My first regret when I moved to Australia was not being able to move my extensive library. As a lover of the touch and smell of a good old paperback, it was hard to transition my all-time-favorite readings into a more portable digital format and leave my books behind. To my delight, my partner surprised me with a collection of books of his own, books I have never read by Australian authors.
Australian stories are rare gems that transport you to a world like no other. And there is something for everyone: from young adult fiction novels such as the Tomorrow Series to true tales like Red Dog or Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence based on local legends and Indigenous Australian stories.
The literary scene in this land at the end of the world is full of masterful tales that continue to emerge time and time again but that are little known overseas. Australian stories have made it to the big screen but, unlike in Hollywood, less than 20% of Australian films are adapted from novels or other works.
So my purpose is to fix that and give you a glimpse on what you are missing out on! In the list below you will find seven well-known stories that already have a place in your heart as well as some you have never heard of but that will stay with you forever once you do.
1. Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden
The first series I dived into when I arrived to the ‘Land Downunder’ and one of my favorites. The novel follows the fictional invasion and occupation of Australia by a foreign power. Ellie is a teenager that goes on a camping trip with her friends and wakes up as her world has been invaded overnight. Between 1993 and 1998, over three million copies of the first novel were sold. The Tomorrow series was a big success both in Australia and overseas. So far, only the first novel, Tomorrow When The War Began, has been adapted into a feature film. Its release in 2010 featured Caitlin Stasey in the role of Ellie Linton.
2. Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
Once I settled down in Australia, I wanted to learn more about their Aboriginal people and I was surprised at the lack of interest that everyday Australians around me had in the matter. And then I watched the feature film based on Pilkington’s novel. Learning about the “The Stolen Generations,” how 100,000 Aboriginal and mixed-race children were taken away from their homes, most of them under five years of age, by Australian government officials between 1910 to 1970, shocked me to my core. The novel, based on a true story, follows the journey of three young mixed-race Aboriginal girls and how they escaped and trekked over 1,600 kilometres (990 miles) home by following a massive pest-exclusive fence, better known as the Rabbit Proof Fence. The featured film was released in 2002.
3. The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
I watched The Dressmaker movie when it was released (in Australia) back in October 2015 and I loved every minute. It is a tale about identity and how no matter how far away you travel, some things never change. The story is set in Dungatar, an isolated Australian country town in the 1950s, and follows “Tilly” Dunnage as she returns to her hometown to take care of her ill mother, Molly. Back as an expert dressmaker trained in Paris, Tilly starts a dressmaking business and transforms the locals with her creations. Ted, a childhood friend and love interest, tries to help her stand up against the vicious gossip and small-minded townsfolk.
4. Red Dog by Louis de Bernières
Stories of courage and communities coming together have a precious place in my heart, but that love increases even more when you add a gorgeous cheeky red kelpie to the mix. Red is a local legend and the statue built in his honor in the town of Dampier, Western Australia caught the attention of British author Louis de Bernières. The story is set in in the mining region of Karratha, Western Australian in the 1970’s and follows the adventures of Red Dog. De Bernières novel was adapted as a film in 2011.
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
As a writer, I was hooked the moment I realized The Book Thief was narrated from Death’s point of view. The novel follows Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Germany during World War II. After losing her family, Liesel is fostered by Hans and Rosa Hubermann and, during her time there, she learns about the horrors brought by the Nazi regime. As a book lover, I have always despised the burning of books that the Nazis were infamous for and that made Liesel my absolute hero from minute one. The film adaption was released in 2013.
6. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Jasper Jones has a premise that grabs you and does not let you go until a murderer is unveiled. Craig Silvey masterfully entangles us in his tale as we follow the characters into yet another isolated town in the Australian countryside where everything and everybody is not what it seems. The novel is set in the mid 1960s in the fictional rural town of Corrigal in Western Australia. The story is told from townie Charlie’s point of view and follows the events that unfold on a summer evening when Jasper Jones, a mixed-race Aboriginal outcast, visits Charlie asking for help after finding his girlfriend’s dead body. The feature film was recently released in early 2017.
7. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The novel is set in the post World War I Australia and follows Tom, a soldier returning home. The story unravels as he and his wife informally adopt a baby girl that washes up in a lifeboat. When the child is two years old, the decision of returning to mainland has consequences that they couldn’t even imagine. The novel was turned into a feature film by Dreamworks and was released in 2016.
I adore all of these novels and they’re stories that captured me from the first page. I encourage you to add at least one to your TBR! You won’t regret it.
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Featured image via Gap Year