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Australian Literature Honours C: Reading Suburbia (ASLT4013)
Semester 2 / 2010


y separately published work icon My Brother Jack : A Novel George Johnston , London Sydney : Collins , 1964 Z824887 1964 single work novel (taught in 13 units)

''The thing I am trying to get at is what made Jack different from me. Different all through our lives, I mean, and in a special sense, not just older or nobler or braver or less clever.'

'David and Jack Meredith grow up in a patriotic suburban Melbourne household during the First World War, and go on to lead lives that could not be more different. Through the story of the two brothers, George Johnston created an enduring exploration of two Australian myths: that of the man who loses his soul as he gains worldly success, and that of the tough, honest Aussie battler, whose greatest ambition is to serve his country during the war. Acknowledged as one of the true Australian classics, My Brother Jack is a deeply satisfying, complex and moving literary masterpiece. ' (Publication summary)

y separately published work icon The Children's Bach Helen Garner , Melbourne : McPhee Gribble , 1984 Z371975 1984 single work novella (taught in 6 units)

Athena and Dexter lead an enclosed family life, innocent of fashion and bound towards a disturbed child. Their comfortable rut is disrupted by the arrival of Elizabeth, a tough nut from Dexter's past. With her three charming, chaotic hangers-on, she draws the couple out into a world whose casual egotism they had barely dreamed of. How can they get home again? (Source: publisher's website)

y separately published work icon The Slap Christos Tsiolkas , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2008 Z1739894 2008 single work novel (taught in 40 units)

'At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.

'This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.

'In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

'What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.' (Publisher's blurb)

y separately published work icon Johnno : A Novel David Malouf , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1975 Z25348 1975 single work novel (taught in 9 units)

'Dante and Johnno are unlikely childhood friends, growing up in the bustle of steamy, wartime Brisbane. Later, as teenagers, they learn about love and life amidst the city's pubs and public libraries, backyards and brothels, Moreton Bay figs and tennis parties. As adults, they make the great pilgrimage overseas and maintain an uneasy friendship as they seek to build their lives.

'An affectionate and bittersweet portrait, Johnno brilliantly recreates the sleazy, tropical half-city that was Brisbane and captures a generation locked in combat with the elusive Australian dream.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (Penguin).

y separately published work icon Steam Pigs Melissa Lucashenko , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1997 Z399534 1997 single work novel (taught in 5 units)

'I haven't got a 'boyfriend', Mum." "Fine way to be carrying on then, out all Sat'dy night with a strange fella..." "Muuum. " "Don't you marm me, my girl. When I was your age I wasn't out running around with any stray bloke with a flash car and the gift of the gab. "And when I'm your age, thought Sue maliciously, I won't be ringing up my kids to scab money and make their lives a misery into the bargain. Sue Wilson, young and Aboriginal, escapes her "too-large, too-poor family in a too-small" north Queensland town for Logan City's frontier sprawl. Entering "the mythic world of Work" she discovers that the view from behind the bar is less than glamorous, but pays the rent. When she meets Roger the good times begin to roll until she finds herself starring in a feature with medium level violence. Melissa Lucashenko's first novel makes no apologies. With direct and gutsy language, her characters live their lives in the shadows cast by indifferent affluence.' (Source: UQP website:

y separately published work icon The Art of the Engine Driver Steven Carroll , Pymble : HarperCollins Australia , 2001 Z900860 2001 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'On a hot summer's night in the 1950s, the old and the new, diesel and steam, town and country all collide - and nobody will be left unaffected.

'As a passenger train leaves Spencer Street Station on its haul to Sydney, a family of three - Vic, Rita and their son Michael - are off to a party. George Bedser has invited the whole neighbourhood to celebrate the engagement of his daughter. Vic is an engine driver, with dreams of being like his hero Paddy Ryan and becoming the master of the smooth ride. As the neighbours walk to the party, we are drawn into the lives of a bully, a drunk, a restless girl and a young boy forced to grow up before he is ready. The Art of the Engine Driver is a luminous and evocative tale of ordinary suburban lives, told with an extraordinary power.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Other Details

Offered in: 2009
Levels: Undergraduate - Honours