza, A Man Made Entirely of Bats, along with hilarious pieces by Fiona Norman-Scott and Robert Skinner.
Sherry Landow, Membership & Administration Officer
I’ve had a very Matt Haig kind of month, having read two of his books immediately after the other. The first was Reasons to Stay Alive, a non-fiction exploration of Haig’s experience with depression and anxiety.
Reasons to Stay Alive is made up of tiny, bite-sized chapters (sometimes only spanning 1-3 pages) which make reading more manageable and less daunting for those who might struggle finding the energy to read long chapters. Be it via a list, memory or a brief recognition of a momentary glimpse of light, this book is an important meditation on hopefulness and what it means to be alive.
The next Haig book I read this month was The Humans, a story about an alien who was sent to earth to complete an undercover mission of universal importance. Placed in the body of a mathematician, this alien must learn how to act human (a species he detests) by observation, trial and error. One can’t help but find the semblance in the protagonist’s alienation with Haig’s personal experiences in Reasons to Stay Alive. These books are best paired together for a truly moving study of what it is to be human.
I’ve continued on my current YA fantasy bent over the last month, devouring Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock and Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Finnikin was actually the first Melina Marchetta book I’d read (I know, right – what’s up with that?), and I found myself entirely swept up in the world of Lumatere. I found Maas’ ACOTAR to be a little more self-indulgent than her Throne of Glass series, but I was a total sucker for it all the same.
I also read Patrick Lenton’s short story collection A Man Made Entirely of Bats (which Ashley read last month and was kind enough to lend to me afterwards). It made me grin and go ‘How weird’ several times, which was great.
Then I continued aboard the short story train, moving onto The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury; my partner bought me this from the Elizabeth’s Bookshop Blind Date With A Book project. Sci-fi? Fantasy? ‘Tattooed man’? I loved it before I even opened it.