Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Get it India!

I'll start by apologising for the bad pun in the title. Ever since I became a father, I just can't seem to get away from the bad 'dad' jokes.


A few years ago now, back at the turn of the century, Imogen and I attended a W.A. Premier's Literary Award dinner at the State Library of Western Australia. At the dinner, I sat next to one of the other shortlisted authors; this blonde woman from Melbourne named Kirsty Murray, whose book Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish got up that evening to win the prize for best children's book.

We had a great night, all of us, and Kirsty and I kept in touch as the decade progressed.

Kirsty writes (among other things) historical fiction - it's one of her real passions. I've heard her talk about it on a couple of occasions (actually, I've got vague recollections of the two of us doing a panel on the subject at some-writer's-festival-or-other, but I can't recall any specifics, so it's quite possible that my brain is just making it up.)

In any case, the point is that not only does she write historical fiction, but she writes it beautifully. Reading her books is reading the work of a true craftsperson - her dedication to her art is evident in every carefully chosen word, and every perfectly constructed sentence. For me, the difficult part about historical fiction isn't so much finding material to write about - the past is just loaded with tiny and intriguing little cul-de-sac's of narrative just begging to be explored - but making the past come to life; getting all the tiny details and elements correct, but also writing in such a way as to capture the sensory aspects of a time and place which I can have no direct experience of.

Kirsty is an absolute master of this, however, and a few weeks ago she asked me if I'd launch her latest novel India Dark here in Canberra, and - as I mentioned at the time - I was thrilled to be able to agree.

Even more thrilled to get the book in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

On Monday afternoon, I took a break from my reading for the ACT Book of the Year Award* and picked up Kirsty's book.

At midnight on monday, I finished it.

And, I have to say, I'm so thrilled to be launching it. It's beautiful. The writing and storytelling is sublime, but most impressive (for me, at least) is the way that Kirsty has taken a fascinating chapter of Australian history, and breathed life into it; utterly convincing, utterly believable, and utterly engaging life.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the plot and so on here - I'll save that for my launch speech on friday evening. Suffice to say that it's a fantastic achievement, and everyone should read it.

Congratulations, Kirsty.

*In case you're wondering, as of this morning my reading status there is: 6 books to go, 6 days to the judge's meeting. It's probably going to be closer than the election. More interesting, too.


  1. Thanks, Tony! I'm so flattered and grateful and EXCITED about tomorrow night.

    It did feel like I was breathing life into the story as I wrote - like resuscitating a huge crowd of the dead - 29 kids and teenagers, plus assorted adults and extras. No wonder it nearly killed me. Thank you for making me feel it was worth the effort.

  2. Tony, what a lovely teaser! I adore Kirsty's work and can't wait to read this one - you're so right about the beauty of her writing... It is sublime. Karen :)



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