Family Skeleton (Carmel Bird, UWA Publishing)
Carmel Bird is an incredibly distinctive writer who has earned a loyal following of fans in the literary community. In Family Skeleton, she mixes acidic authorial asides with an intimate examination of the life and diaries of Margaret, the elderly matriarch of the O’Day family. The O’Day family has, for generations, been engaged in the lucrative funeral business, and Margaret presides over all of them from the window of her Toorak mansion. However, there are buried secrets in her backyard that she herself is not aware of, and when a visiting American relative arrives in town, she proceeds to dig them all up—much to Margaret’s consternation. Set in a not-too-distant future where funeral plots can be customised in a way that feels uncomfortably familiar, Family Skeleton will appeal to readers who enjoy the works of Margaret Atwood, Kate Grenville and Thomas Keneally. Bird is a writer fully in charge of her voice—its range, fluctuations and ironies—and Family Skeleton is a richly detailed and enjoyable exploration of both the process of fashioning identity and the art of pulling it apart.
Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance writer, copywriter and editor