Jean-Loup’s task seems simple. A Melbourne-based financial advisor, he has been sent by ATSIC to Mission Hole Community to conduct an audit of its art centre. But Jean-Loup soon realises that nothing in this community is as simple as it appears.
The community’s most noted artist is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, whose works have achieved international recognition and attracted high prices. But something disturbing has happened. At the unveiling of her latest painting, the picture was found slashed and with the words “the artist is a thief” scrawled across it. The shock of this act and the implications of the message has sent shock waves around the art community. Is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway a thief? And what exactly is it she has stolen?
When Jean-Loup Wild arrives at the community to investigate the running of the arts centre and to try to reinstate its credibility following these events, he meets with unexpected obstacles and opposition. On his first night in the community he comes across the murdered corpse of the person most likely to help in his investigation. No one else in the community even wants to talk to him, let alone help him.
Not only is the investigation proving difficult, but Jean-Loup has to face personal conflicts as well. he has a personal link to the community – his mysterious older sister Duchess whose history he would like to trace and who is partially the reason for his accepting this job. He also finds himself increasingly attracted to Petra, the beautiful Aboriginal woman who helps him in his investigations.
As he confronts his past, Jean-Loup must also confront the present. He must try to unravel the mystery of the murder, the elusive Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, and the message on the painting, whilst working on a playing field where everyone but him seems to know the rules. Whilst piecing together the puzzle he gets to know himself and the society in which he live son a more intimate level than ever before.
The Artist is a Thief, winner of the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, is a philosophical detective novel with a difference, sure to provoke thought as it entertains.
The Artist is a Thief, by Stephen Gray
Allen & Unwin, 2001.
The anticipated announcement of Nina Jansous’ retirement as the Editor in Chief of internationally acclaimed magazine, BLAZE, is causing ripples of anticipation among younger, ambitious magazine staff, especially Ali Gruber. Ali is eagerly awaiting her chance to be editor of the magazine.
But Nina does not announce her retirement, instead deciding to head the setting up of an Australian edition of the magazine. To top it off, she wants Ali to come with her – to be the editor of this publication.
In Australia, Ali struggles to win the confidence of her staff. She also has to confront the demons of her youth, spent here in Australia before her escape to the States. Nina is not there to support – she is off on a quest of her own to confront her own past. Neither is Ali’s deputy, Larissa Kelly, likely to be an ally. Larissa finds herself trying to keep the magazine together in the wake of Ali’s failures.
Blaze, Di Morrissey’s ninth novel, provides a gripping expose of the cutthroat world of glossy magazines. The stories of the women at the center of the novel are different yet wonderfully intertwined. An excellent read.
Blaze, by Di Morrissey
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2000
Cara Kerr thinks the whole New Age ‘malarky’ a self-indulgent crutch. But when she is offered the chance to write the biography of mystic guru Gaelle Carrington-Keane, she doesn’t turn it down. After all, the money will help pay her mounting bills, and the publicity will certainly help her career. Plus, Gaelle’s assistant, Cam, is seriously sexy.
Living in London with her fellow Australians, TV-producer Moni and graphic designer Lucy, Cara enjoys a life of drinking, partying and sleeping late. Her love life may be a little stale but otherwise she’s perfectly happy. So this job will be nothing more than a good laugh and some excellent cash. Or will it?
As she meets and works with Gaelle, Cara findes herself disturbingly drawn to the woman’s predictions and methods. Along with Moni, Lu and an assortment of boyfriends and hangers-on, Cara finds herself questioning whether they may in fact be more to life than what they are currently doing.
Along the way she discovers the joys of meditation, the highs and lows of sex and relationships, and the importance of friendship. Despite her strong willed efforts at resistance she grows strangely fond of Gaelle.
This is a novel about good times, about love and friendship and, importantly, self discovery. For all those who have gone through the Australian ritual of spending a year in London, there will be a comfortable feeling of déjà vu. For those who haven’t, the book is still comfortably familiar. An excellent read.
Carole King is an Alien, by Yasmin Boland
Published by Penguin Books, 2000
Many stories of convict life present romanticised tales of poor innocents wrongly accused of trivial crimes and sent on ships with billowing sails to ultimately lead a wonderful new life in the bountiful southern land.
In The Floating Brothel, Sian Rees presents a vividly different view. This is the previously untold story of life aboard the Lady Julian which sailed from England in 1789 bearing a cargo of convicts destined for Botany Bay.
This is an historical account, not a piece of fiction, so do not expect a light romance or tales of happily ever after, though this does not mean that The Floating Brothel is overly pessimistic or negative. Rees has carefully researched this history and provides a detailed exploration of life on board the Lady Julian, and of the history of those who came to sail on her. Details of life in and beyond the new colony for the key figures round off the book.
For those who enjoy historical fiction, the opening chapters of The Floating Brothel may prove to be a little hard-going. Rees details the social circumstances which led to the use of deportation as a means of relieving pressure on English prisons and, more broadly, English society, as well as the crimes and circumstances of the women who sailed on the Lady Julian. Perseverance with this opening will find the reader drawn in to the tale and to the individual stories of some of those on board, especially that of the ship’s steward, John Nicol, and 19 year old Sarah Whitelam.
Despite its title, The Floating Brothel is not a tale of moral depravity – Rees delves deep into the realities of the relationships and activities on board the ship. This is an absorbing read for anyone with an interest in this era of Australia’s history.
The Floating Brothel, by Sian Reees
Published by Hodder, 2001.
When a young woman and her baby go missing, gossip abounds in the small mining town where she lives. Twenty years later, the local lake yields human bones. The woman’s daughter, Ruth, returns to the town of her birth, ostensibly to see her dying Uncle Frank. He has carried secrets through those two decades which have rendered him a shadow of the man he once was.
The Water Underneath, by Kate Lyons, is a superb piece of literature. Its style, coupled with its water and journeying motifs, lend it satisfactory tones of Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing. The gripping mystery of the disappearance and the family’s history is seen through the eyes of three women of different generations who, while not close, share the common bond of their love for Frank, the man at the head of the family.
The Water Underneath, Lyons’ first novel, was a deserving runner-up in the 1999 The Australian/Vogel Literary Award. It paints a vivid picture of the town and countryside in which it is set – both the physical surrounds and the social backdrop to the tale – at the same time exploring some of the issues which have divided Australian society.
This is a story which will grip you with its mystery and its believability from start to finish.
The Water Underneath, by Kate Lyons
Published by Allen & Unwin, 2001
When Steven crosses the imaginary line between university and the real world, he decides he’d better get a job. He winds up as a postie, which he figures is just as good as anything else. When he’s not delivering mail, he drinks with his mates, goes to see his new friend Wayne presenting performance poetry and draws comic strips for his friend Gina’s zine. Together he and Gina go undercover to get rid of bad punctuation and to locate the guy who puts cool red stckers all over the city.
Complications enter Steven’s life in two forms – a doberman he calls Satan and a girl called Emma. Satan torments him as he tries to complete his mail deliveries, until he dies suddenly and mysteriously. Emma torments him other ways. She is Stevene’s first older woman and also the first girl he’s had to chase.
It also seems Emma’s getting in the way of Steven’s friendship with Gina. Will he have to choose between friendship and sex?
Man Bites Dog is a comic and quirky urban detective novel about life, love and responsibility. It seems especially likely to appeal to young twenty somethings living in Melbourne, who may well recognise themselves in some of the vast range of characters.
Man Bites Dog, by Adam Ford
Allen & Unwin, 2003