Top 5 – 2017
Literature , Top Fives / 27/12/2017

So many great books this year (see also Top 5 Crime, Science Fiction and Fantasy).   This is an all Australian Top 5 fiction for 2017 (in no particular order and with four international honourable mentions).     Jock Serong’s On The Java Ridge moved away from crime and created a humanist thriller out of Australia’s border protection policies.               Michael Sala’s The Restorer centred on a family trying to put a violent past behind them in 1980s Newcastle.               Mark Brandi’s debut, Wimmera, was a timely exploration of child sexual abuse and its impacts.                 In City of Crows, Chris Womersley explored the power of belief in seventeenth century Paris.                 Another great debut, Tony Jones created Australia’s very won Day of the Jackal in The Twentieth Man.                 Honourable (international) mentions: House of Names by Colm Toibin was a retelling of Greek myth. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, a historical novel set in the New York shipbuilding yards in World War II. Spoils by Brian van Reet…

Spoils by Brian van Reet
Historical , Recommended , Review , Thriller / 28/04/2017

In Spoils, Brian Van Reet returns to the early days of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. By following the lives of two US soldiers and one of the mujahideen, he creates a visceral but nuanced exploration of that conflict. The book opens with a firefight at a road crossing outside an Iraqi village which the American troops have nicknamed Triangletown. Specialist Cassandra Wigheard, a female gunner is wounded and captured by the mujahideen. Van Reet then flicks back in time to explore how she and the mujahideen arrived at that point, including the view of a second soldier, Sleed, who fails to support Cassandra’s platoon as he was too busy looting an Iraqi palace. About half way through, van Reet returns to this present and the plight of Cassandra and her two crew mates captured by the mujahideen cell and occasionally on the army’s hunt for them. Inside the mujahideen cell itself there is dissent around what to do with the prisoners, their new leader seeing opportunity for propaganda. This is a small story in the context of the broader war. The initial conflict is a limited roadside firefight and the characters are a long way down the chain of command….