Australian classic reads we love

A round up of our favourite classic Australian novels that capture the true spirit of Australia.

Cloudstreet, Tim Winton

Hailed as a classic, Tim Winton's masterful family saga is both a paean to working-class Australians and an unflinching examination of the human heart's capacity for sorrow, joy, and endless gradations in between. An award-winning work, Cloudstreet exemplifies the brilliant ability of fiction to captivate and inspire.

My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin

“My Brilliant Career” is the story of Sybylla, a headstrong young girl growing up in early 20th century Australia. Sybylla rejects the opportunity to marry a wealthy young man in order to maintain her independence. As a consequence she must take a job as a governess to a local family to which her father is indebted. "My Brilliant Career" is an early romantic novel by this popular Australian author.

The Thornbirds, Colleen McCullough

The Thorn Birds is a robust, romantic saga of a singular family, the Clearys. It begins in the early part of this century, when Paddy Cleary moves his wife, Fiona, and their seven children to Drogheda, the vast Australian sheep station owned by his autocratic and childless older sister; and it ends more than half a century later, when the only survivor of the third generation, the brilliant actress Justine O'Neill, sets a course of life and love halfway around the world from her roots.

A Room Made of Leaves, Kate Grenville

What if Elizabeth Macarthur-wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in early Sydney-had written a shockingly frank secret memoir?
In her introduction Kate Grenville tells, tongue firmly in cheek, of discovering a long-hidden box containing that memoir. What follows is a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented.

Grenville's Elizabeth Macarthur is a passionate woman managing her complicated life-marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her own heart, the search for power in a society that gave her none-with spirit, cunning and sly wit.

Her memoir reveals the dark underbelly of the polite world of Jane Austen. It explodes the stereotype of the women of the past- devoted and docile, accepting of their narrow choices. That was their public face-here's what one of them really thought.

At the heart of this book is one of the most toxic issues of our times- the seductive appeal of false stories. Beneath the surface of Elizabeth Macarthur's life and the violent colonial world she navigated are secrets and lies with the dangerous power to shape reality.

A Room Made of Leaves is the internationally acclaimed author Kate Grenville's first novel in almost a decade. It is historical fiction turned inside out, a stunning sleight of hand that gives the past the piercing immediacy of the present.

The Dry, Jane Harper

A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier. 

But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke's death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds bleed into new ones.

Foals Bread, Gillian Mears

The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn't totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn't died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he's pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree. 

Eucalyptus, Murray Bail

The gruff widower Holland has two possessions he cherishes above all others: 
his sprawling property of eucalyptus trees and his ravishingly beautiful daughter, Ellen. 

When Ellen turns nineteen Holland makes an announcement: she may marry only the man who can correctly name the species of each of the hundreds of gum trees on his property. 

Ellen is uninterested in the many suitors who arrive from around the world, until one afternoon she chances on a strange, handsome young man resting under a Coolibah tree. In the days that follow, he spins dozens of tales set in cities, deserts, and faraway countries. As the contest draws to a close, Ellen and the stranger's meetings become more erotic, the stories more urgent. Murray Bail's rich narrative is filled with unexpected wisdom about art, feminine beauty, landscape, and language. Eucalyptus is a shimmering love story that affirms the beguiling power of storytelling itself. 

The Secret River, Kate Grenville

In 1806 William Thornhill, an illiterate English bargeman and a man of quick temper but deep compassion, steals a load of wood and, as a part of his lenient sentence, is deported, along with his beloved wife, Sal, to the New South Wales colony in what would become Australia. The Secret River is the tale of William and Sal’s deep love for their small, exotic corner of the new world, and William’s gradual realization that if he wants to make a home for his family, he must forcibly take the land from the people who came before him. Acclaimed around the world, The Secret River is a magnificent, transporting work of historical fiction.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, Joan Lindsay

It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.