Book Review highlights for 2021

2021 was not the greatest year of our lives but, for avid readers, it has had some terrific highlights. Here are my selections for the best of – would love to hear which books gave you the most pleasure. 

Overall favourites/champions

After Story – Larissa Behrendt; and Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and the Sun

Best biography

James Campbell – Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin

Best political histories

Johanna Perheentupa – Redfern: Aboriginal Activism in the 1970s; Carolyn … Read more »

Dear Son: Letters and Reflections from First Nations Fathers and Sons

Reviewed by Heather O’Connor

Thomas Mayor

Thomas Mayor is a Torres Strait Islander, father of five, union official, and tireless advocate for the proposals in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. In this collection he invited twelve contributors to write a letter, either to his father or son. The writers come from a wide range of professions and life experiences, and each is a leader in his own right. They write of life, masculinity, culture and racism. … Read more »

Dark as Last Night

Reviewed by Heather O’Connor

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is renowned for his novels and short stories. This latest collection contains many sad stories, but ones that are often softened by the affection and loyalty exhibited between family and community members. Set in the 1970s, one of the strongest themes is how tough life was for working class kids – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Prejudice, poverty and inequality were rife, as was family violence. … Read more »

The Labyrinth

Reviewed by Heather O’Connor

Amanda Lohrey

Text Publishing, $24.99

This is the winner of the 2021 Miles Franklin Award and currently shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year – a great reward for the 74-year old Tasmanian writer. It tells the story of a woman who moves to a small village on the south coast of NSW in order to be close to her son, recently sentenced to years in a local prison for homicidal negligence. … Read more »

After Story

Reviewed by Heather O’Connor

Larissa Behrendt

This is the most enjoyable book I have read this year. Thanks again to the wonderful staff at Candelo Books for the recommendation.

An Indigenous mother and daughter travel to the UK for a literary tour that introduces the mother, Della, to Sherlock Holmes, Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, the Brontë sisters, Dickens, Jane Austen and others, most of whom she only knows through television shows. Her daughter, Jasmine, is a trainee lawyer; for her, literature has been a life-long comfort. She was only three when her sister was abducted … Read more »

Shuggie Bain

Reviewed by Heather O’Connor
Douglas Stuart
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

This is the debut novel of a Scottish/American writer that was long-listed for the Booker Prize and has received rave reviews. It is set in Glasgow in the 1980s against the backdrop of mine and factory closures, as grim a story I have read as any set in Scotland and centred on the working class in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Agnes Bain, a former beauty who expected much of … Read more »