Mallee Boys by Charlie Archbold

You know, when you walk into a murky river you could step on anything. I’ve never understood how easily some people will just leap on in when they can’t see a thing. I suppose it’s like life; maybe I could do with just stepping in more an looking less.
Sandy’s a funny kid. I say kid, but he’s not much younger than me. He’s fifteen. I’m eighteen. It’s only three years but sometimes it seems like thirty. Dad said I burst into the world, born effortlessly on the way to the hospital, which for a first baby was something. I screamed my lungs out and the doc told Mum she was a natural. Sandy though was way too early. Born premmie, he had to spend his first few months in hospital. Probably daydreaming in the womb and before he knew it he’d just drifted out.
Typical. Sandy causing a lot of drama for everyone. They had to get the flying doctors out and all sorts.

On a farm in the Mallee, Sandy and Red and their dad are adjusting to life following the death of their mother. Sandy is no natural farm boy, scared of goats and allergic to spring. He keeps his secrets tight. Red loves the farm but is so angry with the world that he may as well be a willy-willy – wild and out of control. Their dad is just trying to keep it together. Three of them, no talking, in a brutal landscape of wind and searing heat. It’s going to be a big year.

Mallee Boys’ is a wrenching, real story about grief and survival. It’s also about choosing your path, even if it’s not easy and might take you away from everything you know. The landscape is tough, but full of beauty for those who look for it. Plenty of themes in here: loss, responsibility, change, family, truth, communication. Without their mum to guide them, and with their dad drowning in his own loss, two young men have to make their own decisions and live with them. Recommended for mid- upper-secondary readers.
Mallee Boys, Charlie Archbold

Wakefield Press 2017 ISBN: 9781743055007

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

A Brief Take on the Australian Novel, by Jean-Francoise Vernay

While I was researching Australian fiction, people started asking me what they should read. This is a tricky question because you need to provide an answer while carefully avoiding establishing a canon. bearing in mind that any recommendation would reflect my own tastes, I tried to conceive a neutral space like a giant table on which would lie any appealing Australiana-packed novel, for avid readers to make their own choices.

For much of its history, novel writing in Australia has been seen as on offshoot of, or even one and the same as, the English novel. But, just as the nation has moved further and further way from being British, so too has the novel, shaped by the writers who call the country home. A Brief Take on the Australian Novel offers a survey of these writers and of the evolution of the Australian novel from colonial times to the present, including the influence of global trends, shifting social and political landscapes, the role of immigrants, minorities and Aindigenous writers, and more.

Written in accessible language and with discussion of what Vernay considers key texts and authors, chapters are broken by ‘Inserts’ win the form of whole page text boxes exploring individual texts, significant authors and more. This comprehensive overview does not claim to be all-encompassing or indisputable, instead being the ‘take’ of Vernay, a self-described outsider, who grew up in New Caledonia with a French father and Australian mother, but who has spent 20 years researching Australian fiction.

Suitable for any one with a love of or interest in Australian literature.

A Brief Take on the Australian Novel, by Jean-Francois Vernay
Wakefield Press, 2016
ISBN 9781743054048