The List – Canberra in fiction

Googling, Amazon keyword searches and library catalogues have got me this list so far. I suspect some will be unprocurable, and some I am frankly a bit scared to read. This is meant to be a pleasurable reading exercise, after all, not a form of masochism.

Additions, corrections and advice very welcome.


28 responses to “The List – Canberra in fiction

  1. Great list and great project … My reading group is focusing, mostly, on Canberra for the first half of the year. Our first book was Frank Moorhouse’s Cold Light. last month we did Paris dreaming. Next we are doing the anthology The Invisible thread. I’ve read a few of the books you’ve listed … Most of the Halligan’s, Dowse’s West block, Croome’s Document Z. All worth reading I reckon. There’s also a book of short stories called Canberra tales you might like to add.

  2. Thanks! It’s great to know that there are others who are having a bit of literary centenary celebration. I’d love to hear more about what your book group members think of some of the titles on the list.

  3. Pingback: Monday musings on Australian literature: Reading about Canberra | Whispering Gums

  4. Hi Dani, a very impressive initiative! I’d like to add a couple of titles to your list, if I may: my entire Sandra Mahoney crime series is set in Canberra. You have included the first of these, ‘The Trojan Dog’. Could you please add ‘The White Tower’ and ‘Eden’? The fourth and last in the series, titled The Fourth Season’ will be published as an ebook this year. it was always my intention to write a ‘Canberra Quartet’. Thank you and well done.

    • Thanks so much for your encouragement, and for the additions to The List. I’m enjoying the challenge, and it is great to get a steer toward things that I think I will enjoy reading. I had planned on reading the House at Number 10 soon, but the Civic library copy is checked out!

  5. Hi Dani, Glad to see all those Canberra books, especially today when I’m kind of weepy for not being there after a good chunk of my life lived there, thirty years from 1968 to 1998. Thought about Blanche D’Alpuget’s Turtle Beach and Monkeys in the Dark, both having Canberra elements I think. Also my Digging, 1998, set in the city and revisiting the period of West Block but from a different angle. Francesca Rendle-Short’s Imago for an earlier period.

    Thanks for the list. I commented before but something went haywire – it rejected my email. All the best, Sara Dowse

    • It is a sad day for Canberra-lovers to be away from Canberra. I am quite excited and heartened by the mood around town during this Centenary celebration. Many thanks for the additions to The List – I think you may be saving me from some very dire reading later in the year as my options were beginning to dwindle. West Block has been recommended to me by a couple of people, and I hope to get to it soon.

  6. Hi Dani, How could I have forgotten the Sandra Mahoney books! Glad they’ve been remembered. What’s come through loud and strong through this exercise is that books set in Canberra are much thicker on the ground than most of us imagined. For that alone it really is a wonderful place and I do miss it. And now that it comes to me, I think at least one of Alan Gould’s books has a Canberra setting. Thanks again, for getting the ball rolling.

  7. Thanks, Dani, for adding my books. In my Griffith Review essay about Canberra, ‘Disturbing Undertones’, I talk about how Canberra-based fiction was slower to get off the ground than poetry, but, as Sara points out, it has certainly caught up!

  8. Great list and wonderful concept for a blog in 2013. I know your main interest is fiction set in Canberra, but I noticed that you read The Gundaroo Pony. Mike Hayes did light-hearted segments for ABC Radio about his life on the ‘Prickle Farm’ near Gundaroo. I have copies of two volumes if you are ever interested.
    P.S. Thanks for following my blog.

    • Thanks Peggy. A friend also mentioned Prickle Farm a little while ago, but I left it off on the basis that it was somewhere in that border-land between fiction and memoir. Having since broken my own rules by venturing to Gundaroo, it must be time to reconsider the Prickle Farm. I’ll add it to the list!

