'Best Books of the Year' Listings
Toronto Globe & Mail
Sydney Morning Herald
The Age, Melbourne
New York Times (Notable
Books of the Year)
OYSTER is Hospital’s finest book, a novel
full of Australia's blazing, prophetic light.
— Thomas Keneally in The Sydney Morning
Hospital knows her Outback, and she brilliantly
evokes the relentless heat... OYSTER is ambitious, obsessive, brilliant...
challenges the reader on many levels...
Defiant and dauntless, Hospital blazes her own
fire and brimstone trail... and it is a trail that few other writers
in this country would dare to follow.
— Australian Review of Books
Turner Hospital’s best book... a taut,
densely woven novel...
characters are meticulously drawn and believable,
the most fascinating and frustrating of them being Queensland itself.
a stunning novel, a dense, bold, spine-tingling,
sometimes difficult, yet totally absorbing work
— Sydney Morning Herald
In an era of Jonestown, Waco, and the Solar Temple
sect, the rise of a vicious cult leader follows a fairly predictable
pattern: an insatiable appetite for power and sexual depravity...
What is neither familiar nor predictable about Janette Turner Hospital’s
new novel is the extraordinary power of place. The Australian Outback
--with its extremes of drought, flash flood and fire -- is as much
a rising beast as the cult leader Oyster.
OYSTER is a precarious, sensuous masterpiece.
Its biblical cadence draws us into a savage world shimmering with
language as prismatic as the fabulous opals of the doomed reef.
— Toronto Globe & Mail
OYSTER is about the few souls in every community
who see that the emperor is naked and say so in quiet, resonable
This is taut, evocative writing.... a triumphant
— Montreal Gazette
Turner Hospital is a consummate, seductive wordsmith
whose prose is so lush, earthy, sultry, and immediate that it almost
enters through the nostrils and not the eyes. Startling in its imagery
and ironic humour, her writing... keeps the reader trapped and mesmerised
by the story.
— Books in Canada
A world both sear and voluptuous, dark and light,
harsh and merciful...
OYSTER is Turner Hospital’s most ambitious
– and most seamless – novel to date. Always evocative
in her use of language, often playful in her use of time, the author
here delivers a highly visual novel, one in which colour and texture
The destructive piston of human greed, and how
love and religion can have the power of both good and evil –
these are the big topics, heavy stuff. Happily, both Janette Turner
Hospital’s vision and her writing are more than equal to the
weight of her subject.
— Quill and Quire
This book is a tour de force by Turner Hospital...
Her use of language is fascinating and extraordinarily powerful
and her narrative shimmers and shifts like the displaced reality
in the heat of Outer Maroo itself...
It is not surprising both countries [Australia and Canada] would
wish to claim her; she is one of the best female novelists currently
writing in English..... She easily matches the more widely known
and read Canadian icon Margaret Atwood for intelligence and technical
brilliance and outdoes her in terms of structure and the broad relevance
of her themes.
— The Observer
Janette Turner Hospital is not yet as widely known as she will be.
OYSTER, her latest novel... is an astonishing and brilliant book.
A more compelling modern novel is hard to think of and for any reader
of fiction, poetry, history, and even --or especially--of newspapers,
OYSTER is a must buy, must read, must contemplate.
She has written five novels and a couple of collections of short
stories and the elegant sufficiency of this body of work is accounted
for by the great glory of her writing, a fusion of precision and
atmospherics, of narrative, a micro-surgery on character, all exploring
the nature of mankind, as good and as evil as we can be...
Turner Hospital has crafted an Australian story in that the peculiar
and awesome landscape of western Queensland which could hardly be
replicated... But she has also written an intense psychological
thriller, as gripping as a whodunit, in which the tension becomes
intolerable, as the characters that the reader has grown to like
and admire, steadily and with hideous and warranted reluctance,
approach the chaotic evil at the centre...
On no account miss out on this book.
— The Scotsman, Edinburgh):
Turner Hospital transfigures the cliché-ridden
Australian outback beloved of beer commercials, revealing all its
dangerous beauties. She writes with mischievous energy, an outback
Angela Carter with dirt under her fingernails...
— Daily Telegraph
This powerful novel, told in a series of zig-zag
time shifts, lingers in the mind. One can really believe there was
a man called Oyster whose domination (like that of the gurus of
Georgetown or Waco) led to holocaust... An original, lyrical use
of language... Her previous novels have been shortlisted for major
literary awards... This one should win.
— Sunday Telegraph
OYSTER vibrates with energy... a novel of great
breadth... She has distilled the vastness, the scorched earth and
silences, into powerful, sensual prose... an ambitious novel...of
— Literary Review
Hospital has created a location so convincingly remote that it seems
to belong in a frightening borderline dimension of mirages... It
is a black hole in the outback...
Underpinned by the imaginative conjunction of
oyster and opal (and it does communicate a very seductive fascination
with opal) OYSTER is a poetic novel... tipped to be in with a chance
for the Booker... Not just opalescent but Technicolor, Oyster is
a headier book than we are used to in our little country.
— Sunday Times
Janette Turner Hospital’s fine new novel,
OYSTER... provides a refreshingly up-to-date view of the state of
Queensland, notorious for its buck-eyed politics... The heat and
the climate take on a powerful force; atmosphere here means more
than an adjunct to location.... The main women characters all have
her stamp; they are idiosyncratic spirits built out of the serendipity
of wandering imagination... Janette Turner Hospital has the bravery
of a consistent risk-taker.
— Times Literary Supplement
What Hospital does superbly is the setting of
Outer Maroo... OYSTER, with its evocative sense of place and exciting
plot should command a wider readership for an author of powerful
— The Independent
...a language of shocking physicality...
