Sally Piper’s debut novel, Grace’s Table, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award–Emerging Queensland Author category and she was awarded a Varuna Publishing Fellowship for her manuscript.
Sally holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Queensland University of Technology. She has had short fiction and non-fiction published in various print and online publications, including the first One Book Many Brisbanes anthology, The Weekend Australian, WQ plus other literary magazines and journals in the UK. She currently mentors other writers on the Queensland Writers Centre ‘Writer’s Surgery’ program.
Sally’s second novel, The Geography of Friendship, is a heartbreaking honest and fiercely emotional book about about the lasting damage of trauma and the complex bonds that can form between women.
When asked about her favourite Australian books, Sally Piper provided the following list of Top 10 Australian Reads …
Top 10 Australian Reads
by Sally Piper
I include this Australian classic not just because I loved the derring-do of the cheeky koala at the heart of Wall’s story, but because it’s a book that represents my earliest memories of being read to as a child. I still recall the warmth from the bricks around the fireplace I leant against as I listened to my mother read of Blinky Bill’s escapades over many nights as a small child. By day I would try and decipher the words for myself, desperate to know what he’d get up to next.
The character of Lilian in Grenville’s first novel is a masterful creation. Lilian rejects the image of femininity that her father, other and an era would hold for her, choosing instead to be a large and clever woman who ultimately ends up living on the streets. It is a brutal, funny and tragic account of a woman’s life trajectory that left me in awe of the character’s tenacity, but also Grenville’s skill to make me care for her so much.
Davidson’s memoir about her 2700 kilometre trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with dog Diggity and four camels is an ode to courage and resilience. Reading her story helped me break down some of my own habits of fear that as women we often hold and which prevent many of us from living braver, more adventurous lives.
Maguire takes two seemingly ordinary female characters – one a barmaid, forced to navigate the aftermath of her younger sister’s brutal murder, the other a troubled journalist who becomes part of the media circus that follows it – and gives them the most engaging and extraordinary lives. Each is beautifully flawed and imperfect and all the closer to reality for the treatment. This genre-diverse novel is less about finding a girl’s murderer and more about the often forgotten “other” victims: those left behind who must find ways to rebuild their lives in order to accommodate such an atrocity.
Olsson’s memoir is a beautiful and courageous account of her half-brother who as an infant was snatched from Olsson’s mother’s arms and was not seen by her again for forty years. It is one of those rare books that speak for the many, in this case all those mothers who have had children stolen from them. It is a sober reminder of the intergenerational legacy of trauma such cruelties inflict and how the forces of guilt and shame irrevocably shape lives.
What drew me immediately into Wood’s dystopian novel was her restraint. The story is less about the supposed “crimes” that each of the young women in the story is imprisoned for in an unknown, remote location, and more about imagining the powerful men capable of putting, and keeping, them there. While set in a parallel world it disturbingly speaks to the manipulative and destructive power of shame that’s used against women in the world we live in now, but also the determination of some women not to be defined by it.
Muir’s unflinchingly honest memoir interweaves the loss of her brother, who fell to his death from Brisbane’s Story Bridge while intoxicated, with a culture that allows for drunkenness – encourages it even – and her own excesses of alcohol consumption. It is an intimate recollection of a much-loved brother as much as it is a forensic account of Australia’s drinking culture that strikes to the very heart of why and how much we drink. This is a courageous memoir, with Muir asking hard questions of herself and by extension her readers.
There is a deep intellect and wisdom to Taylor’s memoir about her imminent death – but also humour and honesty – which I expect comes from the knowledge that time is short and this is the last opportunity she will have to reflect upon her life. But this memoir about dying is a celebration, not a tragedy, and speaks directly to the right to choose the circumstances of our own deaths, which is a gift of validation and hope for those of us who might one day be similarly faced with such choices.
If any book can persuade those responsible for school history curriculums to re-evaluate the one currently being taught in relation to pre-colonial Australian history, then it’s Pascoe’s Dark Emu. This meticulously researched account of how Aboriginal societies were not mere hunter-gatherers, but lived, farmed and governed in sophisticated ways for millennia prior to white settlement, is as fascinating as it is sobering. Marcia Langton says of the book: This is the most important book on Australia and should be read by every Australian. I couldn’t agree more.
by Catherine McKinnon
I have only recently read McKinnon’s novel but I know it is one that will stay with me, and mainly because of its unique structure of imagining the occupation of one area of ground from colonisation to hundreds of years into the future. It is a timely reminder that no matter what the human species does to itself, the lands that provide the theatre for those acts will likely prevail long after we’re gone and carry only the scars of our existence.
The Geography of Friendship
We can’t ever go back, but some journeys require walking the same path again.
When three young women set off on a hike through the wilderness they are anticipating the adventure of a lifetime. Over the next five days, as they face up to the challenging terrain, it soon becomes clear they are not alone and the freedom they feel quickly turns to fear. Only when it is too late for them to turn back do they fully appreciate the danger they are in. As their friendship is tested, each girl makes an irrevocable choice; the legacy of which haunts them for years to come.
Now in their forties, Samantha, Lisa and Nicole are estranged, but decide to revisit their original hike in an attempt to salvage what they lost. As geography and history collide, they are forced to come to terms with the differences that have grown between them and the true value of friendship.