Fiction. Brian Castro's award-winning novel, THE GARDEN BOOK, is a meditation on loneliness, addiction and exploitation. Set in the years between the Depression and the Second World War in Australia's Dandenong Ranges, it follows the emotionally turbulent life of the beautiful Swan Hay (born Shuang He)—her marriage to the passionate yet brutal Darcy Damon, her love affair with the aviator Jasper Zenlin and her rise to literary fame overseas after her poetry is translated into French without her knowledge. Fifty years after her disappearance into institutions and a life of poverty and despair, Norman Shih—a rare-book librarian and "expert in self-effacement"—begins to piece together the life and losses of Swan. Tracking down clues from guesthouse libraries, antiquarian bookshops and Swan's own haunted writings, Shih fills out a portrait of early twentieth-century Australian lives wracked by modernist impulses of racial prejudice.
Brian Castro was born in Hong Kong in 1950, and arrived in Australia in 1961. His novels include Birds of Passage (1983), which shared the Australian/Vogel Literary Award; Double-Wolf (1991), winner of the Age Fiction Prize and the Victorian Premier's Award for Fiction; After China (1992), which also won the Victorian Premier's Award; Stepper (1997), for which he received the National Book Council Banjo Award; and The Garden Book (2005), winner of the Queensland Premier's fiction prize. His most recent novel is The Bath Fugues (2009). He is currently the Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide. Author City: Adelaide AUS