Review

Reviews of Clean by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

“The sublime nature of Mitchell’s work is evident throughout, for the poet constantly juggles elements of both the picturesque and the sinister.” Holden Walker. Full review in Mascara here:

Reviews of My Giddy Aunt and her sister comedians by Sharon Connolly

“Female performers at the turn of the 20th century found both joy and frustration in theatre. If you thought Deadwood was a lawless, heartless place, try early Australia.”

“Connolly’s ancestors, male & female on both sides were musical, dramatic, creative, talented & driven. What would a woman do with her talents? Even if married to a pleasant man & had two sons that you loved, the desire to perform was insistent.”

Helen Elliot, The Weekend Australian 6 August 2022

Reviews of Words are Eagles by Gregory Day

“Gregory Day’s writing is inextricably bound with the landscape in this collection.

Words are Eagles is a tonic selection of Gregory Day’s various non-fiction published in Australian journals, magazines and newspapers over recent years (roughly the period 2015 to date). It anthologises his excellent essays for the Nature Conservancy Australia Nature Writing Prize and dips into his wreading – ‘that is, the simultaneous and recursive synthesis of the acts of reading and writing’ – a term Day attributes to the American poet and critic Jed Rasula.”
– Paul Anderson, The Newtown Review of Books July 2022

“It is an urgent invitation to become local, while respecting what you do not know and cannot claim. For a reader, like me, who is familiar with this place (the “Surf Coast”), Words are Eagles conjures an astonishing sense of what is hidden in plain sight: the polychromatic ochre timbres of the clay earth beneath the roads, the “pottery nest” of the willie wagtail couple in the boobiallas by the “eely river”, the Wadawurrung language the children are learning at the local primary school.”
– David Carlin, The Conversation July 2022

“I relished reading and re-reading Words Are Eagles, and keenly appreciated its poetic mysteries, philosophical playfulness, and powerful evocation of a region. It beautifully captures (and seeks to accelerate) a signifcant shift in Australian culture towards respecting and re-learning the language of nature and place: the ecology of words that belong here.”
– Tom Griffiths, Australian Book Review July 2022

“This is a thought-provoking collection that will be arresting to nature-lovers who find themselves struggling to describe the awe of the world around them. Day offers a blueprint of what a settler reckoning to their own naïve position in relation to landscape and language might look like.” (full review: https://www.artshub.com.au/news/reviews/book-review-words-are-eagles-gregory-day-2563187/ ). -Erin Stewart, ArtsHub July 2022

“What Words are Eagles narrates is Day’s long effort to know his particular patch of earth – Airey’s Inlet (or Mangowak, as the traditional owners call it) and surrounds – with proper intimacy. Only by entering into long imaginative collaboration with his local environment, in other words, can Day earn the experiential spurs to write about it. His opening essay The Watergaw is typical in this regard – while also being an extraordinary piece of creative nonfiction, blending autobiography, regional history, literary criticism and environmental thinking… Such efforts are a fraction of what Day considers in the thought experiments that make up this volume. His ideas range from eccentric to truly radical – and gathered together we can see that the author has quietly, doggedly, carefully, assembled one of the most intriguing and necessary body of works by a contemporary Australian author. When Day writes the word ‘Bunjil’ – the Wadawurrung word for Wedge-Tailed Eagle – one senses he has earned to right to do so.” -Geordie Williamson, chief literary critic of The Australian.

Words Are Eagles invites a broad audience to grapple with how we relate to place, and is
ultimately a must for bookshelves Australia-wide. –Duncan Strachan, The Big Issue.

The world of his essays offers a sensory and rhythmic oscillation between the personal – memories, family history and relationships – and vivid descriptions of the beauty of the natural world. This vital combination creates a necessary exploration of the language of Country – specifically the Wadawurrung and Gadubanud languages – as well as others transplanted to Australia through colonial settlement and migration. For example, in his tender essay “The Ocean at Night”, Day charts the migration of his family to the coast, inspired by his grandfather’s visit to Lorne after the death of his wife, long before Day was born. Day poses the question: “Are we that live in and around the coast … suffering from our lexicon of borrowed names?” The borrowed names he repeats are familiar: “gannet, myrtle beech, crayfish, bullant, bluegum, wattlebird, sheoak, bandicoot, leucopogon … Pull these words out by their roots and see how little soil is clinging to them here.” –Brooke Boland, The Saturday Paper

Reviews of Imaginative Possession by Belinda Probert

“Wanting to belong forms the root system of Belinda Probert’s Imaginative Possession, marking the terrain – how can she, as an immigrant, ever feel at home in Australia? – and producing shoots of longing for the landscapes of her English childhood. Even now, forty-five years after arriving in Perth to take up a teaching position at Murdoch University, after which she lived briefly in Adelaide before raising a family in Melbourne, that question lingers. Specifically, given that she feels at ease with the people and culture, why does she still feel needled by the natural environment? To explore this, Probert employs the triple treat of academia, bibliophilia, and gardening nous. Perhaps leaving Melbourne will make her feel more congruent with the country, an impulse that sees her, in her early sixties, buying a rural property in the Otways. Or maybe, despite the wealth of knowledge she gains there, it won’t.
— Paul Dalgarno, Australian Book Review, September 2021

