Cloudstreet is a faultless novel. It stuck so deeply in my head the first time around, I wasn’t sure it was possible to like the book more from a second reading. It was. This is the story of two polar opposite families, The Pickles and the Lambs forced together by mishap and tragedy in Perth in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s a story about picking up your life and carrying on as best you can. It’s a story about families and relationships, drunkenness, gambling, work, poverty, adultery, death, birth and all of the joys in between. Skilful prose, masterful narrative construction, and a brilliant cast of delicately nuanced characters bring this world to life as readers laugh and cry, touched and inspired by the unflinching examination of existence. In 2003, Cloudstreet was voted the #1 most meaningful book in Australia by ABC Radio listeners. It has been performed as a stage play and is currently being adapted into a television miniseries by the ABC.
Childhood, and indeed adulthood is not complete without hours spent wandering through Graeme Base’s mesmerising picture book. It’s not a story book in the traditional sense, but rather, an adventure through the alphabet with infinitely detailed illustrations of carefully constructed alliterations. From “An Armoured Armadillo Avoiding an Angry Alligator”, to “Zany Zebras Zigzagging in Zinc Zeppelins” readers are drawn into this magically, alphabetised world as they hunt for the often microscopic, often obvious boy in the orange jumper. In 2002, the multiple award winning Animalia was adapted into an animated children’s television series which tells the story of Alex and Zoe, two human children who stumble through a magical library into the world of Animalia.
Tomorrow When the War Began
The first instalment of seven novel Tomorrow series, Tomorrow When the War Began is the story of Ellie Linton and her friends who return home from their camping trip to discover the country has been invaded, and their town and families have been captured. Tomorrow When the War Began is an edge of your seat adventure that explores young relationships, self discovery, spirit and survival. The novel and series have won numerous literary awards both in Australia and Internationally. A film adaptation was released in 2010, written and directed by Stuart Beattie (writer of Pirates of the Caribbean series) and starring Caitlin Stasey (Neighbours 2005-2009) as Ellie.
Drylands is a thoroughly superb novel. Set in the small, outback town of Drylands, the novel is formed through a series of vignettes, short glimpses into the lives of the residents as they struggle through their various hardships and for some, celebrate their victories. Astley brilliantly captures the loneliness and desperation that outback living can brings with wry humour, scathing criticism and humanist sensitivity. Drylands won the 2000 Miles Franklin literary award. It was Thea Astley’s last novel before her death in 2004.
Often overshadowed by Ruth Park’s more famous novels such as Playing Beattie Bow and Harp in the South, My Sister Sif is a simply marvellous read. This is the story of Riko and her sister Sif, half humans, half mermaids. The sisters are taken from their Pacific island home of Rongo to go to school in Sydney. Yearning for the ocean, they secretly return to Rongo and their underwater, sea people family. Faced with the threat of environmental disaster, the sea people are forced to leave Rongo, and Riko and Sif are faced with some heart wrenching decisions. My Sister Sif is a beautiful, moving novel about the strength of family bonds and the outside influences that challenge them. It’s also a stern environmental comment, a pleading for people to be aware of their ecological impact and to take responsibility for it.