There’s something about reading a novel that unfolds in familiar locations that makes it easier to relate to and engage with, and books set in Canberra are no exception.
There are a few lists of novels set in and around the nation’s capital, but here’s a selection of our favourites to get started.
Snake Bite by Christie Thompson
Most of the action in Snake Bite takes place in Kambah. The coming-of-age story unfolds from the perspective of the protagonist Jez. It’s not an uplifting tale, as Jez and her friends deal with so much dysfunction that it’s almost overwhelming, but the book is certainly an eye-opener. It shows a side of Canberra that may surprise you!
The Apricot Colonel and others by Marion Halligan
Tilley’s, the South Coast, Paperchain bookshop, and cafes in Manuka all rate a mention in The Apricot Colonel and several other books by Canberra’s Marion Halligan. Anyone who has endured a scorching Canberra summer will relate to the depiction of the extreme heat, and there are plenty of references to the workings of government, not all of them reverent.
Olmec Obituary, Mayan Mendacity and Egyptian Enigma by L J M Owen
The Dr Pimms, Intermilllenial Sleuth series features crime and mystery as the protagonist – an interesting combination of archaeologist and librarian who works at the fictitious Marion Mahony library that has much in common with the National Library of Australia – solves ancient mysteries. The third book in the series, Egyptian Enigma, has recently been released. The books are partly set in Canberra, and readers will recognise many of the places Dr Pimms finds herself in.
Small Moments by Harry Saddler
If you were in Canberra in the aftermath of the 2003 bushfires, then it’s likely you’ll be able to relate to this story, in which a family from Deakin try to get on with life while processing the devastating events that went on around them. Their assessment of the fire zone in Weston Creek is confronting but accurate. Places like Manuka, Namadgi, Woden and others get a mention.
Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra
Fans of novels in the style of Gone Girl will enjoy this psychological thriller set in 2003 – also around the time of the bushfires that destroyed hundreds of homes in Canberra – and 2014. The story takes you on a trip around the nation’s capital, including visits to Lake Burley Griffin and various parts of the city. The plot draws some long bows but Snoekstra’s style is compelling.
Christmas in Canberra by Nicole Taylor
This novel tells the tale of Louise, whose life isn’t particularly exciting, but if you’re of a certain vintage, you’ll recognise familiar locations like the Private Bin, Juliana’s and the Boot and Flogger. Life in the APS gets a good and mostly accurate workout. There are plenty of mentions of Canberra suburbs and landmarks.
Do you have any favourite books set in Canberra? Let us know in the comments.