Perth Writers Week (previously Perth Writers Festival) always concludes with me failing in my resolve to limit how many books I’ll buy. This year, I gave in before I even arrived. Afterall, Perth Writers Week only happens once a year, and I am supporting Australian authors – or so goes my self-justification.
Plenty of others have written about the festival’s highlights, so instead, here’s 9 of 18 new releases I intend to read in 2018 (in addition to the gazillion already on my bookshelves). Most of them were purchased during Perth Writers Week. In some cases, I turned up with the title already on my to-buy list. Sometimes, though, I didn’t know I needed a book until I heard its creator speak.
Always intended to buy
1. Dustfall by Michelle Johnston
Dustfall contains a dual narrative that alternates between Lou, who arrives in the almost abandoned mining town of Wittenoom and Raymond, who arrived decades earlier when the Wittenoom Hospital was still operating amidst a thriving asbestos mining industry. Both Lou and Raymond find themselves in the town after making career-altering medical mistakes. Dustfall is about the consequences of medical error as well as the suffering caused by asbestos mining.
2. The Sky Runs Right Through Us by Renee Pettitt-Schipp
I’m moved every time I read, or hear, Renee Pettitt-Schipp’s poetry. Here she writes beautifully – and often heartbreakingly – about her time teaching asylum seekers and islanders on Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling ) Islands. But the poems are often more than that, too, according to a thoughtful and insightful review by Robert Woods. He writes, ‘The Sky Runs Right Through Us is a volume that stills us, that helps us see where we are now, reminding us of what is possible when we are open to the ocean, the sky and the world.’
3. The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester
Estella Bissette is forced to flee France during the Second World War, arriving in the US with little more than a sewing machine and a dream. Seventy-five years later, Fabienne is an Australian curator journeying to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work. This is another page-turning historical fiction by the author of A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald and Her Mother’s Secret, who is also a skilled teacher and generous mentor of other writers.
4. The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
I haven’t read much crime in recent years, but after meeting Dervla at a writing retreat (run by Natasha Lester) in 2017, I decided to give it another go, especially when it’s set in Ireland, where my ancestors once lived. The Ruin introduces us to Detective Cormac Reilly, whose cold case from 20 years ago has links to a current investigation. Reviews suggest that this debut has the hallmarks of a seasoned crime writer.
5. Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang
This memoir will not officially be released in Australia until later this year, but I was very grateful to find it available at Perth Writers Week. In Always Another Country, Msimang tells of growing up in exile in Zambia, Kenya and Canada, followed by her college years in the USA, and a subsequent return to South Africa in the 1990s.
6. You Belong Here by Laurie Steed
One of Laurie Steed’s Perth Writers Week sessions sold out before the weekend arrived, and then his debut novel, You Belong Here, sold out at the bookshop. So, I’m off to order one from my local independent bookshop. If you’d like to know more, Nathan Hobby has written a detailed review on his blog.
Books I didn’t know I needed
7. After the War by Leigh Straw
As the subtitle of this books suggests, After the War explores the mental and physical scars of returned soldiers. Leigh Straw begins the book with the very personal story of a relative she came across by accident, while scrolling through microfilm copies of Truth newspaper in the state library. Uncovering the details of an elusive figure in her husband’s family led Leigh to seek a better understanding of what soldiers experienced after they returned home from the First World War.
8. Dancing in Shadows: Histories of Nyungar Performance by Anna Haebich
I don’t know enough about the history of Western Australia from the Nyungar perspective, which is the main reason I bought this book. However, my interest was piqued as soon as Anna Haebich made mention of Noongaroke, which I’d previously read about in an article by Anna Haebich and Jim Morrison, particularly because of a connection to my brother’s family. It’s time for me to learn and understand more.
9. Vasilisa the Wise by Kate Forsyth (Illustrated by Lorena Carrington)
I heard Kate Forsyth speak three times during Perth Writers Week, firstly in a workshop organised by the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators (SCWBI) West. I was then in the audience when she and illustrator Lorena Carrington shared tales from Vasilisa the Wise over the weekend. This book of 7 fairy stories all contain adventurous, brave young women, and I know I’ll have Kate’s fabulous storytelling voice in my head as I read them. Mention should also be made of Lorena Carrington’s incredible illustrations, created using found objects and a light box.
Check back soon for my next post, with 9 more new releases I intend to read in 2018 – a few inspired by the Perth Writers Festival, but also a number of others – which together form an eclectic mix of books that appeal to me.
In the meantime, what books do you hope to read in 2018?