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Bright and Distant Shores

Apologies if things have been a bit quiet around here this week: I’m deep in the horror of editing, and haven’t been particularly well. Things are likely to stay quiet for at least the next couple of weeks, partly because I really do have to get these edits locked away, partly because I’m interstate for Perth Writers’ Festival and an event in Maleny, Queensland (more on both soon).

In the meantime, I wanted to point your attention to my review of Dominic Smith’s rather terrific new novel, Bright and Distant Shores in this morning’s Weekend Australian. Smith’s name may not be familiar to many Australian readers – I certainly wasn’t aware of him – but he’s actually an Australian who’s been resident in the United States for some years, and the author of two earlier novels, both of which have garnered considerable praise.

My sense of it is that Allen and Unwin see Bright and Distant Shores as his breakout book, and I don’t think their confidence is misplaced. Set on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries in Chicago, San Francisco and the islands of the Western Pacific, it’s a big, often beautiful book, buoyed by both its ambition and the depth of feeling that moves within its pages. For what it’s worth I also think it’s got literary award written all over it, so while I suspect it won’t qualify for the Miles Franklin, I’d expect to see a fair bit of it on the shortlists for the various Premier’s, Festival and Commonwealth Awards.

On the review and award front, I’ve also uploaded my review of Frederick Reiken’s rather lovely Day for Night, which along with Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Richard Bausch’s Something Is Out There (which I’m planning to read soon) made the shortlist for the Fiction Category in this year’s LA Times Book Awards. I’d be very surprised to see it knock over either Franzen or Egan, not least because it’s one of those odd, slightly idiosyncratic books that some people will love and others won’t, but I liked it a lot, and I’m pleased to see it getting some attention. I’ve also uploaded a long review of Thomas Keneally’s The Widow and her Hero I wrote for the TLS back in 2007.

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