“Thirty-five years after migrating to Australia from London, educator and social scientist Belinda Probert is still struggling to feel at home in a country that is so ancient and so unlike the pastoral England of her childhood. Believing that to feel at home in Australia she must first feel at home in its landscapes, Probert purchases a 28-acre piece of land in south-western Victoria and sets out to create her own garden.
Thankfully, the resulting book is much more than a collection of gardening anecdotes. Woven throughout her encounters with the flora and fauna of her garden (from kookaburras and a resident echidna to tiger snakes and leeches) are insights into bushfire measures and farming practices and considerations of the ancientness of the land and its cultures. Yet what proves most valuable in Probert’s quest to ‘imaginatively possess’ her adopted country is a close reading of the works of prominent Australians interested in the same questions of belonging, from George Seddon to Kim Mahood.
Ultimately it is Probert’s own enthusiasm for transcending personal and collective preconceptions about the Australian landscape that allows her to explore alternative ways of belonging, such as social, cultural and political belonging. Acutely observed and deeply reflective, Imaginative Possession is a welcome addition to the necessary conversation happening around identity, ownership and the values that underpin our society.” Jacqui Davies is a freelance writer and reviewer based in South Australia
— Jacqui Davies, June 2021

…Part memoir, part essay, part literary appreciation, Imaginative Possession is a fascinating and thought provoking book that will get you thinking about what the Australian environment means to you…
— North Melbourne Books

‘The result is a book of quiet personal introspection told with humour and self-deprecation. Probert has learned so much and is keen to share this with her readers. Her style is enormously approachable, and her writing is vibrant and compelling. Happily, Upswell Publishing saw a place for this kind of writing, and as readers, we are richer for sharing in the experience.’
—Kara Nicolson, Readings Bookshop reviews
(Full review here)

‘Reading Probert’s book is like sitting down with a wise, warm friend. Probert’s work skips seamlessly from the personal to the critical, drawing on work by people such as Bruce Pascoe and George Seddon, as she tackles her own steep learning curve, and broader issues related to colonialism, belong and conservation.’

Eliza Henry-Jones, ABC Organic magazine

Reviews of The Sweetest Fruit by Monique Truong

Review in The Saturday Paper by Leah Jing McIntosh, September 2021

“A slow burn, The Sweetest Fruits is a thoughtful layering of fictions and truths, a novel that will most certainly dazzle.”

Reviews of Delia Akeley and the Monkey by Iain McCalman

Review in Australian Book Review by Libby Robin March 2022

“This book is about Africa but also about the stifling limits of New York that drove Akeley, his two wives, and JT to different sorts of madness. Fevers are often associated with African jungles, but the expectations of the urban jungle of Manhattan added another level of craziness. As museums serve postcolonial audiences today, their silences and historical aspirations become even more important. Delia Akeley and the Monkey is a highly original dive into the intergenerational museum family.”

Review in The Age/Sydney Morning Herald by Jessie Tu February 2022

“Iain McCalman’s Delia Akeley & the Monkey is a confronting read, insofar as one finds oneself in the difficult position of assessing actions of those in the past using hindsight — it’s hard to accomplish this task without judgment, without acknowledging the “humane revolution” that has taken place since the 1960s in the ways we co-exist with our fellow animals.

Yet McCalman, a cultural historian who has published books on science and the natural environment, paints a sympathetic picture of a woman who lived at atime when her gender ensured her life was contained and reduced.”

Preview in Books and Publishing November 2021

“On an African hunting expedition in 1909, an American woman named Delia Akeley captured a baby vervet monkey to settle an argument. It was a casual act that changed both their lives: while Delia initially intended to return the monkey to the wild, she found herself so charmed by her new companion that she decided to keep her. For the next nine years, JT the monkey was both a beloved pet and a subject of intense study as Delia—who had a natural flair for primatology that went largely unrecognised thanks to the gender politics of her time—carefully observed JT’s interactions with humans. Historian Iain McCalman’s meticulously researched account of this unlikely pairing recovers the little-known story of a remarkable woman and engages with the complex ethical questions raised by Akeley’s fateful decision in 1909. The book goes beyond the near-decade Akeley and JT spent together to examine the far-reaching ramifications of their union, both for Akeley herself and for the field of natural history. While McCalman argues persuasively that Akeley should be remembered as a patriarchy-fighting forerunner to renowned primatologists such as Jane Goodall, he’s also clear-eyed about her flaws and her position as a privileged white woman in a problematic colonial context. Delia Akeley and the Monkey is an illuminating and important book that will appeal to readers who enjoy history and creative nonfiction by writers such as Mark McKenna and Sophie Cunningham.”

Reviews of The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Selim Özdoğan

Review in Sydney Morning Herald/The Age, January 2022

“Selim Ozdogan is a writer of the Turkish diaspora, born in Germany. The first in a trilogy, this novel is realist, focused on aspirational workers. It is also a devastating critique of entitled patriarchy and its consequences: smothered women. The blacksmith Timur is a loving father who still lets his daughter Gul have little agency beyond the domestic, being a maid for her stepmother. In turn, Gul is devoured by thoughts unspoken, paths never taken. If the father is wilful with money, then the daughter is with self-abnegation. Ozdogan draws village life skilfully: hard, relieved by summer abundance, but cursed with envy and malice. It is possible to escape, the hope of better wages causing emigration to Germany. Again, this decision is not for Gul to make.”

Reviews of No Enemies No Friends: Restoring Australia’s Global Relevance by Allan Behm