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Australian April – Is there a great Australian novel?

The following article “Australian language, letters and literature” written by Kathryn Wells in 2007 (URL, retrieved 8/3/12). Identifies the following as themes in Aust Lit (amongst others)

•experiences in a new country


•solitude and grandeur of a landscape that dwarfs its people

•life, landscape and traditions of Australian, and its influence on human beings

•exploration, adventure and excitement, as well as a poignant reminder of the hardships of living in the newly formed colonies

•explore the experiences of its Indigenous people

•’quintessential’ Australian qualities: convicts, the bush, bushrangers, folklore, tales of pioneering, family sagas, floods, droughts, bushfires, battlers, Aboriginal people, Irishmen and lost children.

• real life experiences and everyday adventures,

And finishes by stating…. In any form, stories about the ‘Australian experience’ are still much sought after……An increasing number of hopeful novelists attempt their hands at the elusive ‘bunyip of Australian Literature … The Great Australian novel’ (A D Hope). The joy is that, in the attempt to capture the congruities and contradictions, there are some wonderful works of literature created.

So my question is, is there a great Australian novel (or literary work) and what makes it great?  I have read most of the works listed in the above article and whilst some stand out as passing the test of time many are now just a blur. I asked one of my colleagues this question and he was stumped for a day and then came back to me citing Winton’s Breathe and Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.  In contrast, with no notice I could name many Australian movies that seem to capture my idea of the Australian experience – the larrikin nature, the love of the outdoors, standing up against injustice (aussie battler). Why is this so hard to capture in novels?  Is it too shallow? So the focus of bookgenremonthly is Australian April –  to find books suitable for adolescents and young adults that capture my definition of the Australian experience. First stop – Jasper Jones read on i-pad (or is it skimmed on an i-pad – more on this later in the month)

(See this link if you are interested in exploring Australian identity in film )


About hgtl

I am a secondary English/History teacher (BA DipEd, MA (Education) and a Teacher Librarian (MEd). I LOVE to research and through this site aim to -Support the introduction of the Australian Curriculum (especially in History) through sourcing quality and varied internet based sources (research guides) - Support teachers through conducting education based literature reviews - Provide suggestions on useful Web 2.0 tools - Offer other services such as curriculum writing, library collection assessment, novel recommendations (see my blog



  1. Pingback: Australian April – Jasper Jones « bookgenremonthly - April 12, 2012

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