Over the next few weeks our staff members will be posting their Stella Sparks, a fantastic initiative of the Stella Prize where readers recommend their favourite book by a female Australian author (our store owner Suzy Wilson is on the judging panel for this year’s award.) Here are a few of the very wonderful books that have been formative in our reading experience.
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, May Gibbs
As a small child growing up in North Wales my first contact with anything Australian was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. While I found the book delightful it was not until I came here to live twenty years later that the images resonated and I realised I had a lot of Australian reading to catch up on. Selecting one “Sparkling” title out of over forty years of reading is surely an impossible task with such Stellar authors as Kate Grenville, Ruth Park, Joan London, Helen Garner, Mem Fox, Sonya Hartnett, Geraldine Brooks, Chloe Hooper and Madeleine St John to name a mere handful…and of course not forgetting Germaine…and Anne Summers. So many wonderful authors over so many genres, heavens I cannot even choose a favourite genre! Too many books, not enough time. My favourite book is usually the one I am currently reading and at the moment that is R A Spratt’s Friday Barnes – Oh it is such fun!
The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
When I was eighteen I came across a discounted copy of The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. I was intrigued by the foreword, a rapturous and lengthy essay by Jonathan Franzen, and that despite the eagerness of Australians to claim any remotely successful creative export as ‘Ours,’ I’d never heard of Stead. The monstrous novel is a confronting, uneasy read, with the outsized characters at its centre dancing a fine line between tragic and farcical. But it’s Stead’s ability to extract pathos from these loathsome individuals that prove her to be a writer in the league of Austen and Dickens: a powerfully imaginative masterclass in making the personal political.
The Forests of Silence, Emily Rodda
I read Emily Rodda’s The Forests of Silence from the Deltora Quest series for the first time when I was ten years old. I was required to read it for an English assignment at the time, and while I was initially reluctant – I’ve never been a fan of fantasy – I was instantly enthralled in the elaborate and spectacular world that Rodda had created. Nine years later, while tutoring a boy who was also tasked with writing an assignment on the novel, I discovered the universal love for the world of Deltora. Lief’s heroic race against the Shadow Lord to retrieve the gems from the belt of Deltora is enough to spark the imagination of any young child. While there are countless incredible books that have shaped my literary palate, the Deltora Quest books are the first I can recall that truly sparked my sense of wonder and my passion for reading.