Ah, Autumn. There’s a crispness in the air, as our thoughts turn inevitably to pumpkin pies and apple cider. (As an Australian, my understanding of ‘autumn’ is mostly gleaned from Gilmore Girls and the Babysitters Club, so now it seems like a uniquely ‘Connecticut’ phenomenon.) Now, without further ado, here are our picks of what to read while you’re sipping your Pumpkin Spiced Lattes…
The Cockatoos by Patrick White
(Text Publishing, 9781925773606, p/b, £8.99)
An essential collection from one of the foremost novelists of the 20th century.
These six short novels and stories achieve the majesty and power of the best of Patrick White’s great novels. They probe beneath the surface of events – a sexual lapse, the unaccustomed climate of a foreign country, interruptions in a cherished routine, a death, a toothache – to expose a deeper, truer reality.
Foxfire, Wolfskin by Sharon Blackie
(September Publishing, 9781910463680, h/b, £14.99)
From an established writer of empowering literature comes a collection of transformational power.
Drawing on Northern European folklore rather than Greek myth or male-interpreted fairy tales, these are the original feminist voices. Sharing revenge and rebirth, capturing love and shaking off the past, changing the elements and shedding skins, they are heroines all. Each shapeshifting woman has an extraordinary story of change and survival to tell, and each story is born out of a regional folk tale, from Iceland to Ireland, Scotland to Scandanavia, Croatia to Cornwall.
The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis
(Honno Welsh Women’s Press, 9781912905058, p/b, £8.99)
An English language translation of an intriguing gothic tale set in mid-Wales.
Mari supplements her modest trade as a market stall holder with the wares she acquires from clearing the houses of the dead. She lives alone, apart from a monkey that she keeps in a cage, surrounding herself with the lives of others. But Mari is looking for something beyond saleable goods for her stall. As she works on cutting a perfect emerald, she inches closer to a discovery that will transform her life and throw her relationships with old friends into relief. To move forward she must shed her life of things past and start again.
Preservation by Jock Serong
(Text Publishing, 9781925773125, p/b, £10.99)
Jock Serong turns his hand to history in this novel based on the true story of the wreck of the Sydney Cove.
On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features – and inhabitants – they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.
The Revisionaries by A. R Moxon
(Melville House, 9781612197982, h/b, £20)
All is not boding well for Father Julius…
The Revisionaries is a maximalist work of fiction, where the social novel meets comic book antics. At its heart is the leader of a ragtag parish located in a gangland corner of a city that may or may not be Knoxville, TN; a sadistic scion to a Blue Ridge family dynasty, a history professor escaped from a nearby mental asylum, and a superhuman that blinks in and out of existence. The entanglement of their lives will literally collide heaven and earth in ways only the brilliant A. R. Moxon could envision.
The Siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides
(Other Press, 9781590519714, p/b, £12.99)
In this perceptive retelling of The Iliad, a young Greek teacher draws on the enduring power of myth to help her students cope with the terrors of Nazi occupation.
Bombs fall over a Greek village during World War II, and a teacher takes her students to a cave for shelter. There she tells them about another war–when the Greeks besieged Troy. Day after day, she recounts how the Greeks suffer from thirst, heat, and homesickness, and how the opponents meet–army against army, man against man. Helmets are cleaved, heads fly, blood flows. And everything had begun when Prince Paris of Troy fell in love with King Menelaus of Sparta’s wife, the beautiful Helen, and escaped with her to his homeland.
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
(Penguin Canada, 9780143198055, p/b, £12.99)
A fierce, tender, and heartbreaking story from an Inuit throat singer who dazzled the world with music unlike any it had heard before.
A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy and love. She knows boredom and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday and the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol and violence. When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this. Veering between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the animal world and the ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.
We Are Made of Earth by Panos Karnezis
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408276, p/b, £8.99)
A timeless story of connection and disorientation, longing, self-doubt, and the emotional cost of peace and security.
When an overcrowded dinghy capsizes at sea, a doctor is among those refugees thrown overboard. In the ensuing panic, he saves one life and condemns another. The doctor and the boy he has saved – the only surviving witness to the crime – eventually reach a tiny Greek island where they are offered shelter by the owner of a small travelling circus, itself marooned in the off-season. Debt-ridden, the circus owner knows that his most valuable asset is an Asian elephant, far from her natural habitat but lovingly tended by the owner’s wife even as she mourns their 10-year old daughter. As the refugees await a long-deferred ferry to take them onto the next stage of their journey, the doctor is drawn to his host’s wife, all the while keeping his young companion, who loves him fervently, at arm’s length.