This year there wasn’t, to head my list, the stand-out tome like last’s year’s ‘The Illuminations’ from Andrew O’Hagan, ’14’s ‘Analogue Men’ (Nick Earls) or Richard Flanagan’s truly remarkable ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ the previous year. Over the last 12 months I seemed to have embarked on many titles I really struggled to get through, but persevered with and found I really needn’t have bothered. Still, there were some gems that certainly gave me much pleasure. So here we go:-
1. The Road to Little Dribbling – Bill Bryson – a joy from go to whoa as Bryson makes his way around a Britain far different from the one he delighted us with his first journey to his later adopted homeland. As is his way, he ruminates on all and sundry en route and there are many laughs to be had as well. Thanks Nan.
2. Modern Love – Leslie Harding and Kendrah Morgan – this couple give us an engrossing account of life at Heide, the home and artistic retreat outside Melbourne of John and Sunday Reed. The inter-relationships between the various artists who lived there, before and after the war years, more reflect modern attitudes, thus the name, than the social morays of the period.
3. Another Night in Mullet Town – Steven Herrick – the master of the YA verse novel is in typical form in this short delight. As with his 2011 ‘Black Painted Fingernails’, he has yet again enchanted this reader with his skills in a book that deserves a much wider readership than its target audience.
4. Hope Farm – Peggy Frew – this, the author’s second novel, is set in the 80’s, garnering shortlistings for several Australian literary gongs. It deals with fraught lives in a hippie-like community.
5. Summer of ’82 – Dave O’Neil – his whimsical column is sorely missed from the Age, but this memoir, a more than adequate replacement, tells of a suburban boy on the cusp of escaping the ‘burbs. A delight.
6. The Strays – Emily Bitto – loosely based on the Reeds at Heide, this is a fictional delving into the lives of three sisters and an outsider who have a different sort of upbringing, due to bohemian parenting.
7. Archipelago of the Souls – Gregory Day – a troubled WW2 vet finds refuge and eventually love on a Bass Strait Island. The best of several Tasmanian-centric novels I read in 2016.
8. Sing Fox for Me – Sarah Kanake – set on a pluvial Tasmanian mountainside, this is a tale of family disharmony and tigers that lurk, just beyond the shadows.
9. When Michael Met Mina – Randa Abdel Fattah – two worlds collide in this multicultural YA love story that reflects much of the racial and religious divide of modern day Oz.
10. Words in Deep Blue – Cath Crowley – another charming YA product about finding real love and climbing out of an abyss of sorrow.
HMs – The Last Train to Zona Verde – Paul Theroux, The Boy Behind the Curtain – Tim Winton, Reckoning – Magda Szubanski.