The Hobart

The Tassie Book Club – Oct 2023

by Hobart Magazine
The Tassie Book Club – Oct 2023

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!

This month we review two novels about boys growing up in Tasmania; young men coming of age and working out their place in the world. The first is a brave new release by a fresh voice; the second is by one of our most acclaimed local authors, who recently won his second Age Book of the Year award for this novel released late last year.


Burn by Melanie Saward (Affirm Press, August 2023)

Review by Megan Tighe

Melanie Saward is a Bigambul/Wakka Wakka woman from Queensland who spent part of her childhood in Tasmania. In Burn, the main character Andrew’s story unfolds on a dual timeline: his earlier childhood in Tasmania, juxtaposed with his later teens in Brisbane. Saward shows a real affection for Tasmania, especially the natural environment of Port Sorell, in this grounded portrayal of a working-class family struggling with periods of unemployment, mental health issues, and living with racial discrimina­tion in regional Tasmania.

Andrew yearns to be back in Tasmania but even more, he longs to go back to the loving and supportive family he once had. Lacking that support, Andrew is easily led by anyone willing to offer him any acknowledgement. Nothing he does seems to improve his circumstances. He just wants something he can control, but then it gets out of hand…Andrew grapples with his sense of self – is he a bad person? Is he a pyromaniac ‘firebug’, or is he just guilty of playing with fire?

This is a morally complex novel, but easy to read despite the heavy subjects. It’s largely a sad story, but never a hopeless one. It highlights failings in youth justice, but ultimately delivers a hopeful image of how our systems could work better for young and especially First Nations people.

In this timely novel, Saward shows the impact of intergenerational trauma and demonstrates the importance of con­nection not only to country, but also to culture and community. There is plenty here for book clubs to discuss, especially ahead of the Voice referendum – and in fact, it is our book club’s next read!


Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Text Publishing, October 2022)

Review by Emily Schade

Maybe you’ve seen this floating around…? I’m kidding, of course you have. The list of awards this book has won is almost longer than the book itself, and rightly so because it is a total gem. Traipsing through the family orchard, Limberlost, we meet Ned. A quiet, thoughtful lad on the cusp of real life, Ned is living through a seemingly lim­bo-like and deeply important summer. With brothers away at war, whereabouts and safety unknown, a pragmatic but scared sister, and a man-of-the-age father trying to keep the family business afloat, Ned is trying to figure out who he is and what he feels.

Ned hunts rabbits for their pelts and dreams of buying himself a boat; he accidentally captures and rehabilitates a quoll; he follows his intuition even when he’s not sure why; he falls in love. We see Ned live a whole life, much of which is shaped by this summer. There is so much feeling in this book, largely due to Robbie’s beautiful writing – it’s perfectly descriptive and paints an equally moving picture of Ned, Tasmania and the course of a life. If you’ve been wondering why this book is so popular, read it and you’ll find out. Fun story – the day I finished this book, I ran into Robbie while walking my dog. Just another reason to love Tassie!

Book Chatter:

The Tasmanian literary community is thriving, and non-Tasma­nians are trying to get in on it too, with a seemingly non-stop parade of recent and upcoming releases with a Tassie connection. Last year’s Miles Franklin winner Amanda Lohrey has a new literary novel out this month, while the Flanagan brothers (Martin and Richard) release memoirs within three months of each other. Local Lenny Bartulin and well-known crime writer James Dunbar have added to the selection of crime/thrillers set in rural Tasmania, while Eva Scott has published a small-town romance.

Keen to chat books with us? Find us on Instagram @thewomanbookerprizeclub or email thewbpc@gmail.com.

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