The Brisbane Line by Hugh MacMaster (Rockhampton, 2000); audiobook read by Graham Webster (QNS Audio, 2002 A locally produced account of Australia’s controversial Second World War defence strategy and the historical circumstances from which it arose. MacMaster succeeds admirably in detailing Australia’s war efforts and providing the global context of military mismanagement, clandestine manoeuvring and self-interested political short-sightedness.
Fatherhood: Stories About Being a Dad by William McInnes (Hachette, 2018); audiobook read by William McInnes (W F Howes, 2018) McInnes reflects upon his own journey as a father but also, with the benefit of passing years, upon childhood experiences and his dad’s parenting. Discursive but always with purpose; wistful yet laugh-out-loud funny; McInnes is a natural storyteller (and narrator).…
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Series 1 (ABC, 2012) A series that stands far better when viewed in its own right, rather than as an adaptation of Kerry Greenwood’s novels. Set in 1920s Melbourne, the mysteries comprise a well-pitched blend of (not-too-)quirky characters, serious crime and light-hearted societal comings and goings.
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (Penguin, 2006); audiobook read by Rebecca Macauley (Bolinda, 2010) Looking for Alaska meets Picnic at Hanging Rock. An Australian school story that builds slowly and earns its character development, trusting the reader to get by without exposition. Australian accent warning on the audiobook (for those not cultured enough to appreciate it!).
St Kilda Blues by Geoffrey McGeachin (Penguin, 2014); audiobook read by David Tredinnick (Playaway, 2014) Though the investigation itself is commonplace, McGeachin immerses his protagonist in the details of history, presenting a time capsule of Australian—in particular, Melburnian—culture in the late 1960s. Stolid ex-WWII bomber pilot Charlie Berlin shows mettle worthy of the character study.
The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, 1998); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1999) One of the weaker Discworld novels. Pratchett makes suitably merry with intelligent design and the origins of (stereotyped) Australianism, but the Unseen University wizards are rather tiresome when employed as main characters and Rincewind’s exploits are equally belaboured. Funny but unusually pointless.
Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French (HarperCollins, 1999); audiobook read by Caroline Lee (Bolinda, 2014) The framing narrative of this cleverly structured middle grade book sees three rural Aussie kids sharing a story while waiting for their school bus. The tale of Hitler’s daughter raises the disturbing question: should children be held responsible for their parents’ beliefs.
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (Thomas Nelson, 1980); audiobook read by Kate Hood (Bolinda, 2012) Ruth Park mixes time displacement with coming-of-age in a classic of Australian literature. 14-year-old Abigail Kirk, having fought with her mother, finds herself transported back to Sydney of 1873. Amidst the historical realism unfolds a beautifully told tale of hardship and self-discovery.
The Bone is Pointed by Arthur W. Upfield (Angus & Robertson, 1938); audiobook read by Peter Hosking (Bolinda, 2010) This mystery doesn’t take much solving, but neither did many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s. As with Sherlock Holmes, it is the character of half-caste Aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte that bewitches the reader, plus in this case Upfield’s vivid descriptions of outback…
Australia: 160 Iconic Images Celebrating What Makes Us Different by Bruce Postle (Affirm, 2016) Part art, part historical record, part opportunistic novelty, photojournalist Bruce Postle’s collection captures many different aspects of life in Australia, preserving images of a developing nation from the 1920s onwards (some earlier pictures being taken by his father Cliff, also a photojournalist).