As an Australian, I often feel like the rest of the world has a fairly narrow view of who we are and what informs our individual identities. What better way to share some of the diversity of Australian voices than to tell you about my favourite books from Down Under.
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington (1996)
Published when I was 11 years old, the true story of three young Aboriginal girls who were forcibly taken from their families was my first real exposure to the violence and tragedy inflicted on the Stolen Generation in Australia. It’s also a tale of the girls’ bravery as they make their escape, evading capture as they trek more than 2,575 kilometres home.
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (1993)
This is the first book of the Tomorrow series, which imagines the invasion of Australia by an unnamed foreign power through the eyes of a group of teenagers, who become guerrilla fighters. It's an exciting story of survival and teamwork, and captures the independence and rebellion of being a teenager in rural Australia.
Joe Cinque’s Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law by Helen Garner (2004)
This is a gripping, true crime story about the injustice surrounding the case of a man who died after being drugged and given an overdose by his girlfriend. Garner’s style is to insert herself into the story and, in this way, her books double as memoirs about her struggles with truth and doubt.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (2017)
This one is not about Australia, but it is written by an exciting, new author from Melbourne, a librarian who became obsessed with the case of American Lizzie Borden, acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother in 1893. I love Schmidt’s use of four different voices to capture the tension in the household before and after the murder.
The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow by A. J. Mackinnon (2002)
The memoir of an Australian teacher living in Britain tells the tale of his unplanned journey, sailing from North Shropshire to the Black Sea and encountering a war zone along the way. I read it as I transitioned to living on a narrowboat on the canals of London. I can only hope my memoir will be half as entertaining.
Louise Burke is the home page editor for The National