New Australian fiction – featuring Murray Bail, Michelle De Kretser & more

Every month we compile lists of our picks of new fiction in various genres – science fiction & fantasy, contemporary fiction and mystery novels – and we always pick an extra, “other” genre to feature (past choices have included New Zealand fiction, short stories, chicklit, and historical fiction, amongst others). Novels by Australian writers are the subject of this month’s selection – with the latest works by well known authors, Murray Bail, Michelle De Kretser, and Drusilla Modjeska. Most of the selected novels are set in Australia, others are set in Paris, Hanoi, Papua New Guinea and Vienna, all provide great reading.

Syndetics book coverThe voyage / Murray Bail.
“Frank Delage, piano manufacturer from Sydney, travels to Vienna, a city immersed in music, to present the Delage concert grand. He hopes to impress with its technical precision, its improvement on the old pianos of Europe. How could he not know his piano is all wrong for Vienna?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn the company of strangers / Liz Byrski.
“Ruby and Cat’s friendship was forged on an English dockside over sixty years ago when, both fearful, they boarded a ship bound for Australia. It was a friendship that was supposed to last a lifetime but when news of Cat’s death reaches Ruby back in London, it comes after a painful estrangement. Declan has also drifted away from Cat, but he is forced back to his aunt’s lavender farm, Benson’s Reach, when he learns that he and Ruby are co-beneficiaries. As these two very different people come together in Margaret River, they must learn to trust each other and to deal with the staff and guests. Can the legacy of Benson’s Reach triumph over the hurt of the past? Or is Cat’s duty-laden legacy simply too much for Ruby and Declan to keep alive?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverQuestions of travel / Michelle de Kretser.
“A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories, from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.” (adapted from Book cover)

Syndetics book coverLighthouse Bay / Kimberley Freeman.
“1901: Isabella Winterbourne has suffered the worst loss a woman can know. She can no longer bear her husband or his oppressive upper-class family. On a voyage between London and Sydney to accompany a priceless gift to the Australian parliament, Isabella is the sole survivor of a shipwreck off the sun-drenched Queensland coast.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNine days / Toni Jordan.
“The tiniest things, – a coin, a pendant, a photograph, a lie, can make or ruin lives.It is 1939. Deep in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Richmond, Kip Westaway, failed scholar and stable hand, is about to live through the most important day in his young life as Australia hovers unknowingly on the brink of war. What happens that day is the catalyst for momentous events strung across eight more moments in time; love and deception, near-misses and misunderstandings, all centred around the terrible thing that happens to a young girl and the repercussions it will have on the lives of her family, even those not yet born.“ (adapted from

Syndetics book coverCaravan story / Wayne Macauley.
“A group of artists are removed from their homes and transported by caravan to a country town and offered the chance to ‘give back to society’. Wayne’s task is to write, create and be useful, but then he finds out about the rejection slips already written for the work he has yet to submit. A satirical, darkly humorous story.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFishing for tigers : a novel / by Emily Maguire.
“Six years ago, Mischa Reese left her abusive husband and suffocating life in California and reinvented herself in steamy, chaotic Hanoi. In Vietnam, she finds satisfying work and enjoys a life of relative luxury and personal freedom. Thirty-five and single, Mischa believes that romance and passion are for teenagers; a view with which her cynical, promiscuous expat friends agree. But then a friend introduces Mischa to his visiting eighteen-year-old son. Cal is a strikingly attractive Vietnamese-Australian boy, but he’s resentful of his father, and of the nation which has stolen him away. His beauty and righteous idealism awaken something in Mischa and the two launch into an affair that threatens Mischa’s friendships and reputation and challenges her sense of herself as unselfish and good.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWatching the climbers on the mountain / Alex Miller.
“Set in the remote Central Highlands of Queensland this is the story of Ward Rankin, the disaffected station owner, and Ida, his unhappy wife, who sees the solution to her problems in her love for the young English stockman Robert Crofts, whose arrival on the station changes their lives forever. Against the backdrop of heat, torrential rain and the strange and lonely landscape, rises Mt Mooloolong, the scene of the novel’s thrilling conclusion. (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe mountain / Drusilla Modjeska.
“In 1968 Papua New Guinea is on the brink of independence, and everything is about to change. Amidst the turmoil filmmaker Leonard arrives from England with his Dutch wife, Rika, to study and film an isolated village high in the mountains. This sweeping novel takes the reader deep into this fascinating, complex country, whose culture and people cannot escape the march of modernity that threatens to overwhelm them. It is a riveting story of love, loss, grief and betrayal.” (adapted from Syndetic summary)

Syndetics book coverAssassin / Tara Moss.
“Former model turned forensic psychologist and PI Mak Vanderwall is missing, presumed dead in Paris. By hiring a hit man to kill her, the powerful and corrupt Cavanagh family aimed to silence her for good. But after narrowly escaping death, Mak has taken over her would-be killer’s world. She is very much alive and transformed.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)