Heather Rose Reads

During this long period of isolation I am keenly aware of what it will take to be a parent to young children. For many years, I’ve been going into schools and reading the Tuesday McGillycuddy series to primary school children. I also dress up as one of the main characters – Serendipity Smith.

So, to make a small contribution at this time, I’m going to read a chapter of Finding Serendipity at 4pm Australian Eastern Standard time on Facebook beginning Monday April 6th.

If readers want more, I’ll keep going. (In Australia there’s a long winter ahead.)

The series has been published in Australia, the USA and Germany. It has twice been shortlisted for Best Children’s Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards. The books are fantasy but they’re also about creativity and family, love and courage. We also wrote them to encourage and support young writers.

If you have younger readers aged 8 – 12, I’d love them to join me. I’ll also suggest some creative exercises they can do beyond the reading to keep them entertained a little longer.

There may even be dressing up.

If you’re in a different time zone, I’ll be posting the readings to YouTube here. Subscribe if you enjoy.

 

 

‘More a hand grenade than a book’

Review by Rohan Wilson in The Australian‘s Review magazine Saturday November 9, 2019.

Chafing satire and explosive views

  • By ROHAN WILSON
Heather Rose – Bruny Island – photography Peter Mathew

For the most part, Australian literature in the 21st century is fairly toothless.

On a good day, our writers can muster up some anger at the appalling treatment of our First ­Nations people or for the equally appalling treatment the LGBTI community suffers.

But outside of these worthy causes it seems as if our writers enjoy a middle-class contentment that turns their gaze inward to domestic life, rather than outward to civic life.

Meanwhile, the world is going through an economic revolution. The billionaire class and their neoliberal political attack dogs have convinced us that competition is the defining characteristic of human ­relations.

Wealth inequality is causing epidemics of depression, suicide and obesity. Property ownership has become an impossible dream for whole swaths of the community. A handful of powerful corporations are busy ­destroying our climate. Are our best writers asleep to what’s going on around them? ­­Or worse, are they happy with the status quo?

Heather Rose is perhaps the last writer I would have expected to come out swinging. Her previous novel, The Museum of Modern Love, won a swag of awards for its depiction of performance artist Marina Abramovic and her piece, The Artist is Present. It was a quiet, contemplative novel about the way art can bring people together and give us hope.

Now we have Bruny, which is more like a hand grenade than a book, with its excoriating satire and explosive views on our political and economic trajectory. It’s the best evidence we have yet that Australian writers are finally waking up to the unfolding crisis.

It begins with an explosion on the newly built Bruny Island bridge in the south of Tasmania. The bridge is meant to connect Bruny to the mainland, making life easier for the locals and boosting tourism.

Bruny Book
Bruny launched October 2019

The explosion has the hallmarks of a terrorist plot and it quickly becomes a central issue in the looming state election. Enter ­Astrid Coleman. Astrid is called in by her brother, JC, the premier of Tasmania and Liberal Party strongman. He wants a speedy resolution and thinks Astrid, who is an ­expert in conflict resolution based in New York, can bring together the various factions fighting over Tasmania’s future. But as Astrid starts to dig, she soon learns that JC’s motives are more nefarious than she first ­assumed.

Rose takes an episodic approach to her story, with Astrid in the field gathering information from bridge workers, restaurant owners, greenies, and anyone who might have reason to blow up the bridge.

A picture of contemporary Tasmania begins to emerge. We see how the politics of austerity have impoverished the community, we see how privatisation has given more and more power to unaccountable private tyrannies, and see, perhaps most frightening of all, that China has moved in to take advantage of Tasmania’s clean, green potential.

Astrid is not without her own problems, too. We learn that her parents’ marriage wasn’t as happy as it seemed and that it has left her with some anxieties to work through. Her own marriage fell apart after her husband revealed himself as a ­misogynist.

While she is world weary and somewhat cynical about her brother’s agenda, she maintains an optimistic outlook and a deep love for the island of her childhood. But her optimism is seriously challenged by the conspiracy she uncovers as the facts behind the destruction of the Bruny Island bridge come to light.

