Liane Moriarty (center) with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon of the “Big Little Lies” TV series based on Moriarty’s novel. (Getty Images.)
Australia and New Zealand are not that close geographically, but they ARE in the same general region of the world. So, I’m going to include them both in a post about the literature I’ve enjoyed from past and present writers who’ve spent all or some of their lives in those two countries.
I’m doing this as I’m about to read Apples Never Fall, the latest book by Australian author Liane Moriarty — one of my favorite contemporary novelists. I think her Big Little Lies is among the top books of the 21st century, and I also enjoyed her Nine Perfect Strangers, The Husband’s Secret, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, and Truly Madly Guilty. Moriarty expertly mixes readability, social consciousness, and humor as she spotlights three-dimensional women, their friendships (and rivalries) with other women, their oft-complicated relationships with men, and family dynamics. Often with some elements of mystery.
Perhaps Moriarty’s most famous Australian author predecessor was Colleen McCullough, writer of the widely read The Thorn Birds (which inspired a widely watched miniseries) and other compelling novels such as Morgan’s Run. A superb author.
Over in New Zealand, that country’s best-known past author might be Janet Frame. I particularly like her Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room — a disturbing novel about a seemingly dead man who ends up alive, and what happens after that.
More recently in New Zealand, Eleanor Catton wrote the impressively ambitious novel The Luminaries set during her country’s 1860s gold rush. Catton, who was born in Canada but came to New Zealand as a girl, authored The Luminaries while still in her 20s — and won the Booker Prize for that 848-page work.
Nevil Shute was an Englishman but spent his later years in Australia, where he set his most famous novel — the gripping, apocalyptic On the Beach.
Geraldine Brooks grew up in Australia, became a journalist, and ended up in the U.S. Her intense novel March — which focuses on the American Civil War experiences of the father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women — won the Pulitzer Prize.
James Clavell also did the Australia-to-U.S. thing during a life in which he wrote novels such as the riveting Japan-based epic Shogun and worked in the movie business.
Worth mentioning, too, is Australian writer Frank Moorhouse, whose interesting Grand Days novel focuses on a young Australian woman working for the League of Nations in 1920s Switzerland.
There was also New Zealand’s masterful short-story writer Katherine Mansfield.
Of course, many novels with an Australian or New Zealand setting have been written by authors who didn’t live in either country. Among them is A Rogue’s Life — a brief, good-not-great work by English writer Wilkie Collins of The Woman in White and The Moonstone renown.
I’ve only named novels and authors I’ve read. Any thoughts on them? Any thoughts on other novels and authors with an Australian or New Zealand connection?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about a mass resignation of committee members after Township Council interference — is here.