Bird Country (Claire Aman, Text)
Claire Aman has regularly referred to Grafton, her northern New South Wales hometown, as ‘an inspiring town’. This inspiration is realised in Bird Country, a suite of quietly beautiful short stories based in and around Grafton. A handyman who helps an elderly woman with her chores starts finding jewellery hidden around her garden. A woman and a small boy bond over their love of a small, grey budgerigar. A mother goes to drastic measures to hide her son from the police as floodwaters rise. The book’s closing story, about a service station worker and her obsession with a German backpacker, explores the intersection of grief and yearning in a unique and profoundly moving way. Recalling the work of Gillian Mears (another Grafton writer) and Rebekah Clarkson’s Barking Dogs (which similarly explores the social fabric of a community), Aman’s writing inhabits a comfortable middle ground between some of Australian literature’s florid and laconic tendencies—her prose feels lived-in, natural and assured. Some of these stories have been published elsewhere but, taken as a whole, they form a loving snapshot of a naturally beautiful but slightly melancholy rural centre. They are stories of fierce family loyalties, old age, poverty and small dignities, the kind that country towns seem to embody.
Alan Vaarwerk is editor at Kill Your Darlings