Bloodlines, by Nicole Sinclair

‘It’s running, Clem,’ she says. ‘And I’m not running.’
‘It’s not running, it’s smart. It’s giving you time. And Sam…’ He sees her wince and then, quietly: ‘It gives Sam some space too. And time. God, the bloke must be shattered.’
She stiffens.
Maybe she’ll cry, he thinks. He could reach for her then, sit by her, draw her onto his lap., this broken girl of his, and cradle her like he did when she was a child.

Beth is thirty-one years old and trying leave her past behind. A terrible break up has seen her flee to the family farm in wheatbelt Western Australia but her wise dad, Clem, thinks she needs to go further away: to Papua New Guinea. Despite her reservations, Beth soon finds herself living on a remote island, working alongside her aunt at the school she runs. As she adjusts to life in a different land, amidst a very different culture, she also reflects on the events which have brought her here.

Running alongside Beth’s story is the story of her mother, Rose, who met and fell in love with Clem when she moved to Western Australia but who died when Beth was a child. Clem’s story, both before and since, is also gradually revealed.

Bloodlines is an amazing debut novel, deftly weaving the entwined stories of Beth and her mother, in settings as vivid as they are disparate. Beth’s life has been filled with love, but also with sadness, and her need to make sense of it takes her to a strange, welcoming but unfamiliar land. Sinclair’s love of both Papua New Guinea and of Western Australia shows through in her vivid recreation of the two settings, and her characters fill the pages with their big, complex personalities.

Shortlisted for the prestigious TAG Hungerford Award in 2014, Bloodlines is a heart-filled book which questions the meanings of home and belonging in a way that will leave readers thinking long after the final page.

Bloodlines, by Nicole Sinclair
Margaret River Press, 2017
ISBN 9780994316875

Seeing the Elephant, by Portland Jones

In the end it was the cancer that brought the memories. Chemotherapy sleep, cold like reptile skin. The smell of bile, the bone-deep ache and – for the first time in decades – dreams.

Years after the Vietnam War tore up his homeland and killed most of his family, Minh lives with his wife in Perth, Western Australia. he thinks he has left behind the past, with memories too painful to be faced or spoken of. But as he battles cancer, he finds the memories coming back, first in dreams and then in his waking hours.

In 1962 Australian soldier Frank Stevens is sent to the Vietnamese Highlands to recruit and train local tribesmen. As the situation becomes increasingly volatile both for the country and for Frank himself, his friendship with Minh, his translator, grows. The two seem inseparable.

Seeing the Elephant: A Novel is a heartwrenching novel of war, friendship and love, told from the first person point of view of the elderly Minh, looking back on his life, as well as through the letters Frank writes to his much loved grandfather back in Australia.

Historically the novel covers events leading up to the official involvement of Australia in the Vietnam conflict, but emotionally it covers even more – the effects of imperialist intervention on local people, loss, survival and the depths of love, in a finely crafted moving whole.

Shortlisted for the T.A.G. Hungerford Award in 2014, Seeing the Elephant: A Novel is a stunning debut novel.

Seeing the Elephant: A Novel, by Portland Jones
Margaret River Press, 2016
ISBN 9780994316745

Summer's Gone, by Charles Hall

I’ve had a long time to think about it; I wish to God I could stop but sometimes, even now, it just happens: I go over and over exactly how it was that Helen came to die, and all that came before, and all that came after. About all the things I might have done, and all the things I might have not done; and all the things other people might have done and not done. Like Mitch, and Alison.

In 1960s Perth, teenager Nick meets three new friends who share his interest in music. Soon, guitarist Mitch has hooked up with one of the girls, Alison, and Nick is keen on her sister, Helen. He thinks she’s interested in him, too, though their relationship is slower to develop. The foursome form a folk group, and are soon popular on the local music scene. But things start to fall apart when Mitch decides to leave the group, and Helen gets called back to Melbourne. Although Nick and Alison join her there soon after, and have what seems to be a bliss-filled summer, tragedy is just around the corner.

Summer’s Gone is a touching, down to earth story of life in the 1960s. Shifting between the events leading up to and surrounding a death, and Nick’s revisitation of key locations many years later, the narrative is cleverly arranged so that the mystery of Helen’s death, revealed on page one, is only gradually made clearer. At the same time,many of the issues of the 1960s – including conscription, sexual liberation, feminism, societal change and worker’s rights – are explored in a way that avoids being issue-heavy. Nick is an entertaining narrator and as he criss-crosses the country, it is a pleasure to travel with him, even in dark times.

Summer’s Gone is an absorbing read.


Summer’s Gone, by Charles Hall
Margaret River Press, 2015
ISBN 9780987561541

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