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STEPHEN ROMEI ON MUST-READ BOOKS OF 2014

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Front Page -

IF 2013 was a block­buster 12 months for lo­cal fic­tion, with JM Coet­zee, Tim Win­ton, Richard Flana­gan, Alexis Wright, Alex Miller, Chris­tos Tsiok­las and Tom Ke­neally pub­lish­ing nov­els, this year in­ter­na­tional au­thors will take cen­tre stage. We can ex­pect new works from Sal­man Rushdie, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Emma Donoghue, EL Doc­torow, Is­abel Al­lende, Haruki Mu­rakami and many oth­ers.

But let’s re­turn home to kick off this pre­view of the books of 2014. David Malouf, one of the finest writ­ers this coun­try has pro­duced, turns 80 on March 20 and the oc­ca­sion will be marked by the pub­li­ca­tion of a new col­lec­tion of poetry, Earth Hour (UQP, March), his first since the award-win­ning Type­writer Mu­sic (2007).

I’ve had a sneak pre­view of this vol­ume, which brims with the in­tel­li­gence, el­e­gance and wit we have come to ex­pect from Malouf. While the po­ems are wide-rang­ing, there is an un­der­stand­able in­ter­est in mor­tal­ity — of the in­di­vid­ual and po­ten­tially of the planet we share. This is from the ti­tle poem: ‘‘. . . we sit be­hind moon­lit / glass in our McMan­sions, cool / mil­lions at re­hearsal / here for our ren­dezvous each with his own / earth hour’’. The poem ends with the dis­turb­ing im­age of ‘‘ our green ac­com­mo­dat­ing tomb’’.

Foot­loose, a Se­nior Mo­ment, is a lovely piece ded­i­cated to fel­low poet Chris Wal­lace-Crabbe, who will turn 80 two months af­ter Malouf. In it the Bris­bane-born poet crys­tallises a quin­tes­sen­tial Aus­tralian childhood mem­ory: ‘‘ the Bay / all glit­ters and my fa­ther / on the sky­line steep­ing away out / of reach’’.

I could go on, but I will leave you to dis­cover the plea­sures of this vol­ume for your­self. Also in March, Ran­dom House will bring out a col­lec­tion of Malouf’s ‘‘ writ­ings on life and cul­ture’’.

Another sig­nif­i­cant an­niver­sary this year is that it’s 50 years since Ke­neally pub­lished his first novel, The Place at Whit­ton. Like Malouf, Ke­neally is some­one I know a lit­tle and ad­mire a great deal. He will mark the oc­ca­sion with the pub­li­ca­tion, in the sec­ond half of the year, of the third in­stal­ment of Aus­tralians (Allen & Un­win), tak­ing his his­tory of this na­tion up to the 1960s.

In 2012, Favel Par­rett ( Past the Shal­lows) and Tony Birch ( Blood) shared the dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing their first nov­els short­listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Both, pic­tured above, are due to pub­lish new books this year. Par­rett’s sec­ond novel, When the Night Comes (Hachette, Septem­ber), is set in Ho­bart and Antarc­tica and cen­tres on a friend­ship be­tween ‘‘ a young girl’’ and ‘‘ a mod­ern Vik­ing’’. Birch’s The Prom­ise (UQP, May) is a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries sure to tap into the sort of or­di­nary, des­per­ate, hope­ful lives that made Blood so com­pelling.

As a huge fan of Mel­bourne writer Craig Sher­borne — his mem­oirs Hoi Pol­loi and Muck are master­pieces of the form — I am look­ing for­ward to his sec­ond novel, Tree Palace (Text, April), which is cen­tred on an itin­er­ant fam­ily in ru­ral Vic­to­ria.

Text will also pub­lish Stephen Orr’s fourth novel, One Boy Miss­ing, billed as a literary crime thriller (Fe­bru­ary); Chris Flynn’s sec­ond, The Glass King­dom (June), de­scribed as ‘‘ a break­neck tour of ru­ral Aus­tralia’s un­der­belly’’; and a se­quel to Graeme Sim­sion’s smash hit The Rosie Project. And it is promis­ing new nov­els by Wayne Ma­cauley and Krissy Kneen later in the year.

How­ever, the Text project that most in­trigues me is a new novel by Mark Hen­shaw, due in Septem­ber. Hen­shaw’s first — and so far only — work of fic­tion, the ex­per­i­men­tal, ex­tra­or­di­nary Out of the Line of Fire, pub­lished in 1988, re­mains one of my favourite Aus­tralian nov­els. In a sim­i­lar vein, Text has In Cer­tain Cir­cles (May), a pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished novel by El­iz­a­beth Har­rower, the 85-year-old Syd­ney writer who burst back into the pub­lic con­scious­ness when her 1966 novel The Watch Tower was re­pub­lished as a Text Clas­sic in 2012.

Joan Lon­don’s The Good Par­ents was one of the stand­out nov­els of 2008. It’s been a bit of wait (though not as long as with Hen­shaw!), but Ran­dom has her new novel, The Golden Age, sched­uled for Au­gust. Booker Prize win­ner DBC Pierre has been busy: last year he served up an amuse bouche in Petit Mal; this year he’s giv­ing us a horror-thriller novella, Break­fast with the Bor­gias (Ran­dom, June). Ran­dom is also promis­ing a new novel by mul­ti­ple Miles Franklin short­lis­tee Gail Jones, as well as a ‘‘ Charles Bean novel’’ by Matthew Con­don (Septem­ber) and Ana­logue Men, by Nick Earls (July), which ex­plores male midlife crises in the dig­i­tal age. Pan Macmil­lan has an as yet un­ti­tled novel by Liz Byrski sched­uled for Septem­ber and will also have new books by block­buster au­thors Matthew Reilly and Di Mor­ris­sey in time for the Christ­mas mar­ket.