The quality of Janette Turner Hospital’s
descriptive writing is more absolutely concrete and certain here
even than in her previous books. Always an instinctive writer, she
has given herself attentively to the mystery of her native land
and woven it into themes of considerable grandeur and hard beauty,
shaded by an understanding of what is tender in each one of us...
— Independent on Sunday
... a lyrical and sophisticated way of storytelling.
Much of the power and originality of the novel stems from the mesmerising,
disconcerting quality of the writing and Janette Turner Hospital’s
ability to create a unique pictorial sense of place.
— The Times (weekday)
...an extraordinary novel... OYSTER evokes a world
no less kaleidoscopically bizarre than that of her previous novel
THE LAST MAGICIAN, but this time Hospital, having regrouped her
narrative resources, has set her book in the outback among the opal
fields and the tense millenarian communities of Queensland.
Sparked off by the Waco, Texas, siege and shootings,
Hospital examines the role of charismatic leaders (here the eponymous
Oyster) in a society which is both incredibly ancient and utterly
of the here and now...
— Times Educational Supplement
If you want to write novels these days, the old
white Commonwealth is the place to be born. There’s a sweep
and poetic confidence in the work of a Rushdie, a Malouf,...or of
Annie Proulx, that leaves most English novels looking tame and parochial.
Janette Turner Hospital is up there with the very best.
OYSTER is about demagoguery, mass hysteria, and
the closed communties in which they flourish... We follow with bated
breath the steps to Armageddon.... OYSTER is cunningly constructed:
told from different viewpoints, it moves forwards and backwards
in time. Its tight plotting... gives it the grip of a thriller...
Its language is sensuous and poetic, disproving
the general rule that you can have language (Rushdie, Amis) or engagement
(Rendell) but not both. Its psychology is subtle. And it achieves
the mysterious freedoms of magic realism without succumbing to the
tiresome cop-out of failing to answer the question you’ve
raised. In short, OYSTER triumphantly walks a tricky tightrope.
This is a wonderful book that deserves to sell millions.
— New Statesman and Society
It has been said that Turner Hospital is a writer’s
novelist, complex and difficult. But this, her latest novel, is
a triumph of literary skills blended with dreamtime story-telling,
successful not despite but because of its unlinearity. It is through
many voices and mirage-like refractions that we begin to understand
the suffocating mystery hanging over an outback town in West Queensland.
— Glasgow Herald
Part of the seductive power of Hospital’s novels (The Last
Magician; Charades) lies in her practice of constructing the plot
in a series of interlocking narratives, like an intricate jigsaw
puzzle.... Hospital creates her most powerful and dazzling novel
to date. In sensuous prose, feverish with the cadences of mystery
and doom, sometimes hallucinatory but always meticulously controlled,
she spins a story eerie in its timeliness and credibility.
— Publishers Weekly (special
starred * and boxed review)
Let there be no secret about this: Australian
novelist Janette Turner Hospital writes with brilliance and originality,
evoking a suffocating, shimmering, heat-and-dust-filled landscape
where truth is distorted as if viewed in a cracked mirror.
— PEOPLE Magazine
(Lead review, with half-page color photograph of
author, March 30, l998)
Most of the story is told by a bright, troubled
girl named Mercy, daughter of a preacher whose church has been taken
over by religious zealots.... The horror here is peeked at slantwise,
through a girl’s splayed fingers.... The story, of course,
is a rough match with remembered headlines -- of Waco, of Heaven’s
Gate and the rest. But the mad Oyster...and the hate-filled mining
town.. have their own bitter, brilliant reality in this impressive
— TIME Magazine
(full page, with photographs of author and book jacket,
April 6, 1998)
Gradually it becomes clear that the true protagonist
of Oyster is Outer Maroo itself... and the drama that unfolds within
its fiercely guarded borders reads like a recounted dream... And
yet from these varied voices and images a single, coherent narative
emerges.... Oyster casts a consistent spell. It is both a rare story
and an accomplished piece of writing.
— New York Times Book Review
(Mar22, ’98; also cited for next 3 wks in 'Editor’s
Choice–Bear in Mind', Mar 29, Apr 5, Apr 12)
Janette Turner Hospital is the Australian
writer living in Canada who has given us such marvelous novels as
Charades and The Last Magician. Her new novel, Oyster, is a triumph
of writerly virtuosity, an absolutely bravura performance.
— New York Newsday
An ominous, elegant jewel of a book.
— Washington Post
Echoes of Waco, Heaven’s Gate, and Jonestown
combine with intimations of apocalypse in a stunningly evocative
story of life in a remote Australian hell-hole -- a place where
evil is as pervasive as the heat, goodness as rare as rain.... A
deep and harrowing journey through a desolate land into the recesses
of the soul and then back into the light, all recorded in luminous
— Kirkus Reviews
Hospital’s demanding, densely layered,
symphonic novels have never received the attention they deserve
-- a bit too ornate to achieve commercial success or win high-profile
awards.... Hospital writes of the lure of cults not with the outraged
eyes of a moralist but with an artist’s sensitivity to mood
and character. We feel Oyster’s power in the “bent air”
of Outer Maroo, and we smell the “feral stench of hatred”
as the conspirators stalk the outsiders. A genuinely hypnotic novel.
— Booklist, American Library Association
(Special starred * and boxed review)
Reading one of Janette Turner Hospital’s
novels feels like walking a mysterious labyrinth.... Hospital brilliantly
pulls together the many disconnected themes of her very complicated
plot... with intelligent writing and remarkable craftsmanship.
— San Francisco Chronicle
a haunting, beautifully written book
— San Diego Union-Tribune