2020 In Review: Strewth It's Been a Ripper Year For Aussie Lit

on Saturday, December 26, 2020
I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but it’d be remiss of me not to make a special post about Australian books this year because HOLY SHIT it’s been an amazing one for Aussie literature. I read more from here than any previous year and even then I didn’t get to all the ones I had on my pile.

Particularly exciting was how many of my favourite books were debuts. It really stung to think how all these ace new writers didn’t get the chance to properly celebrate their efforts with proper launches, festival appearances etc. If it’s any consolation, I hope you know that you were read and loved and gave us a hell of a lot of happiness and respite through a time of collective trauma. To that end, I started the Apocalypse Zoom Book Club with JP Pomare and we revelled in discussing a bunch of Aussie debuts. Big shout out to all who joined - it was such an ace group and I really looked forward to our virtual hangs every month. As for the books, I especially want to sing the praises of:

- Madeleine Watts for her brilliant, confronting and technically ingenious novel, The Inland Sea. I was left in awe of the power of her central metaphor and the multiplicity of ways she brought it to bear on some of our most pressing issues.
- Imbi Neeme for her thoroughly enjoyable and warm novel, The Spill, that deftly examined the complexities of family and the fallibility of memory.
- Laura Jean Mackay for her mind-bending, magical-realist, plague novel, The Animals in That Country. Has there ever been more audaciously wacky pairing than Jean and her trusty dingo, Sue? And those whales... those whales.

As for more established writers, I was very lucky to blurb a few books and I stand by my love for them. So big shout outs to:
- Robbie Arnott for his truly wondrous The Rain Heron. The image of a bird made from water set against a strange war continues to haunt me.
- Patrick Allington, whose awesome dystopia, Rise & Shine was so brilliantly realised; dark, quirky and thoroughly intriguing. Plus its plague (or ecological catastrophe) made me feel a little better about ours.
- Elizabeth Tan who returned with a second collection of surreal stories that struck me more as premonitions than imaginative fireworks. Smart Ovens For Lonely People had me constantly marvelling at what Tan is able to achieve with the short form.

There were also a bunch of books I actually went out and bought (shock horror), and that gave me much joy to read. I loved Kate Mildenhall’s highly original, feminist spin on the contemporary dystopia, The Mother Fault. Riffing on the likes of Margaret Attwood and Doris Lessing, Mildenhall crafted something entirely her own, a cracking adventure with a lot of food for thought. Kristen Krauth brought me back to my music days with Almost A Mirror, an elegy for (and tribute to) Melbourne’s late-80s rock scene. Every sentence seemed infused with the stench of two day old beer and sticky, grime-filled carpet. Was like heaven to me. Most people don’t expect it of me, but I love a great thriller, particularly if it plays tricks with my brain. To that end, in the space of two books, JP Pomare has become a reliable go-to for me. I always know that I’m going to get a satisfying dose of smart thrills and In The Clearing certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think I liked it even more than Call Me Evie.

I’ll be talking about some other Aussie books as I head towards my Top Ten Books of 2020 so be sure to check back in the coming days. Until then, let’s hear it for Aussie Lit. Can’t think of a time it’s been in a better state!


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