Sonya Hart­nett, be­low, writes bril­liantly for chil­dren, young adults and adults: in the last cat­e­gory the Miles Franklin short­listed But­ter­fly (2009) still un­nerves in the mem­ory. So I am braced for her new novel for adults, The Golden Boys, (Pen­guin, June), ‘‘ an ur­ban gothic tale’’.

Braced is prob­a­bly a good po­si­tion to be in for Only the An­i­mals Can Know (Pen­guin, May) by South AfricanAus­tralian so­cial an­thro­pol­o­gist and writer Cerid­wen Dovey. In this story col­lec­tion, ma­jor events of the 21st cen­tury are told by the souls of 10 an­i­mals killed in hu­man con­flict. Linda Jaivin has a new novel, Em­press Lover (Fourth Es­tate, April). Pen­guin will also pub­lish new nov­els by Honey Brown ( Through the Cracks, May) and Wendy James ( The Lost Girls, March), as well as Beams Fall­ing (March), a fol­low-up to the fab­u­lous The Old School by Syd­ney de­tec­tive turned crime writer PM Newton.

While we’re think­ing about crime fic­tion, Peter Cor­ris and the in­de­struc­tible Cliff Hardy go around the block again in Silent Kill (Allen & Un­win, out now) and Tony Ca­vanaugh’s haunted homi­cide cop Dar­ian Richards re­turns in The Train Rider (Hachette, March). Ca­vanaugh’s novel car­ries a blurb by my col­league Graeme Blun­dell: ‘‘ As good as Har­lan Coben.’’ Well, the mega-sell­ing Coben is back, too, with Miss­ing You (Orion, March), in which a New York de­tec­tive’s past comes back to ter­rorise her. Speak­ing of ter­ri­fy­ing types, Jack Reacher will be do­ing his thing for Lee Child in Twenty Sec­onds Ago (Ran­dom, Au­gust), and we’re told the au­thor will be vis­it­ing Aus­tralia to pro­mote the book. The reign­ing king of Nordic noir, Jo Nesbo, is back with The Son (Harvill Secker, April), in which a model pris­oner es­capes from prison to try to learn the truth about his fa­ther’s death.

First Aus­tralian nov­els that are on my radar at this stage in­clude Ray Glickman’s Re­al­ity and Robert Ede­son’s The Weaver Fish, pub­lished by Fremantle Press in Fe­bru­ary and March re­spec­tively, Suzanne McCourt’s The Lost Child (Text, Fe­bru­ary), Here Come the Dogs (Pen­guin, June), the fic­tion de­but of Syd­ney poet and rap­per Omar Musa, and Anna Ge­orge’s What Came Be­fore, pro­moted as a ‘‘ literary thriller in the vein of Gone Girl’’.

Hav­ing run through that im­pres­sive list of Aus­tralian nov­els — which are only the ones I’ve heard about — I’m less sure about my open­ing claim that 2014 will be the year of the in­ter­na­tional au­thor. But let’s see. Few would ar­gue that the most an­tic­i­pated work of fic­tion on the hori­zon is The Mir­ror and the Light, the con­clud­ing book in Hi­lary Man­tel’s Tu­dor Eng­land tril­ogy. The first two, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bod­ies, each won the Booker. What a thing it would be if the fi­nal novel de­liv­ered Man­tel a record third Booker, some­thing that has eluded the only other dual win­ners, Coet­zee and Peter Carey.

At the time of writ­ing publisher HarperCollins said The Mir­ror and the Light did not have a pub­li­ca­tion date and that 2015 was much more likely than 2014 . . . so per­haps I’m cheat­ing a bit by men­tion­ing it, but I don’t think it’s a be­head­ing of­fence. Fur­ther, the publisher con­firmed there would be at least one new work of fic­tion by Man­tel pub­lished in 2014, a short story col­lec­tion with an at­ten­tion-grab­bing ti­tle: The As­sas­si­na­tion of Mar­garet Thatcher. Ex­pect it in the first half of the year.

At the risk of do­ing a Rums­fel­dian glide from known un­knowns to known knowns, I do know that Amis, who will be here next month for the Perth Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, Rushdie and McEwan, above right, will each pub­lish new nov­els this year, all with Ran­dom, but I don’t know any more about them.

One novel I do know about, be­cause I’ve read an ad­vance copy, is Hanif Kureishi’s The Last Word (A&U, Fe­bru­ary). This is a funny, in­sight­ful story about a young English writer who is com­mis­sioned to write the au­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy of a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian In­dian-born literary lion. If this reminds you of the young English writer Pa­trick French writ­ing an au­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy of VS Naipaul a few years ago, I am sure the co­in­ci­dence is en­tirely in­ten­tional.

I also know a lit­tle bit about Colour­less Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pil­grim­age, the new novel by peren­nial No­bel Prize con­tender Mu­rakami, be­cause it sparked a run on Tokyo book­shops when pub­lished in Ja­panese ear­lier this year. Ran­dom will bring out an English trans­la­tion in Oc­to­ber, which is fast for a Mu­rakami.

Stick­ing with the house of Ran­dom, there’s also a new Doc­torow, An­drew’s Brain (out now), a ‘‘ rad­i­cal trip into the mind of a man who, more than once in his life, has been an in­ad­ver­tent agent of dis­as­ter’’, a World War I novel, The Lie, by Orange Prize win­ner He­len Dun­more (Fe­bru­ary), Chuck Palah­niuk’s Beau­ti­ful You (Au­gust),

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