The Beach Volcano (Blemish Books, 2014)

'In its measured way, quite the page-turner' - Whispering Gums

‘Elegant and original’ – The Sydney Morning Herald

2014 Canberra Critics Circle Award

After years of estrangement, Canning Albury, a revered and irreverent singer-songwriter, returns home to celebrate his father’s eightieth birthday. His welcome is mixed, at best. But Canning has made the trip for more than just a glass of Pol Roger and an eyeful of Sydney Harbour at sunset. He carries a secret about his family’s murky and uncharted past—a secret that could be explosive.

‘In this tight, spare novella, Nigel Featherstone takes a well-tried narrative formula, the family union for a big occasion, and gives it a treatment both elegant and original. The wonderful symbol of the beach volcano – a banked fire under a mound of sand that will ‘erupt’ if you pour saltwater into its mouth – gathers import and power as the story progresses’ Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald

The Beach Volcano rises and falls to a compelling beat. Not unlike John Cheever before him, Featherstone unpicks the threads of a successful family to reveal a hollow and corrupted core. With striking imagery, the twin themes of music and water are elegantly interwoven. Unforgettable’ Verity La

‘Nigel Featherstone’s accomplished third novella, The Beach Volcano, takes as its point of departure Tasmania, as had its predecessors, I’m Ready Now and Fall on Me. There is a good deal to admire in The Beach Volcano, whose title metaphor points to a key element in the plot of the novel, as well as to a lost childhood time that, it seems, can only be destructively revived in the present. Mick Dark’s musical career is imagined in economical and vivid detail, Featherstone even managing the very difficult task of giving us a sense of how key songs were born, and might sound. The family dynamic – of pride, concealment, ambition – is persuasively presented, not least in the unconscionable burdens that each of the Alburys feels obliged to accept. Featherstone has once more exploited to advantage the taut, intense fictional range in which he works best’ Peter Pierce, Canberra Times

‘The great contradictions and betrayals of family life are the central concerns of Nigel Featherstone’s new novel, The Beach Volcano, and reading it we share some of the rawest emotions that surface in the swings between guilt and sanctimony that characterise relationships between parents, children and siblings. The Beach Volcano is as much a crime thriller as a domestic drama, and Featherstone’s third and final book in a series of what he calls novellas (but which seem so much more substantial and complete than that) stands alone as something quite original. There is a real sense of excitement as the story proceeds, a heightened suspense that is surprising in literary fiction. Featherstone’s skill as a writer seems to increase book by book, and this novel stands out as the absolute crowning achievement. Utterly enthralling’ Walter Mason, Newtown Review of Books

‘Nigel Featherstone’s new book plunges into the loves and loyalties, the secrets and outward appearances of the wealthy Albury family. This is an insightful and at times disturbing story. Assured and compelling, The Beach Volcano holds you to the last page and beyond’ Andrea Goldsmith

‘Nigel Featherstone’s prose in The Beach Volcano is ample evidence of his literary writing skills. His mastery of nuance and clever character development techniques combine to drive the plot inexorably forward, and this novella is a compelling one, from beginning to end. You can (and probably will) read this in one or two sittings’ Aussiewriters.com

‘A quite simple story of family drama, but with a unique set of characters, and it’s superbly executed at the ideal length for a quiet afternoon read. And yet, while you might be able to polish it off in a few hours, there’s every chance the characters will stick with you long beyond that. An ideal example of the novella form’ Daniel Young, All The Novellas

‘The thing about Featherstone’s books is that there’s potential for high drama, or, to put it more crudely, for violence and/or death. But Featherstone is not a writer of crime or thrillers. He’s interested in family and human relationships, and so, while dramatic things happen, the drama never takes over the story. We to-and-fro between love and hate, welcome and aggression, as this family tries to keep conflict at bay, while threatened by a secret that they refuse to openly confront. Family secrets, gotta love them. Featherstone’s language is clear and evocative. The ‘beach volcano’ of the title works on both the literal level and as a metaphor for simmering tensions that threaten to erupt. In a way, this is a reworking of the prodigal son story, except that in this version the son returns as a success and is, perhaps, the one who extends the greatest generosity. It is about love and acceptance, but has the added theme of the need to face the past before you can truly progress into your future. In its measured way, quite the page-turner. A fitting conclusion to Featherstone’s novella set’ Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

I’m Ready Now (Blemish Books, 2012)

Shortlisted for the 2013 ACT Book of the Year Award
Shortlisted for the 2013 ACT Writing and Publishing Award (fiction)

Following the death of her husband, Lynne Gleeson travels from her grand ancestral Hobart home to visit her son Gordon in Sydney. Lynne’s alone for the first time in her life and has big plans, but does she have the courage to see them through? Meanwhile Gordon, emotionally isolated and lost in his Year of Living Ridiculously, is determined to find stimulation wherever he can, regardless of the consequences. But will Gordon’s last adventure prove too much for the people who love him? 

