The Making of Modern Australia by William McInnes (Hachette, 2010); audiobook read by John Burnley (QNS Audio, 2013) A thoughtful social history of Australia post Second World War, structured around McInnes’s own reminiscences plus interviews with Australians from a wide variety of backgrounds. Without shying away from our well-documented national failings, McInnes makes a case for embracing a common heritage.…
Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries (Seven Network, 2019) Ms Fisher dances smoothly forward in time to 1960s Melbourne, reworking several aspects of the earlier Miss Fisher series and proving a worthy successor. Geraldine Hakewill (Peregrine Fisher) is mod-culture personified and every bit Essie Davis’s (Phryne’s) equal across four feature-length episodes.
Nest by Inga Simpson (Hachette, 2014); audiobook ready by the author (Wavesound, 2016) A could-have-been murder mystery in which Inga Simpson defies all genre expectations and instead just tells the story of a woman coming to terms with her life choices. A beautiful exploration of flora and fauna, person and place (the Sunshine Coast hinterland).
Midnight Oil & First Nation Collaborators: Makarrata Live @ Sirromet Wines, 28 February 2021 Frontman Peter Garrett brims over with spasmodic, shambling energy; Midnight Oil remain a loud and formidable, politicised unit: at times musically self-indulgent but culturally more relevant than ever. Highlights included First Nation, Power and the Passion (drum solo!) and The Dead Heart.
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.