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  • The White Earth by Andrew McGahan

    After his father’s death, young William is cast upon the charity of an unknown great-uncle, John McIvor. The old man was brought up expecting to marry the heiress to Kuran Station—a grand estate in the Australian Outback—only to be disappointed by his rejection and the selling off of the land. He has devoted his life to putting the estate back together and has moved into the once-elegant mansion. 

    McIvor tries to imbue William with his obsession, but his hold on the land is threatened by laws entitling the Aborigines to reclaim sacred sites. William’s mother desperately wants her son to become John McIvor’s heir, but no one realizes that William is ill and his condition is worsening.

     

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    The Strays / by Emily Bitto

    Published by Affirm Press 2014

    "Exploring the importance of female friendships inspired by her own childhood friendship" [VogueAustralia, June, 2015]

    On her first day at a new school, Lily befriends one of the daughters of infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham. He and his wife are trying to escape the stifling conservatism of 1930s Australia by inviting other like-minded artists to live and work at their family home. Lily becomes infatuated with this wild, makeshift family and longs to truly be a part of it.
    As the years pass, Lily observes the way the lives of these artists come to reflect the same themes as their art: Faustian bargains and spectacular falls from grace. Yet it's not Evan, but his own daughters, who pay the price for his radicalism.

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    Reviews:

    "Bitto writes beautifully, her prose supple and satisfying, her insights and extended metaphors worth lingering over." - Adelaide Advertiser, Katherine England, June 2014

    "The Strays is an eloquent portrayal of the damage caused by self-absorption as well as a moving study of isolation. Her style is gently observant; she allows the reader space in which to develop their own compassion" - The Sydney Morning Herald. Michael McGirr, June 2014

    "Emily Bitto has written a very stylish and enjoyable debut novel." - The Sunday Mail, Brisbane, 18 May 2014

    "Another favourite this year was The Strays (Affirm Press), Emily Bitto's hugely impressive first novel. The long central section, a meditation on family and friendship set in the 1930s Melbourne art scene, is magical. Bitto creates a world so densely imagined that it seems not just real but part of the reader's own past – and she does it in lovely prose." - The Sydney Morning Herald, Michelle de Kretser, 6 December 2014

    "This is a beautifully crafted tender novel of innocence, friendship and divided loyalties." - Surf Coast Times, Nicole Maher, 28 May 2015

    "The Strays, the debut novel from Melbourne writer Emily Bitto, manages to strike the reader with its intensity, atmospheric writing, and occasional shock value." – The Creative Issue, Sophie Clews, 27 Feb 2015

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      The Rosie Project / by Graeme Simsion

      Published by The Text Publishing Company, 2013

      The feel-good novel of 2013, The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance.

      Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn't know who to yet.

      But he has designed the Wife Project, using a sixteen-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

      Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And on a quest of her own to find her biological father—a search that Don, a professor of genetics, might just be able to help her with.

      The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why quick-dry clothes aren't appropriate attire in New York. Why he's never been on a second date. And why, despite your best scientific efforts, you don't find love: love finds you.

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      Reviews:

      "The "Rosie Project" was a quick read. I try to read one fiction book per week, but my list of Hemingways, Dostoyevskys, Henry Jameses and Kafkas so far this year now have a Simsion that has put me one book ahead of schedule. I was not able to incorporate a UC Book of the Year essay question in my unit this time - the subject matter did not fit with the learning outcomes. Nevertheless, I have seen many copies of the book around campus, so anything that makes students read is a good thing in my view. It must be a real challenge to select books for a student audience. YA fiction obviously would be the smart place to start, but Orwell's "Books v. Cigarettes" or Kafka's "The Trial" would be great novels to draw out some of my learning outcomes. But it would be difficult to have publishers or promoters so involved with a classic.

