Maybe the title of this piece should be ‘Inspired Australians’; I can’t decide. The point is, there is a body of work by Australian writers that gets my creative juices going and makes me as envious as all else!
Before 1991 I had barely read any Australian writers. I had tried Patrick White’s Voss, hated it, and tried another of his titles (from memory, something with Mrs in the title) in the interests of giving him a fair go, but that one did nothing to change my opinion. Mind you, that was forty years ago; maybe I should try again. Nah!! Why bother when there is just so much fine Australian fiction to be read.
Australian Literature was a compulsory unit in my first year at Uni. We began with some colonial classics, but when we moved on to more contemporary writing I was hooked. I was inspired by these authors to write with the same empathy and passion for Australia and with that sense of identity and belonging. Readers world wide weren’t put off American novels, or English ones, because they had obvious national settings and flavour, so why would they reject Australian novels for that reason? But, back then, that was the hurdle Australian writers had to jump.
I began with Thomas Keneally, and I read everything he wrote up to and including his latest, at the time, Woman of the Inner Sea, and used them to write my final year’s English assignment. I fell in love with Tim Winton and David Malouf. Later, I found Shirley Hazzard, Kate Grenville and Janette Turner Hospital.
So, here is my list of all-time favourite Australian reads. My desert island must-haves.
Anything written by Tim Winton, but my ten star rave is for Dirt Music.
Janette Turner Hospital: Oyster
Alex Miller: Journey to the Stone Country (I might have to take The Ancestor Game, too).
David Malouf: Remembering Babylon.
Thomas Keneally: The Playmaker
Geraldine Brooks: People of the Book (not set in Australia, but has an Aussie protagonist)
Peter Docker: The Water Boys. I discovered this book only a few weeks ago and already I have a library hold on it for a second read. In my estimation, this book should be up the top of this list with Dirt Music.