Review Blog

Jul 20 2016

A brief take on the Australian novel by Jean-Francois Vernay

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Wakefield Press, 2016. ISBN 9781743054048
(Age: Senior secondary - adult) Recommended. Do you know who wrote Australia's first novel? Or who wrote the first Aboriginal novel? A brief take on the Australian novel will give you the answers to these questions whilst providing a chronological panorama of Australian literature from its birth in the colonial novels of the 1830's to the novels of today.
Author Jean-Francois Vernay traces the influences of the colonial period, the colonial romance, feminine writing, the emergence of the national consciousness, the impact of war, modernism, realism, and so on. The historical perspective is supplemented by some 'close-ups' or summaries of the works of particular authors, or particular issues. Vernay borrows from the vocabulary of cinema with inserted 'close-ups' and 'low-angle shots' in his panoramic scan to give greater detail to subjects that warrant it.
I enjoyed reading about the literary and identity frauds, as well as the discussion of Aboriginal ownership and issues of protocols, though I don't wholly agree with his conclusions. I expect other readers will find their own points of interest that draw them in along the way.
It is interesting to read this well crafted perspective of the Australian novel, though it may at times leave you wanting more. It is, after all, only a 'brief take', useful for providing a general overview and context for the Australian novel, highlighting themes and issues that could provoke further exploration.
Vernay provides some 'special features' at the end - discussions of Patrick White and Christopher Koch, and a short history of Australian publishing. There are also supplementary timelines of literary milestones, and of writers' birthdates, along with a bibliography, sitography and index - all in all, making for a very useful tool to guide further research.
Helen Eddy

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