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Novels Set in Rural and Remote Australia: Background information when reading Dirt Creek

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Dirt Creek

A Novel

by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor X
Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 336 pages

    May 2023, 336 pages


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About this Book

Novels Set in Rural and Remote Australia

This article relates to Dirt Creek

Print Review

Location is key for Hayley Scrivenor's debut novel Dirt Creek, which is set in a rural Australian town in the southeastern state of New South Wales. The tight-knit atmosphere is pervaded by suspicion after the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, and the ensuing mystery takes place during a particularly hot summer. Below, we'll take a look at a few other novels that are set in rural and remote Australian settings — across a variety of climates and communities — including small inland and seaside towns, the Outback and islands off the continent's coast.

Covers of novels set in rural and remote Australia

Our First Impressions reviewers drew multiple comparisons (and pointed out some important differences) between Scrivenor's work and the novels of bestselling author Jane Harper, another Australian mystery writer with a knack for creating vivid settings that tie into the central concerns of the plot and characters. Harper's debut The Dry, which follows Melbourne police officer Aaron Falk as he investigates a murder-suicide, is set in the fictional town of Kiewarra, a small community in southeastern Australia, during the years-long severe drought known as "the Big Dry." Harper has said that she based Kiewarra on rural places in both Australia and the United Kingdom. She continued on to another book following Falk, Force of Nature, in which a hiker disappears in the Australian bush. Harper's third and final Falk novel, Exiles is due to publish in late January 2023. Harper has also written two stand-alone novels. In The Lost Man (2019), surrounding nature again comes into play: One of three brothers has undoubtedly been killed by the harsh elements of the Outback, but the question of why he was stranded in these deadly conditions remains; in The Survivors (2021), the story unrolls in a very different location, a coastal town in the Australian island state of Tasmania, where unlike in previous novels, water presents as a danger rather than a life-giving necessity.

Breath by highly acclaimed novelist Tim Winton is another novel set in coastal Australia — in this case a coming-of-age story that takes place in a seaside mill town on the western side of the country — and relies on the setting for its atmospheric prose, portraying the banality of predictable rural life, as perceived by protagonist Brucie Pike, and contrasting it with the intoxicating force of the nearby ocean.

Goldie Goldbloom's The Paperbark Shoe is a work of historical fiction set in the 1940s, a time when Italian prisoners of war were sent to western Australia in the wake of Mussolini's downfall. It takes place in a rural farming region and follows Gin and Toad, a couple ostracized in their community whose lives are changed by their encounters with displaced Italians. Goldbloom's work has been compared to that of Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers, American Southern Gothic writers known for their own distinct and haunting senses of place.

Another historical novel that follows two isolated characters in Australia is The Light Between Oceans by Margot L. Stedman, in which a lighthouse keeper and his wife living on a fictional remote island in the early 20th century find themselves unexpectedly caring for a baby that is not their own.

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This "beyond the book article" relates to Dirt Creek. It originally ran in August 2022 and has been updated for the May 2023 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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