The inaugural meeting of the North Bruny Island Book Club (working title!) was held on Tuesday, 7th March 2023.
As part of Tasmania Reads It was decided that participants should bring along and discuss books with a distinctly Tasmanian flavour – author or setting, fiction or non-fiction. A surprising variety of books were offered for discourse.
Here’s a round up to add to your list of ‘next reads’:
Thylacine conspiracy (2003) by Bill Cromer
In this amazing book , you will feel as though you are racing along with the characters. A thrill a minute as the hero tries to find the Thylacine Tiger and comes up against an elaborate conspiracy, undiscovered murders, and a killer that will make you shudder. Bill Cromer gets you so involved you just can’t stop turning pages.
Not Quite Tasmanian (2021) by Demelza is a collection of poems that takes us on an accidental journey through life. It is an observation of people and places – of food and thoughts and inevitable events such as birth, death, and education. The poet never professes to get it right but discovers with reflection, sadness and a great deal of humour, how to cope, or not, with everyday tasks. June entertained us by reading ‘Ode to the Tasmanian puffer jacket’ – something we could all relate to!
Those snake island kids (2012) by Jon Tucker – a book reminiscent of Swallows and Amazons about kids and for kids, enjoyable also by adults. There is a strong sense of place (Snake Island really does exist near Apollo Bay) and of the realities of sailing and camping. There is international cooperation against bad guys, not all of whom turn out to be bad in the end, and a very exciting rescue.
The Settlement (2022) Jock Serong is a compelling read, powered by the authors descriptive, muscular prose, The Settlement takes a slow, mournful pace. It has to, because the focus is truly harrowing: the genocide of Tasmania’s First Peoples and their forced displacement to a settlement at Pea Jacket Point on Flinders Island.
Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse (2020) by Cassandra Pybus. Truganini lived through a psychological and cultural shift more extreme than we can imagine. But her life was much more than a regrettable tragedy. The author has examined the original eyewitness accounts to write Truganini’s extraordinary story in full. Those participants who had read this book all praised its literary credentials, but all agreed it was a difficult read.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife (2011) by Karen Viggers. A woman at the end of her life, a man unable to restart his, and a history of guilty secrets and things left unsaid—this is a powerful, moving novel of love, loss, and family. Elderly and in poor health, Mary fulfills her wish to herself to live out her last days on Bruny Island off of Tasmania, with only her regrets and memories for company. Her late husband was the lighthouse keeper on Bruny, and she’d raised a family on the wild windswept island, until terrible circumstances forced them back to civilization.
Living with Jezabel: a life on Tasmanian and bass Strait lighthouses (2015) by Marlene Levings. This is a true story of life and love in some of the wildest and most isolated places on earth – the light stations of Bass Strait and Tasmania. Before their automation, Australia’s remote island and onshore lights were manned by lightkeepers and their families. Foul weather, misadventure and supply problems were offset by incredible natural beauty, camaraderie and a unique lifestyle that no longer exists in the modern world.
Limberlost (2022) by Robbie Arnott. The much-anticipated third novel by award-winning Australian author Robbie Arnott, Limberlost is a story of family and land, loss and hope, fate and the unknown, and love and kindness. In the heat of a long summer Ned hunts rabbits in a river valley, hoping the pelts will earn him enough money to buy a small boat. His two brothers are away at war, their whereabouts unknown. His father and older sister struggle to hold things together on the family orchard, Limberlost.
Toxic (2021) Richard Flanagan is a deep dive into everything that is wrong with Tasmania’s salmon industry. And it does seem to be everything. From pollution to politics, Flanagan’s portrayal of the industry is of one almost irredeemably broken.
In Search of Hobart (2009)Peter Timms. This idiosyncratic view of Australia’s smallest, most southerly, least-populated capital city explores Hobart’s troubled acceptance of its convict past and its brutal near-annihilation of its first people. Timms links Hobart’s shift in attitudes to a new-found confidence in itself. It is no longer ashamed of its convict past, and it has led the rest of the country in reconciliation initiatives with indigenous Tasmanians. What shines through this insightful little book is the love of nature and the beauty of the city. It comes as a surprise to be reminded that a mere 30 minutes from the CBD one can look out from Mt Wellington to where the nearest landfall.
James Kelly Circumnavigation of Tasmania Log of his circumnavigation of Van Diemen’s Land 1814-1815
Gould’s book of fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish (2001) Richard Flanagan. It is a fictionalised account of the convict William Buelow Gould’s life both at Macquarie Harbour and elsewhere during his life in Van Diemen’s Land.he novel is unusual in that it makes use of paintings by the real Van Diemonian convict artist William Buelow Gould reproduced with permission from William Gould’s Sketchbook of Fishes, held by the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, in the State Library of Tasmania. These images of fish are used both as chapter headings and inspiration for characters.
The Oyster Girl (2020) Wren Fraser Cameron. She was the Oyster Girl, clamped onto life, encased in a brittle sharp shell, a shadow in the mud, her story a secret. This is a version of lutruwita/Tasmania that you have never read, a novel of the sea and sailing that tells the story of an island through the eyes of an unforgettable woman, Pearl Macqueen, the Oyster Girl. Starting as it means to go on, seismically, The Oyster Girl traces Pearl from her time as an indentured worker diving for mutton fish and crays through love, friendship, fortune and some of the cruel dealings of fate. Cameos from many of the island’s most recognisable historical figures, fleshed out with failings and foibles, are spotted throughout the story.