      Regardless, it is very pleasing to see all of the new initiatives happening around the campus and I believe the UC Book of the Year project is a winner. I have not been able to finish "Room" because, well, why? and the anachronisms in "Jasper Jones" drove me bonkers, but even if these can become talking points in themselves then we are doing what we are meant to do in such an institution. Even though "Room" made my skin crawl, and people like Don and Gene in Rosie should be with the dinosaurs (where they belong), I am pleased that the topics of the first three books so far have not too dry or conservative". – Michael Depercy, UC academic

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        Room / by Emma Donoghue

        Published by Pan Macmillan Australia, 2010

        The story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world.

        Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He's looking forward to telling his friends it's his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways - loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions - his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack's entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he's concerned, Room is the entire world.

        He shares this world with his mother, with Plant, and tiny Mouse (though Ma isn't a fan and throws a book at Mouse when she sees him). There's TV too, of course - and the cartoon characters he thinks of as his friends - but Jack knows that nothing else he sees on the screen is real. Old Nick, on the other hand, is all too real, but only visits at night - like a bat - when Jack is meant to be asleep and hidden safely in Wardrobe. And only Old Nick has the code to Door, which is otherwise locked...

        Told in Jack's voice, Room is the story of a mother's love for her son, and of a young boy's innocence.

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        Reviews:

        'There are many compelling issues... aspects of child development -physical, social, psychological and linguistic - as well as themes of incarceration, freedom, reality, even ontology.  We (one?) could delve into human agency and the nature of evil too. The writing is beautiful and there are some troubling, wise comments in the latter half of the book about contemporary US society' by Rachel Cunneen, UC staff member

        'the voice of a child meant I was suddenly dealing with a subject I would not have intentionally pursued.  So, as often happens with literature, I am challenged in the best of ways to ponder, in this case about oppression, power, freedom and hope, amongest other things.'  by Anita Crotty, UC staff member

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          Jasper Jones: a novel / by Craig Silvey

          Published by Allen and Unwin, 2009

          Full of unforgettable characters, a page-turning pace and outrageously good dialogue, this is a glorious novel - thoughtful, funny, heartbreaking and wise - about outsiders and secrets, and what it really means to be a hero.

          Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.

          Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it's here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper's horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother, falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu.

          And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things   is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

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          Reviews:

          “I have now finished reading Jasper Jones. It turned out to be very absorbing reading. The unusual weaving of Shakespearian, whodunnit and backwater arguments leaves one deep in thoughts.

          I didn’t know what to think of the project when it was first announced (particularly its ‘required reading’ aspect for students) and it took me a while to go and get my copy. But the book project comes into its own once the reading is done - the book brilliantly covers some very fundamental life themes, which blend well with the enlightenment mission of a university.

           I applaud the initiative and I owe a big thank you to its initiators for an enriching experience.”— Associate Professor Ben Freyens, UC staff member

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          “Michael de Percy and I incorporated Jasper Jones into one of our assessment items this semester and found that students were quite enthusiastic to study the book within the context of government-business relations drawing on the theme of discrimination, which was prevalent throughout the book. The students were given the option of a challenging bonus question which we added to our list of tutorial presentation topics.

          I was quite impressed with the creativity and effort by these students to demonstrate clear links between issues explored within the book and the unit content as well as drawing on relevant examples. Many of the students recommended that their peers also read the book after the enjoyable experience.

          Overall, I think it was a great success and something that we will consider continuing to incorporate in future semesters”.— Miss Emma Wannell, UC staff member

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          “I really enjoyed reading Jasper Jones. I found it to be unexpectedly funny and never too predictable. I thought including it into an assessment task was really enjoyable, as it helped to add a whole other interesting dimension that showed how Government-Business Relations is relatable to many common human situations.

          I would definitely recommend using this book again” — Rafina, UC student

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          “Jasper Jones is a morally challenging novel by Craig Silvey, which discusses various issues, such as discrimination, and allows the reader to challenge the ideals of today's society compared to the 1960s.

          The novel took a while to get into, however it brought up interesting concepts, which I found useful in more than one of my classes. Overall I found the book enjoyable and would recommend it for people with any interest in fiction novels”. — Ruth, UC Student