'Nuanced and thoroughly original’ - The Newtown Review of Books

‘Nuanced and thoroughly original’ – The Newtown Review of Books

‘Writing novellas might seem a little anachronistic or studied, a bit like playing the harp, say, reading Henry James, or listening to LPs. In Featherstone’s hands, though, the novella form becomes an opportunity for concise, intense, concentrated emotion. For him, 156 pages are plenty to introduce plot twists, to give characters depth and feeling, to juxtapose emotions, and to colour his settings with textured, intriguing detail’ Mark Thomas, The Canberra Times

‘Nigel Featherstone builds tension and mystery around his characters’ behaviour without undermining their realness or humanity, and without alienating readers. We warm to them even while we wonder about the wisdom of their decisions and motivations. Besides the characterisation, I also like the novella’s voice and structure. It’s told first-person in the alternating voices of Lynne and Gordon, and is effectively paced, largely through varying the lengths of the chapters. I’m Ready Now is about living imaginatively and about liberation, but it is also about how the past can stall us if we don’t get it in the right perspective. One of Featherstone’s two epigraphs is TS Eliot’s ‘Home is where one starts from’. That says it all’ Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

‘A moving and thoughtful account of love and relationships in various guises’ Judges’ report, 2013 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards (fiction)

I’m Ready Now is masterful in its execution. This is not high impact, flashy narrative. It doesn’t need to be. So delicately does Featherstone introduce the nuances of his characters and the incidents in their lives that – despite their simplicity – you are drawn in, eager to learn how these flawed and real characters fare. It doesn’t end in a walloping climax or the decisive nature of a bullet but with a simple yet life-changing decision. This is a perfect companion to Featherstone’s previous novella, Fall on Me, and both prove the man has a commanding grip on the novella form’ BMA Magazine

‘A powerful yet gentle narrative that grabs you and holds you till the end’ Marion Halligan

‘A newly widowed Tasmanian woman travels to Sydney to start a new life and begins her journey in the in-between space of her gay son’s stark one-bedroom flat in the inner city. This is the premise of Nigel Featherstone’s beautifully crafted novella, I’m Ready Now, a book that examines the impact of ageing on a grieving rich widow and a lost gay man approaching what he can only perceive as a hopeless middle age. Featherstone writes with sensitivity and a terrific eye for what it is that makes love – or at least sustained sexual connection – so very thrilling. Ultimately I’m Ready Now is about ‘feeling life’ – feeling one’s way around its unpleasant limits and reaching the end of its strangely narrow circuits. Thoughtful and frequently wistful, it serves as a guide to Sydney’s sadder streets and as a map of those moments of emotional maturity where you realise that it isn’t going to work out. Nuanced and thoroughly original’ Walter Mason, Newtown Review of Books

Fall on Me (Blemish Books, 2011)

'Substance, seriousness and a fair dose of poignancy.'

‘Substance, seriousness and a fair dose of poignancy’ – The Canberra Times

Winner of the 2012 ACT Writing and Publishing Award (fiction)

Lou Bard busies himself running a humble Launceston café, looking after his son Luke, and doing his best to bring a sense of normality to the old worker’s cottage they rent with a series of housemates. But when Luke, an intelligent, provocative teenager, decides to risk all by making his body the focus of an art installation, Lou is forced to revisit the dark secrets of his past, question what it means to be a good father, and discover that there’s more love in his life than he could ever have imagined.

