'On a radiant day in Sydney, four adults converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Crowds of tourists mix with the locals, enjoying the glorious surroundings and the play of light on water.
'But each of the four carries a complicated history from elsewhere; each is haunted by past intimacies, secrets and guilt: Ellie is preoccupied by her sexual experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China's Cultural Revolution.
'Told over the course of a single Saturday, Five Bells describes four lives which chime and resonate, sharing mysterious patterns and symbols. But it is a fifth person, a child, whose presence at the Quay haunts the day and who will overshadow everything that unfolds. By night-time, when Sydney is drenched in a rainstorm, each life has been transformed.' (From the publisher's website.)
'Set in Washington during the 1930s, Sam and Henny Pollit are a warring husband and wife. Their tempestuous marriage, aggravated by too little money, lies at the centre of Stead's satirical and brilliantly observed novel about the relations between husbands and wives, and parents and children.
'Sam, a scientist, uses words as weapons of attack and control on his children and is prone to illusions of power and influence that fail to extend beyond his family. His wife Henny, who hails from a wealthy Baltimore family, is disastrously impractical and enmeshed in her own fantasies of romance and vengeance. Much of the care of their six children is left to Louisa, Sam's 14-year-old daughter from his first marriage. Within this psychological battleground, Louisa must attempt to make a life of her own.'
Source: Publisher's blurb (MUP).
'In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father's experiences in Vietnam - and what seems at first a satire on turning one's life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. "Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In "Meeting Elise" an ageing New York painter mourns his body's decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees where a young woman's bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.' (From the author's website.)
This unit explores how Australian authors write in, to and about the wider world. It will open up a range of questions: how international influences work in Australian writing; how Australian texts rewrite authoritative texts of other cultures; how Australian texts imagine other places; how careers, reputations, publication and reception take place within and beyond the nation. In addressing these questions, the unit will focus on issues of authority, identity, representation, translation, borders and authenticity.