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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Australian Literature’

I haven’t read a lot of Australian literature and it is one of the gaps on my reading list that I hope to address sometime. While thinking of which book to read next, I remembered Lisa’s (ANZ Litlovers) wonderful review of Karenlee Thompson’sFlame Tip‘ (You can find the reviews here and here.) Thompson is Australian and the stories in the book are set in Australia and so I was excited to get started.

Flame Tip‘ is a collection of short stories. There are seventeen stories in the book. All of them have a common theme – the 7th of February 1967, also called Black Tuesday, the day on which bush fires broke out in Tasmania killing many people, injuring many and burning down many houses leaving many people homeless. The main characters in each story is impacted by the bushfire in some way – they lose a family member or a beloved partner and in some cases they find freedom and even love. In one story we are literally treated to a bird’s eye view of the fire. The book also has an interesting foreword by David Walsh in which he shares his own memories on what he was doing on the day of the fire.

I will share brief descriptions of some of my favourite stories from the book to give you a flavour of the themes covered in the book.

Like a Wall – A woman looks back on her life at the time of the fire. She was young at that time, newly married, and loved her husband dearly. She is white Australian and her husband is Chinese Australian and so their relationship with her parents is strained. What happens to this young couple on the days leading up to the fire and on the day of the fire form the rest of the story. This was my most favourite story in the book and it made me cry.

Jack Frost – This is the story of a young girl who is scared of a neighbour called Jack Frost because there are scary stories told about him and how she ends up (whether fortunately or unfortunately – that is revealed in the story) in his house when the fire rages and what happens after that. This was my second favourite story from the book.

Medusa One Snake and Her Band of Three – This is the story in which we are treated to a bird’s eye view of the fire and we see the whole conflagration unfold through the eyes of a Whistling Kite matriarch and how she and her family handle the challenge that nature throws at them.

The Keeper of the Satchel – This tells the story of a man who goes to buy a satchel. He then looks back on his life, and his present and his past and the day of the fire interweave to form the rest of the story.

Anabelle, Just Looking – This story is structured like a personals ad in which a woman who is looking for a partner describes what kind of person she is looking for. Very charming and humorous.

Let Me Tell You – It describes how a town and its people looked like – the sights, the sounds, the smells – before and after the fire, through the eyes of a young person. It is beautiful and heartbreaking.

Lost – This is a very short story and describes beautifully and poignantly, in the form of a ‘Lost and Found’ notice, what has been lost in the fire.

Flame Tip‘ is a fascinating look at the great Tasmanian fire which happened on Black Tuesday in 1967, seen through the eyes of different people from different walks of life, young and old. I enjoyed reading it, though it was scary, poignant and heartbreaking in parts.

Have you read ‘Flame Tip‘? What do you think about it?

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