‘A clever, poignant and engaging plot, and the pace is quietly and consistently held. Interest grows as the story and the relationship between the father and son unfold, polished and compelling. Carefully drawn and cannily observed character, who develop in a plausible and appealing way. Judicious use is made of back-stories to define the characters; the reader never loses curiosity. This work is carefully and beautifully crafted, no showiness, no gratuitous sentiment, an example of skill and talent being put to outstanding use’ Judges’ report, 2012 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards (fiction)

‘Warm and generous, and it feels real. The end result is a story with heart’ Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

‘The beautiful little city of Launceston is the setting for this well-crafted tale. Featherstone manages to pack into this short novel a lot of food for thought about art, love, and survival’ Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald

Fall on Me is a finely written, warm and tense unfolding of a close family drama, where the family in question – father, teenage son, and possible third person – create their closeness, indeed the very idea of the family itself, out of the elements that threaten to destroy them’ Roger McDonald

‘Who would have thought that you could glimpse many of the things which matter most in life out of the windows of a Launceston coffee shop? Nigel Featherstone uses that aperture on life to lend substance, seriousness and a fair dose of poignancy to his novella Fall on Me. Featherstone tells an apparently simple story, in clear, quiet, unaffected language, understating all his effects, quietly moving on to establish each of his characters in turn, investing every one with some sweet, surprising depths. Along the way, he discerns and teases out something substantive to say about love within a family, the character of innocence, the meaning of pornography, silence as a loyal friend, and the contemporary ills still visited on creative talents by wowsers, sneaks, know-alls, do-gooders and no-hopers. Lou Bard is a memorably subtle, nuanced creation. His surname may be ironic: Lou’s thoughts and words are distinctly, inimitably prosaic, but all the more credible for that. Featherstone ends up on a quite optimistic note, one which could be sung in an over-simplified form as ‘all you need is love’ Mark Thomas, The Canberra Times

‘In Fall on Me Featherstone is writing with terrific ease and fluency.  He has two outstanding characters: Lou and Launceston – both attractive, complex, troubled, and engrossing’ John Clanchy, author of Her Father’s Daughter and the award-winning Vincenzo’s Garden.

‘Fall on Me centres on a family of two, father and son, who are faced with a crucial artistic and moral choice when Luke, the son, makes an art installation that could expose him, and his father, to public condemnation. They are easy characters to like and care about. Featherstone creates them with a fine sensitivity and a language that enables him to achieve an affecting engagement between the reader and those who people the world of the story’ Varuna News

‘A good story, a strong sense of place, and avoids the clichés of parent-child conflict’ The Age

‘Life-affirming and very tender. Lou and Luke are both amazing in their ability to rise above the underbelly surrounding them’ Denise Young, author of The Last Ride

Fall on Me is a simple and touching tale well-told’ BMA Magazine

Remnants (Pandanus Books, 2005)

After the death of his beloved wife, retired barrister Mitchell Granville succumbs to loneliness and tracks down his less conservative younger brother, only to be taken on a trek across Australia and a journey through his past, forcing him to re-evaluate how he has lived his life.

'A beautifully written book'

‘A beautifully written book’ – The Mercury Magazine

‘Featherstone cleverly constructs his plot, providing numerous twists. He keeps the revelations coming at a steady speed, slow enough to avoid turning the novel into a thriller, yet fast enough to keep the reader engaged. Many of [the main character’s] struggles and concerns are universal, thus making the novel accessible to readers of any age, sexual preference, or nationality. Although he does not stun the reader with remarkable lyricism or turns of phrase, like Winton or Carey, Featherstone is a fine writer who stays in the shadows, content to keep the focus on the narrative.  Remnants is an excellent novel, one that is both thought-provoking and a pleasure to read.  In a culture obsessed with youth, it is refreshing to read a novel that examines the life of an elderly man. We can only hope that Featherstone will write more novels and find a wide audience’ Antipodes

‘An inversion of the classic road novel…Remnants is a story about how things are different from their surface appearances; about how the ability to see beneath the surface is a necessary part of human relationships; and about the unreliability of memory. I reviewed Featherstone’s excellent collection of short stores, Joy, a few years back, and I’m delighted that his first novel is so good. Featherstone has written an insightful novel’ Artlook

‘Amazing grace achieved through devious means. The pathos of Remnants builds patiently towards an ending that is left ajar if it is not exactly indeterminate. This is a skilled debut for Featherstone as a novelist, in which he tests and pleases himself, with undeniable benefits for his readers as well’ Peter Pierce, The Canberra Times

Remnants is a novel about the spiritual and physical journey of one man [and] Featherstone handles this popular topic with great skill and a delicate literary touch.  Nothing is finer in a work of fiction than understatement when it is well handled, as it is here. This is a very real Australia. There are no cartoon Aussies or eccentric bushies. In his quiet, skilful handling of this world and its characters, Featherstone is the inheritor of one of Australia’s greatest articulators of Australian middle class, Randolph Stow. Featherstone is like Stow too, in his rejection of the larger-than-life characterisation for the precision of a finely drawn reality. By the end of the novel I had come to care for these characters. Such caring, I believe, shows the strength of Featherstone’s writing.  Remnants is a fine piece of fiction, deserving of a wide audience’ Susan Errington, Wet Ink

