Bird Country by Claire Aman – book review

by Anna Rogers / 04 December, 2017

Claire Aman: capable of some showstopper phrases.

A collection of stories from across the Ditch is redolent of the land and its people.

In the introduction to his 2008 selection of Owen Marshall stories, Vincent O’Sullivan identified “Marshall country” as “a distinctive and compelling place, pretty much like the one we live in day by day”. A vivid sense of place is also stamped on the debut short-story collection of Australian writer Claire Aman.

In Bird Country, she marks out her territory, often the New South Wales town of Grafton, but also the wider rural landscape – the mud and dust, the rickety pubs and past-their-best houses, the roads and, yes, the birds. Even the lists of place names are evocative.

The people who inhabit these stories live mostly outside the expected social boundaries, loners in their different ways, coping with love and loss, facing the challenge of expressing emotion. In “Louis”, as floodwaters rise, a mother hides her son in a cockatoo cage to protect him from police; “Wrangler” is about a young woman injured in a motorbike accident who is trapped in a run-down country hotel; “Why the Owl Gazes at the Moon” features a cook at an isolated roadhouse who yearns to tell a stranger about the death of her sister.

Aman’s ideas are original and her imagination fertile. Her writing is generally attractive and strong, with a sure touch when it comes to telling detail. In “Those Gauls Must Be Crazy”, the eccentric central character, about to gatecrash her cousin’s wedding, is swiftly defined by her blue-spangled tights and the pink dressing-gown cord she is using as a dog leash.

Aman is capable of some showstopper phrases, such as the “naked and mortified brightness” of the dead possum’s eyes in “Sustenance”, and she has a nice line in dry humour.

Occasionally there could be more stringency and sparseness to offset the slight threat of sentimentality, but the confidence that those qualities require will develop. Peopled with memorable and often touching characters, and redolent of Australia, Bird Country is a thoroughly enjoyable and varied reading experience, and Aman is a writer to watch.

BIRD COUNTRY, by Claire Aman (Text, $37)

This article was first published in the October 14, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Donald Dux: An extraordinary year of President Trump
84715 2017-12-15 00:00:00Z World

Donald Dux: An extraordinary year of President Tru…

by Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas has chronicled the Trump presidency since its beginning and reviews the extraordinary year since The Donald entered the White House.

Read more
Former punk Kody Nielson is heading in a new direction
84445 2017-12-15 00:00:00Z Music

Former punk Kody Nielson is heading in a new direc…

by James Belfield

But it’s no less entertaining.

Read more
The 10 Best Tech Gadgets of 2017
85128 2017-12-15 00:00:00Z Technology

The 10 Best Tech Gadgets of 2017

by Peter Griffin

A round-up of the best and grooviest gadgets from 2017 and previews of top tech tempters for the new year.

Read more
Cervical-cancer screening tests are about to change
84383 2017-12-15 00:00:00Z Health

Cervical-cancer screening tests are about to chang…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Cervical-cancer screening tests have been helping to save lives for more than 25 years. Now the focus of the tests is going to change.

Read more
The 50 Best Champagnes of 2017
85059 2017-12-15 00:00:00Z Wine

The 50 Best Champagnes of 2017

by Michael Cooper

Whatever you call it – fizz, champagne, bubbly, sparkling – wine with bubbles in it is widely adored, especially at this time of the year.

Read more
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – movie review
85062 2017-12-14 11:12:10Z Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – movie review

by James Robins

Star Wars has been cannibalising itself, but The Last Jedi might just be the best one yet.

Read more
Gareth Morgan stands down as TOP leader
85045 2017-12-14 08:27:22Z Politics

Gareth Morgan stands down as TOP leader

by RNZ

The Opportunities Party founder Gareth Morgan says he will stand down as leader of the party.

Read more
Euthanasia bill passes first reading: How the MPs voted
85042 2017-12-14 08:07:28Z Politics

Euthanasia bill passes first reading: How the MPs …

by RNZ

Act leader David Seymour says he was surprised so many MPs supported his bill to legalise euthanasia. It'll now go to select committee.

Read more