Colleen Hoover’s latest and the Archibald Prize scandal

Anuradha Roy’s fifth novel addresses sectarianism in India, the power (and impotence) of art, and the collision of fantasy and reality that underpins most human experience. One strand is an ill-starred love story set in the aftermath of the fall of Indira Gandhi. Elango, a Hindu potter and rickshaw driver, falls for Zohra, from a Muslim family, and his desire leads him to mold a gigantic terracotta horse, as ancient myths enwreathe and inspire his imagination. When dramatic events force Elango to skip town, the narrative refocuses on his young pottery apprentice Sara, writing years later, having traveled to England for university. It’s an emotionally intelligent, witty, and inventive novel: one that follows passions fired into love and hatred, as well as molding an intricate coming-of-age novel in miniature.

The Dust Never Settles
Karina Lickorish Quinn, OneWorld, $29.99

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Latin American magical realism houses a wealth of contemporary fiction and The Dust Never Settles It reminds you how often the genre is constructed and elaborated using the architecture of the ghost story. The unquiet past rises to meet British-Peruvian woman Anais Echeverria. Married and pregnant and settled into London life, Anais must face her Peruvian heritage to organise the sale of her ancestral home in Lima. Her trip is haunted by the spectres of the nation’s and her family’s past – from the treatment of indigenous peoples and African slaves to a maid whose tragic death in the 1980s led to her being venerated as a folk-saint. The striving for lyricism might be a shade effortful in parts – it’s no One Hundred Years of Solitude — but Karina Lickorish Quinn delivers both a searching exploration of the duality of migrant experience, and the haunting beauty and horror of Peruvian history.

NON-FICTION PICK OF THE WEEK
The Case That Stopped a Nation

Peter Edwell, Halstead Press, $39.95

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In Australia, sport “stops the nation”, not art. But in 1944, the Archibald Prize became a metaphorical blood sport when it divided both the art world and the general public, drawing 153,000 people to an exhibition previously attended by 13,000. In most accounts of this vitriolic affair, says Peter Edwell, the artist Mary Edwards is cast “the despised villain” who instigated a court case challenging the Archibald trustees’ decision to give William Dobell the prize for his portrait of Joshua Smith. As a historian, Edwell does not seek to exonerate Edwards’ so much as provide a fuller, more nuanced picture of her role as a key protagonist, and show how the painting acted as “a lightning rod in the midst of a prolonged and severe storm ” between traditionalists and modernists in the Australian art scene, leaving all involved nursing wounds that would last a lifetime.

Sister Girl
Jackie Huggins
UQP, $29.99

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Reflecting on this new edition of Sister Girl more than 20 years after its original publication, it struck Jackie Huggins that many of the injustices faced by First Nations people had not changed “one iota”. At the same time, she was heartened by the younger black women who are taking up the baton from her generation. This updated collection of essays captures the sweep of Huggins’ career as a feminist who took on the women’s liberation movement for its marginalization of black women, as a historian of Aboriginal women in the pastoral industry working “in a situation of quasi-slavery”, as an activist inside the bureaucracy doing battle with entrenched white male power. the final essay, Don’t Call Me Aunty, captures her mood in her 65th year as she speaks forthrightly on the misuse of “this glorious term”, setting her own terms for how she is to be addressed.

Inseparable Elements: Dame Mary Durack
Patsy Millett, Fremantle Press, $34.99

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As a precocious young child, Patsy Millett called her mother, the writer Mary Durack Miller, “Mrs Miller”. While theirs was a sometimes embattled relationship, Millett’s wry portrait of her mother is animated by a deep appreciation for Durack’s warmth, intelligence and empathy, her creative legacy and her appetite for life. After Durack’s tale of her pastoralist forebears, Kings in Grass Castles, became an instant classic, “the Duracks were suddenly among the most famous pioneers in the country” and the Durack name “carried the lustre of association”. The extended Durack family is very much part of this biography, as is the fate of Mary’s children, two of whom died before their mother. Drawing on her own memories, her mother’s journals and family correspondence from seven decades, Millett continues the tradition of transforming family history into a multigenerational saga.

South Flows the Pearl: Chinese Australian Voices
Mavis Gock Yen, Sydney University Press, $40

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“The history of the Chinese in Australia is almost as long as Australia’s own history,” observes Mavis Gock Yen, who conducted the interviews that form the basis of this detailed oral history about the stories of ordinary Chinese-Australians whose families have lived here for generations. Their stories often begin with ancestors drawn by the legendary “gold mountains” of the Australian goldfields and tell of the descendants who established the Chinese restaurants, the market gardens, the groceries, the laundries, the furniture factories and import-export agencies that became an integral part of the local economy. Their stories also tell of discrimination endured in the form of government restrictions and community prejudice. At a time of bellicose rhetoric in relations between Australia and China, these voices highlight the depth of the two nations’ shared heritage.

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