The Hobart

The Tassie Book Club – June 2024

by Hobart Magazine
The Tassie Book Club – June 2024

The Woman Booker Prize Club is a local Hobart book club. Here they share their thoughts on books by Tasmanian authors, set in Tasmania, or about Tassie topics. Over to the club!

Welcome to midwinter. This month we lean into the long nights with a twisty spy thriller / murder mystery by James Dunbar, and Carmel Bird’s work, which is imbued with the underlying darkness of fairy tales.


 

Mole Creek by James Dunbar (Allen & Unwin, August 2023)

Review by Melanie Ross

It’s not very often that a bona fide spy thriller takes place in Tasmania, but when it does, we certainly sit up and pay attention! Beginning in a shady area of southern Vietnam in the late 1960s with Australian soldier Pete, this novel unravels through present-day journalist Xander as he tries to prove that his war veteran grandfather’s death was not a suicide. If you’re interested in a twisty mystery with a dual timeline, and you don’t tend to get too attached to characters (there’s quite a body count by the last page) then this is a great option for a quick and well thought out Tassie read.

Pete propels the Vietnam timeline as he attempts, among other responsibilities, to find a fellow Australian soldier who has gone AWOL. We see how Pete has built relationships with other actors in the war, including American soldiers as well as local Vietnamese folks who are just trying to survive. Pete’s chapters feel deliberately obtuse; we never quite know where the answer to the mysteries of the plot are going to show up, and as a reader I found myself trying to pay attention to all the small details in case I missed a clue!

Meanwhile, Xander’s life appears to be constantly in danger, escaping an attack in Sydney only to be pursued to Launceston and even to the titular Mole Creek, where Pete lived in retirement in his fishing shack. Xander meets a cast of characters, none of whom seem overly trustworthy, including police officers, a Supreme Court judge, and more than one old friend of Pete’s. While Xander at times feels entirely ill-equipped to solve the mysteries, his sheer determination pays off in the end – both for him and the reader.


 

The Dead Aviatrix by Carmel Bird (Spineless Wonders, October 2021) Review by Megan Tighe

Carmel Bird is a prolific Tasmanian author, living in Melbourne, but I had not heard of her myself until by chance I spotted the teeny-tiniest green book with a map-of-Tasmania sticker on the spine on the Hobart library shelves.

The Dead Aviatrix comprises eight of the shortest short stories, but each is entirely different, excitingly inventive and straight into the meat of the story. It’s a bit dark but sparkles off the page. I don’t usually gravitate towards short stories, but The Dead Aviatrix really set me off on a train of short story collections and novellas that I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend this little collection; especially if you’re in a reading rut, it’s so small and undaunting it could be just the thing to get you going again.

Following on from The Dead Aviatrix, I’m currently reading Telltale by Carmel Bird. It’s a memoir of sorts, through reflection on the books that shaped the author’s life. Written during COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne while Bird was stuck inside with her personal library, it’s fascinating to see how she makes connections and finds inspiration for her writing. I know I’m going to finish Telltale with a further reading list as long as my arm, including a bunch of Carmel Bird’s own novels.

Book Chatter:

Some well deserved recognition for some of our Tassie authors in May with Meg Bignell’s The Angry Women’s Choir, Secrets of the Huon Wren by Claire van Ryn, Limberlost by Robbie Arnott, and Richard Flanagan’s Question 7 all making it into this year’s Better Reading Top 100. While the Stella Prize went to Alexis Wright and Praiseworthy, we were pleased to see Maggie MacKeller and Graft on the longlist. And Arianne James – a great supporter of local writers as TasWriters Program Coordination and host of The Book Shelf on Edge Radio – was recognised on the shortlist for the ASA/HQ Fiction Prize for unpublished manuscripts.

Keen to chat books with us?

Find us on Instagram @thewomanbookerprizeclub or email thewbpc@gmail.com.

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July 2024

Stay up to date with everything happening at the Hobart Magazine.

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