This is where the satire in the novel really starts to bite. The Chinese Communist Party views Tasmania as yet another Third World location where it might win some influence through investment in infrastructure. It ­insists that Chinese workers be shipped in to complete the repairs to the bridge and the Liberal government enthusiastically agrees.

Astrid starts to think that the bomb plot may have been staged in order to win support for a change in local employment laws to allow foreign workers to be shipped in wholesale. In fact, the truth is much, much worse.

As I read on and the scale of the conspiracy became clear, I had to put the book aside because I was laughing so hard.

This is audacious writing. It exposes the lies at the heart of neoliberal economics more clearly than any book in recent memory, and it does so with a vicious sense of irony.

And there’s something here for everyone. Whether it’s Astrid’s rule-breaking romantic interest in Dan, the manager of the bridge workers, or the family drama between Astrid and JC, or the political commentary and piss-taking, there are moments on every page that keep narrative tension bubbling away.

I certainly expect to see this book feature in major prize shortlists over the next 12 months. It’s the wake-up call we needed.

Bruny

By Heather Rose. Allen & Unwin, 424pp, $32.99

Rohan Wilson‘s most recent novel is Daughter of Bad Times.

From Heather: Rohan’s wonderful novel The Daughter of Bad Times shares many of the same concerns as Bruny – but is set in 2074 … do go seek it out!

The tour that was Bruny

Dymocks Sydney – George Street – Bruny their October Book of the Month

My first book tour is over. Bruny has been launched across Australia. Thank you to all the bookstores that so graciously and delightfully welcomed me and Bruny to author events across the country. It was such a pleasure to meet readers everywhere, brilliant booksellers, and to discover so many beautiful bookstores! Apart from the events below, there were also so many signings at independent bookstores and Dymocks stores in every city. Thank you all!

My thanks to the very dedicated and brilliant publicist from Allen & Unwin – Christine Farmer – who made all this happen … and visited endless shopping centres with me for signings. Also to Ange Stannard and Maria Tsiakopoulos in WA and Victoria who chaperoned me in those states. Also to the awesome Allen & Unwin team who designed all the Bruny collateral that decks windows and bookstores across Australia. So wonderful to have this kind of support for a novel.

Events were held at:

Hobart Sunday Sept 29 3.30pm Fullers Bookshop In Conversation with Literary Editor of the Australian, Stephen Romei

Hobart Tuesday Oct 1 6pm Official Bruny Launch Hobart RACV Hotel 6pm with Premier Will Hodgman and supported by Dymocks – SOLD OUT

Sydney Wednesday Oct 2nd 6.30pm Better Read than Dead In Conversation with Editor of The Guardian, Lenore Taylor

Wollongong Friday Oct 4th 6pm Wollongong Art Gallery In Conversation with author and journalist Caro Baum

Perth Sun Oct 6th 4.30pm National Hotel Fremantle with New Edition Bookstore In Conversation with ABC Perth’s Gillian O’Shaughnessy

Perth Mon Oct 7th 6.15 for 6.30pm Beaufort Street Books In Conversation with Jane Seaton

Brisbane Tuesday Oct 8th 6.15 for 6.30pm Riverbend Books In Conversation with Suzy Wilson

Brisbane Wednesday Oct 9th 6 for 6.30pm Avid Reader In Conversation with award-winning author Rohan Wilson

Adelaide (Stirling) – Thursday Oct 10th 6.30 for 7pm Matilda’s Bookshop In Conversation with Gavin Williams

Melbourne Friday Oct 11th 6.45pm for 7pm  – PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF VENUE: Avenue Bookstore, 127 Dundas Place, Albert Park In Conversation with James Ley – SOLD OUT

Sorrento Saturday Oct 12th evening event The Antipodes Bookshop – details to come

Melbourne Sunday Oct 13th 4pm Fairfield Bookshop In Conversation with Heather Dyer