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Fiction Map of the World – Australia

by Travelbag on 25 September 2014, 13:09PM

Today our fiction map series takes us Down Under to experience the vast delights of Australia.

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Essential Holiday Reading
For holiday reading I'm going to recommend ‘The Harp in the South’ by New Zealand born Australian author Ruth Park. Set in the Sydney suburb of Murry Hills during a time in which it was a dangerous and lively slum area, it is a gritty and realistic depiction of life there in the 1940s. Centering on the Irish Catholic Darcy family, the story tells of the highs and lows they experience and their interactions with the varied community around them. There are strong themes of adversity but also hope in the face of it remaining positive in difficult circumstances. The details are explicit and accurate as Ruth Park was living in the Murry Hills area during the time of writing, aiding the realism within the novel. Considered a classic of Australian literature it is well worth a read and a powerful book.

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Notable Australian Books
Australian fiction includes many novels that centre upon family issues and family life. Examples would include ‘Cloudstreet’ by Tim Winton, ‘Seven Little Australians’ by Ethel Turner and ‘The Man Who Loved Children’ by Christina Stead, all exhibiting different takes on family life and also the idea of the 'Aussie Battler' which is ‘ prominent in Australian fiction.

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Naturally there are many novels based around the population of Australia and the clashes with the indigenous aboriginal people. Novels such as ‘The Secret River’ by Kate Grenville and ‘The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’ by Thomas Keneally portray this in different ways.
So far this indicates much of Australian fiction is historical but there are many different genres represented? The scathing black comedy ‘Vernon God Little’ by DBC Pierre won the 2003 Booker Prize. Or there's the children's classic The Magin Pudding by Norman Lindsay and of course the mysterious ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ by Joan Lindsay. Australia has many great novels to discover.

Notable Australian Authors
Australia has produced an extensive list of outstanding authors dating as far back as Miles Franklin (My Brilliant Career), after whom Australia's primary literary award is named as it was set-up according to her will. The first winner of the award, Patrick White (Voss, The Vivisector) also went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Other notable winners of the Miles Franklin prize are Booker Prize winner Thomas Keneally (Schindler's Ark, Bring Larks and Heroes) and double Booker Prize winner Peter Carey (Oscar and Lucinda, True History of the Kelly Gang).

Australia also has some celebrated poets such as the 'Bush Poets' Henry Lawson (also recognised as Australia's greatest short story writer) and Banjo Paterson (The Man from Snowy River). Beyond this there are contemporary writers such as Tim Winton, Alexis Wright and Anita Heiss amongst others continuing to produce excellent work that reaches wider audiences.

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Notable Australian Films
Australian cinema reaches back to the first feature film ever made, The Story of the Kelly Gang in 1906. Notoriously a very up and down industry, Australia has produced many acclaimed films such as Crocodile Dundee (the highest grossing Australian film of all-time), Australia, Mad Max, Babe, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge. A notable link between a few of those films is that they are made by director Baz Lurhman featuring actress Nicole Kidman two of Australia’s greatest movie exports. Other famous names include director Chris Noonan, actors Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Eric Bana, Toni Collette and Cate Blanchett (the first Australian to win two Academy Awards). Between these actors are a large collection of the biggest blockbusters of the last three decades worldwide and a list of awards longer than this word-count is capable of accounting for.

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Essential Holiday Listening
For holiday listening Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds sixth studio album The Good Son is our recommendation. Written and recorded in Brazil during a more settled time of Cave's life, at a time when he was in love, this softer approach comes across in some of the songs including single The Ship Song, a haunting piano-led ballad. A great departure from the despair of his previous two albums, it is an album that still shows off the virtuosity of the makers and continues the trend Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds exhibit of altering styles with each album. Though at times a hopeful album it still shows glimpses of the visceral, cutting lyrics Cave is known for particularly on the title track and the closer, Lucy. At the time viewed by fans as a vast departure it has, over time, become viewed as a classic and is a worthy choice for holiday listening.

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Notable Australian Music
Australian music has roots in its indigenous peoples that produced the iconic didgeridoo instrument and streamed into its traditional folk music, most famously the Waltzing Matilda, the original lyrics for which were written by the aforementioned bush poet Banjo Paterson.
Opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, then a short time after, Dame Joan Sutherland both hailed from Australia and achieved international acclaim. Renowned for its long line of pop stars in recent times with names such as Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Holly Valance, Delta Goodrem and, recently, Iggy Azalea, Australia has consistently produced popular recording artists.

Outside of the mainstream there are several hip-hop artists/groups such as Hilltop Hoods, Illy and Bliss n Eso enjoying success outside of their native Australia. There are also a variety of rock groups ranging from AC/DC and INXS to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Savage Garden, Wolfmother and The Vines. This continued production of popular crossover acts ensures Australia's musical heritage will continue to flourish. 

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