‘Featherstone’s… control of the novel’s style ensures a good read. The story line is effectively simple, [creating] an uncomfortable revisiting of the past. Remnants may sell as many copies as The Latham Diaries did in one big shop in one day, but that’s par for the course, especially when it comes to literary fiction. That Pandanus has survived and thrived is good to know, and the encouragement given to promising authors like Nigel Featherstone is commendable’ Island

‘In telling stories of specific individuals in unique situations, novelists illumine important aspects of the general human condition. Nigel Featherstone does this very well in Remnants, a novel that relates directly the post-retirement discoveries of successful Sydney barrister Mitchell Granville, while prompting the reader to consider serious broader questions about all lives, their origins, purposes, justifications and relations. Despite the psychological shadows inhabiting Remnants, most readers will find Featherstone’s revelations satisfying and will feel that they have discovered a mature new novelist’ API Review of Books

‘[Remnants] confronts some of the issues of social class, status and tradition in our society. The Granvilles are “the establishment” but are revealed to be as fallible and flawed as most. This is a beautifully written book. It’s subtle, soft, sensitive and subdued, and the title is apt. After the cloth is cut and the substantive garment is made, what is discarded are the remnants’ The Mercury

‘Nigel Featherstone’s Remnants is a journey narrative and [is] a solid exploration of age. Moreover, in Remnants we find a finely honed perception of the social environment. I settled into enjoying a comedy of manners, as this oddest of couples begin their trek back across the continent towards their childhood home, stopping at several points along the way. But Featherstone’s novel plumbs deeper than comedy, and by the end a more complex relationship between the two brothers has been revealed. Written with sensitivity and skill’ Sara Dowse, Eureka Street

Joy (Ginninderra Press, 2000)

'Audacious and beautiful - a courageous book' - Dorothy Porter

‘Warm, lush, humane’ – Australian Book Review

‘Nigel Featherstone’s writing is beautifully poised, taking you right into that moment of repose, deepening the experience into its true fullness… Joy is a collection of ten stories, many of which are wonderfully accomplished pieces, warm, lush, humane, with lots of surprises and shocks’ Australian Book Review

‘Audacious and beautiful – a courageous book’ Dorothy Porter

‘Joy avoids many of the pitfalls open to collections of short stories by a single author. The pieces are varied enough in intent and style to prevent the book appearing like a poor excuse for a novel.  At the same time, there is enough congruence that they don’t jar. The structure of the book, which has the ten main stories book-ended by a split piece, adds to this sense of coherence, but it is also a result of Featherstone’s assured writing… Featherstone’s depiction of Canberra and nearby bushland are particularly impressive. Settings and location are clearly important to him, and he conveys ideas of topography and sense of place very well. A distinctive voice, offering unexpected insights into relations between people’ Overland

‘A commitment to people and landscape. Unusually profound and memorable’ Rodney Croome, activist and former editor of Island

‘Featherstone’s writing is mature in its crafting and varied both in tone and narrative voice. [He] is equally adept at conveying the thoughts and emotions of a person in love, on the prowl or totally self-absorbed. He is able to suggest the weary sadness of the end of an affair, the frustration of a man competing for the attention of a friend who dotes on his female secretary, or the anguish of an older man consumed by guilt and remembered desire from a relationship in the past. Featherstone writes with passion, sensitivity and insight and some of the stories… are extremely moving’ The Canberra Times

‘This is eloquent writing. These stories not only moved me but also reminded me of the pleasure – and the shock – of words. Pretty bloody excellent’ Christos Tsiolkas

‘Have you ever walked around a well-known suburb and some sudden shift of light makes it seem familiar and strange at the same? This sensation is inherent when reading Featherstone’s anthology, in which the landscape of Canberra and the nearby coast are significant. Joy is multi-layered and does what good writing should do – it touches the heart… The un-named framing story in Joy asks: ‘Is there one thing, or many?’ The varied stories between the asking and the enigmatic final page take the reader into a search for knowledge – of love and desire and sexuality. But love and caring take precedence. Well worth the read’ Muse Magazine

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