This year’s Festival offers the chance to discover the most inventive, thrilling and page-turning books of recent memory, from a Man Booker-nominated retelling of the Oedipus myth to a darkly funny story of sisterly love and serial murder by an emerging Nigerian writer.
Here, we share our best picks for Festival audiences who love getting lost in a good story.
Sarah Perry: Melmoth, 2 May, 3pm
Acclaimed British author Sarah Perry's third novel Melmoth updates the gothic novel with a haunting spectre suited to our age. Marian Keyes calls Melmoth “a beautiful, devastating, brilliant book”. ABC RN’s Kate Evans speaks with Sarah about the “masterly piece of postmodern gothic” (The Observer) that addresses the toll atrocities take on those who bear witness.
Future D. Fidel: Prize Fighter, 3 May, 11.30am
Fleeing the Congo as an orphan, Future D. Fidel spent years in a Tanzanian refugee camp before finding freedom in Australia. Prize Fighter draws on this past to tell the fictional story of a Congolese child soldier forced to fight for the forces that massacred his family before escaping to Australia, where he becomes a talented boxer. In conversation with Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Future discusses his hope-filled debut novel – based on his critically acclaimed play – that packs an emotional punch.
Rachel Kushner: The Mars Room, 4 May, 3pm
From the bestselling author of The Flamethrowers comes the Man Booker Prize shortlisted The Mars Room, an unflinching portrait of a young woman’s life in a Californian prison where inmates must hustle and fight for the bare necessities. Rachel Kushner discusses her fearless black comedy about love, friendship and the illusion of free will with Wheeler Centre Director Michael Williams.
Oyinkan Braithwaite: My Sister, the Serial Killer, 4 May, 4.30pm
A darkly comic page-turner, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite is one of the most talked-about novels of the year. It's a tale of two sisters – one an enabler, and the other in the middle of a killing spree – that subverts roman noir and sisterhood tropes. The New York Times calls it “a bombshell of a book – sharp, explosive, hilarious”. Oyinkan chats with Rebecca Harkins-Cross.
Rebecca Makkai: The Great Believers, 5 May, 10am
The Great Believers is Rebecca Makkai’s dazzling novel about friendship and redemption, that spans the height of the AIDS crisis in 1980s Chicago and its repercussions decades later in modern day Paris. Broadly acclaimed, its champions include The Hours author Michael Cunningham, who called it “emotionally riveting,” while Amy Poehler has optioned the story for TV adaption. Rebecca joins Benjamin Law to discuss her page-turning novel that explores the struggle to find goodness in the face of disaster.
Daisy Johnson: Everything Under, 5 May, 1.30pm
At 27, Daisy Johnson became the youngest ever author to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year for Everything Under, her eerie rewriting of the Oedipus myth – set in an insular houseboat community on the canals of Oxfordshire. Daisy has been lauded as “a new goddamn swaggering monster of fiction” by Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff. The British writer talks with Nadia Bailey about a novel that’s concerned with language, secrets and the damage wrought by what’s left unsaid.