12 Books with Vivid and Unforgettable Settings.

by |March 8, 2019

Landscape and Place
by Karen Viggers

I have a strong connection with place. My novels all derive from landscape, out of which the characters then emerge, driving the plot. Strong writing that evokes a sense of landscape without laborious description is what speaks to me in my reading. I admire writers who thread weather, season and landscape with the emotional journeys of their characters.

Here is a list of my favourite novels, centred around place.

The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers is available to purchase from Booktopia 



The Shepherd’s Hut, Tim Winton

I love Winton’s evocation of the Australian landscape and the way he gets inside the skin of his characters. As a reader I experience the tensions, passions and frustrations of his characters and I’m transported to another place. As a writer, I enjoy the music of his descriptions and the gritty vernacular of his dialogue. I especially recommend Dirt Music, The Shepherd’s Hut and Breath.

The Secret River, Kate Grenville

I loved Grenville’s descriptions of the Hawkesbury River in The Secret River, and the difficulties of white settlers trying to establish themselves in the remote reaches of river wilderness. I was devastated when the settlers massacred the Indigenous residents. It’s important for all Australians to reflect on the horrendous actions of our forebears, which have been overlooked and concealed for so long.

The White Earth, Andrew McGahan

The White Earth is another powerful reflection on connection with the land, and the hidden stories of white settlers tampering with Indigenous peoples.

landscapes and spaces

The Choke, Sofie Laguna

Laguna is adept at seeing the world through a young person’s eyes. The Choke portrays a violent world in which disadvantaged people struggle with life’s challenges. There is a strong sense of the river as a life force flowing parallel to the turbulence of the main character’s journey.

landscapes and spaces

Past the Shallows, Favel Parrett

Parrett writes narratives set in places I love – Bruny Island, the south coast of Tasmania and Antarctica. Past the Shallows is a moving, devastating portrait of a family coming apart. I love the way Parrett threads character and narrative with wind, weather and landscape.

Skylarking, Kate Mildenhall

Skylarking is a historic reimagining of a real event at the Cape St George lighthouse is alive, convincing and evocative. The voice of the main protagonist seems real, and the narrative is tense and carries a strong sense of foreboding. I can see the high cliffs and hear the thrashing ocean.

Coal Creek, Alex Miller

I love Coal Creek for its vivid portrayal of the dry inland Queensland landscape, the distinctive voice of the main character, and the sustained tension of the narrative.

landscapes and spaces



Out Stealing Horses, Per Pettersen

I like to reread Out Stealing Horses for its prose, characters and history, but above all, its descriptions of the cold icescapes of Norway in winter, and the movement of timber down the great rivers with the meltwaters in spring.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a road trip novel with a difference. I loved the sense of struggle, connection and resolution in this novel, and the way the weather and landscape reflect the internal dialogue of the main protagonist as he walks across England to visit a dying friend.

landscapes and spaces

Late Nights on Air, Elizabeth Hay

Late Nights on Air, set in the Yukon, Canada, illustrates liaisons and relationships at a Yellowknife radio station, and on a canoe trip in the wilderness. Wonderfully complex and flawed characters. Stunning grand landscapes.

landscapes and space

The Shipping News, Annie Proulx

In The Shipping News Proulx’s evocation of light and sparse landscapes, as well as her incisive observations of small communities led me to take a trip to Newfoundland with my family. I love writing that can bring place to life.

landscapes and space

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is a special favourite of mine for its spare, sharp prose, shrewd understanding of life and symbolism, and the strong sense of the shifting oceanic landscape.

Landscapes and Space


Karen Viggers was born in Melbourne, Australia, and grew up in the Dandenong Ranges riding horses and writing stories. She studied veterinary science at Melbourne University, and then worked in mixed animal practice for the next five years before completing a PhD at the Australian National University, Canberra, in wildlife health.

Since then she has worked on a wide range of Australian native animals in many different natural environments.

She lives in Canberra with her husband and two children. She works part-time in veterinary practice, provides veterinary support for biologists studying native animals, and writes in her spare time.

karen viggers
The Orchardist's Daughterby Karen Viggers

The Orchardist's Daughter

by Karen Viggers

A story of freedom, forgiveness and finding the strength to break free. International bestselling writer Karen Viggers returns to remote Tasmania, the setting of her most popular novel The Lightkeeper's Wife.

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and homeschooled on an apple orchard in southeastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.

When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.

Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist's Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.

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  • March 11, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Great-looking books.

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