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Episode 19 – Author’s choice

Angela Savage

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Joining me for this episode’s online chat is award-winning Melbourne writer, Angela Savage!
Angela always wanted to be a writer, but figured she needed to live an interesting life first in order to have something worth writing about. She spent most of the 1990s living and working on HIV projects in Southeast Asia, before returning to Australia, where she alternated between writing fiction and working in the community sector. Her debut novel, ‘Behind the Night Bazaar‘, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and she won the 2011 Scarlet Stiletto Award for short fiction. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, giving her the Bond villain-like title of Doctor Savage. Her new novel ‘Mother of Pearl’ was published in 2019 and she is currently the Director of Writers Victoria.

The pairings: 

Family circumstances force siblings Ying and Lai Yue to flee their home in China to seek their fortunes in Australia. Life on the gold fields is hard, and they soon abandon the diggings and head to nearby Maytown. Once there, Lai Yue finds a job as a carrier on an overland expedition, while Ying finds work in a local store and strikes up a friendship with Meriem, a young white woman with her own troubled past. When a serious crime is committed, suspicion falls on all those who are considered outsiders.
Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.
Angela loved the description in the book of a dried plum – sometimes called a dried prune – and thought that nothing would pair better with this book than this particular bittersweet delicacy. 
In 2006, Tara June Winch’s startling debut Swallow the Air was published to acclaim. Its poetic yet visceral style announced the arrival afresh and exciting new talent. This 10th anniversary edition celebrates its important contribution to Australian literature.
When May’s mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by Aunty. However, their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn’t seem to want them. While Billy takes his own destructive path, May sets off to find her father and her Aboriginal identity.
Her journey leads her from the Australian east coast to the far north, but it is the people she meets, not the destinations, that teach her what it is to belong.
Angela loves road trips and suggested that the best pairing for this story is your favourite road trip food, her pick was pies and boy does she know her pie shops!
Justine’s pairing:

I have been thinking a lot about grief lately for a variety of reasons but also because I feel like we are currently going through similar stages in terms of losing our ‘normal’ lives. So I wanted to mention a thoroughly amazing book called Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter which was published in 2015. This book is not going to be for everyone. It is part short story, part poetry and narrated by three different voices. 

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.

This is more of a novella than novel, almost an essay on grief and when I read it I assumed the author had suffered something similar as how could anyone write so compellingly about an experience like this if they hadn’t had that same experience? Not so.

I loved this book but it was difficult too with its strange narrative styles and emotional truths. So to pair with it I think you need something a little bit sweet, a little bit decadent, something creamy to help cushion the feels so I suggest a Chocolate Martini!

Chocolate liquor, Creme de Cacao, vanilla vodka, half and half (or full fat milk and light cream) and chocolate syrup for the rim. Mix it all together in a shaker with ice and pour into a martini glass to sip away and enjoy whenever this book hits your heartstrings.


This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.