Brennan identifies an oblique reference made in Birds of Passage to a poem by Su Tung Po, a poet-painter exiled to South China at the end of the eleventh century. She aligns this with a previous reference in Castro's book to comment from historian Geoffrey Blainey on the abuse directed towards the Chinese on the goldfields in nineteenth-century Australia, making the point that 'Castro offers us the opportunity to contemplate how ancient Chinese poetry might converse with contemporary Australian writing and culture' (p. 31).
Brennan argues that while 'Castro's writing has always engaged obliquely with ethical concerns' there is a sense through the characters and dialogue of The Garden Book 'that the narrative, while remaining true to more abstract questions of writing, memory, desire and death, wants us to think deeply and urgently about the consequences of the politics of fear currently operating in Australia'.
The Cambria Australian Literature Series focuses on critical studies of writing by Australians, with a particular emphasis on contemporary Australian fiction. In recent decades Australian fiction publishing has outstripped critical study, with the work of many important writers receiving little more critical attention than newspaper and journal reviews, with occasional articles in scholarly journals or collections by diverse critics. This series gives an opportunity for sustained consideration of a writer’s full career. In each book, an individual critic engages with the work of a writer, assisting other scholars, students and general readers in understanding its complexities. Each book seeks to find an appropriate, original and lively approach to the writer in question. In particular, the series places the writing not only within Australian culture but also in the context of international developments in the novel.Source: Publisher's website.