  9. I think you’ve reorganised this into alphabetical order by author? That’s great.

  10. Michael Piggott

    Great project Dani. One to add to The List is Christopher Koch’s “The Memory Room” (Vintage, 2009). About secrets, spying and ASIS, and for those dedicated souls interested in recordkeeping, Part Three is titled “Master of the Registry”. I looked again at my copy tonight, and randomly opened at a page which began with a quote from a diary woven into the novel as follows: “At six o’clock this evening I left my house and walked out of O’Connor down the long hill of Wattle Street, bound for Diamond Kate Carney’s bistro in Lyneham …:.

  11. Michael Piggott

    Opps, Publishing date for Koch is 2007!

  12. Ah, another Tilley’s reference. Tilley’s could overtake Caphs soon. Thanks Michael – I think I had come across the Memory Room as a possibility for the list but wasn’t certain about the Canberra content. It will be high on my list now, particularly for the ‘Master of the Registry’. I’m already thinking that a recordkeeping fiction theme might be my next challenge. Might need some rules around it though. As I think we discussed, just about every book in the English language has some records in it somewhere if you go looking.

  13. Pingback: Inevitable/Comfortable/Symbolic Canberra | CAPITAL LETTERS

  14. Hi Dani. Just a tiny correction to the title of my novel, which is “Lightning” (without an “e”). Hope you have time to read it during this centenary year and the tenth anniversary of the Canberra bushfires. ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher kindly launched Lightning for me at the National Library of Australia on 2 July. A very Canberra event! And I’ll be in conversation with Melanie Tait from ABC 666 AM at Paperchain bookstore in Manuka on Thursday 1 August at 6pm. If you happened to be at Caph’s and wanted to travel a few metres down the road, it would be lovely to meet you. Details are on my facebook page, or website Warm wishes, Felicity

    • Thanks Felicity for picking up the typo, and my apologies for getting the title of your book wrong. I am very much looking forward to reading it, and was planning to skip ahead soon to the Vs, even though I’ve been working somewhat alphabetically of late and currently around the Ks.

      Funnily enough, I came across your book less because I am terribly connected with the Canberra literary scene (I’m not!) and more because a friend told me about her colleague who had just published something new set in Canberra. There are six degrees of separation in the world, and only three in Canberra.

      Thanks also for mentioning your date at Paperchain. If I don’t manage to get along I’ll at least listen out on 666.

      • Thanks Dani. Sometime I’d be curious to know who our missing link is. (That’s so Canberra!) I can then thank them for telling you about Lightning. Unfortunately while I have Mel Tait from 666 joining the Paperchain event, it won’t actually be broadcast. It’s just the two of us having a chat in the company of whoever turns up on the night. If you do make it, please come and say hello. It’s always good to meet the virtual community in the flesh! Great blog, by the way. It’s a fantastic idea.

  15. Pingback: Canberra Red | Dinner at Caphs

  16. Pingback: The Trickster | Dinner at Caphs

  17. Narelle

    Hello! Look forward to working my way through this list, although the Centenary moment has surely passed! Had you thought of Helen Garner’s Joe Cinques Consolation (2004)?

    • I’m pleased to have provided some insiration Narelle. There is more Canberra-based fiction coming out all the time it seems, and I really should give the list a bit of an update. I did read Joe Cinque’s Consolation a number of years ago. I’m bad at remembering details, but I do remember just feeling overwhelmingly sad. It really is a great and moving read. I haven’t included it on the list because I decided to limit it to fiction – if I didn’t draw the line somewhere it could go on forever!

  18. Pingback: Monday musings on Australian literature: Novels set in Canberra | Whispering Gums

  19. Hello, may I add two Halligans to the list? Wishbone, and Spidercup. They are the first of many novels by Halligan that I have gone on to read, and I cherish them on my bookshelves still. She writes like a Dutch renaissance artist, with exquisite attention to settings and with extraordinary depth of character.
    I second the enthusiasm for Koch’s The Memory Room and Moorhouse trilogy, great books! They are reviewed on my blog but those early Halligans are too long ago, alas.

    • Thanks for the tip Lisa. I had a notion that there would be more of Halligan’s work with a Canberra connection and it’s great to have that confirmed. Thanks for stopping by!

  20. The Cut-Rate Kingdom by Thomas Keneally

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