Reviews and Podcasts

Praise for Paris Savages

‘A sobering and powerful read.’ Antonia Senior, The Times, Historical Fiction Book of the Month (July 2020)

‘A startling depiction of how we construct race through scientific, cultural, sexual and economic narratives … This is a story that needed to be told. It’s both an account of Badtjala bravery and their fight for recognition, as well as an investigation of how the pernicious rise of racist thought infected minds across the globe.’ ROHAN WILSON, The Australian

‘Paris Savages, based on a true story, is the absorbing fourth novel by Tasmanian author and science journalist Katherine Johnson … Johnson writes with emotional force about three people who are being pushed, physically and emotionally.’ LOUISE SWINN, The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Paris Savages explores, with compassion and tact, the experience of three Badtjala people from Fraser Island who travelled to Europe in the 1880s to unwittingly become part of a “human zoo”.’ GEORDIE WILLIAMSON, The Australian

‘Johnson’s creative deep dive into history has an authenticity that will no doubt help fix the gaps that pervade our predominant narrative. A general understanding is not enough; it is important that we comprehend the specifics of the appalling treatment of native people and cultures that has taken place in our collective past. We must unpack the worst stretches of our history with eyes wide open. Paris Savages – published by the Sydney independent Ventura Press, which continues to punch well above its weight – adds to that vital conversation.’  LOUISE SWINN, The Age

‘I read a lot of very good books for work. Sometimes something great comes along. This book is it … Intelligence, empathy and brutal honesty permeates this exquisitely written book …  Paris Savages is beautiful, heartbreaking and utterly sublime. A stunning achievement. I can say in all honesty that Paris Savages is my favourite book of the year.’  BETTER READING full review

‘A fabulously researched, really empathetic account’ Roanna Gonsalves Review on ABC Radio National’s THE BOOKSHELF

‘A masterful work; fully realised and richly embroidered. Johnson is a novelist of ferocious elegance and unusual sensitivity.’

‘This is a feat of imagination cast back in time and across the seas: first to K’Gari (Fraser Island) in the 1880s, transport by ship across the Pacific, then belle-èpoque Europe; into the mind of German girl Hilda, and her account of three Badtjala travellers, all of them seeking location in a place far from home.

It is a story of sympathies and slippages, showing and telling, transport and transformation. Johnson’s delicacy of comprehension and tenderness of motive offer a way past simplistic moralising into a human understanding of good intentions and intentional injury, the dignity of survival and the persistence of history. It’s a vivid, thoughtful telling of a tale little known and deeply affecting.’

‘Gripping and powerful. Paris Savages is an intimate journey into the late 19th century pseudo-science of race, and the immensely moving courage of the indigenous performers who toured Europe.’

‘For me, a measure of a novel’s strength and excellence is how indelibly, in a rich and complex way, one or more characters have imprinted themselves on my memory. I will remember and reflect on Bonny, Dorondera, Jurano, Herr Müller, and Hilda well into the future… I foresee this novel joining the works of Richard Flanagan, Kate Grenville, and David Malouf on my own Australian literature bookshelf.’

 ‘[this story is] of major significance if global communities are to embrace racial, ethnic and cultural respect. It is imperative that the horrors of the past — in this instance, racial stereotyping exemplified in ‘human zoos’ — be exposed for what they were. Katherine Johnson has undertaken such an exposure.’

***** ‘Paris Savages raises so many issues it is blinding in its scope. While much of the action is shocking, the story is tempered by beautiful sub-themes: inter-racial love, loss of innocence, and the challenges of displacement. But soaring above all of this is a spiritual thread that weaves in and out of the narrative. This is compelling reading. Highly recommended.’ GOOD READING Magazine

‘An absolutely fantastic book … it must be read’ TUESDAY BOOK CLUB

‘Paris Savages is a powerful narrative told with quiet intensity and unfolding passion. Katherine Johnson moves between the beautiful and the horrific with unforgettable expression. A masterpiece traversing fiction with epic insight.”  MOHAMMED MASSOUD MORSI, AUTHOR OF PALACE OF ANGELS, SHORTLISTED CHRISTINA STEAD PRIZE FOR FICTION

Paris Savages podcasts

Good Reading magazine interview with Gregory Dobbs

ABC radio interview with Ryk Goddard

Better Reading podcast

Abbey’s bookshop trailer for Paris Savages

Booktopia podcast interview with Ben and Olivia

First Tuesday Bookclub radio 2ser podcast Paris Savages – interview with Andrew Pople

#Lockdownreadinggroup reading from Paris Savages

Paris Savages features

Frozen in Time, The Conversation, on the research behind Paris Savages.

Reviews of Matryoshka

‘The crippling sorrows of exile and estrangement, and the disfiguring legacies of intergenerational trauma, pervade Katherine Johnson’s powerful new novel. At its heart, it is also a poignant exploration of our stumbling efforts to seek solace in the world and the ways in which we attempt to overcome dislocation.’ from Alice Nelson’s review of Matryoshka in Australian Book Review

I seem to be on a streak of reading beautifully touching novels. Matryoshka is a novel that really took me by surprise. It’s written in a way that I like to term “quiet”: quietly beautiful, quietly atmospheric, quietly powerful, and quietly unforgettable. This novel made me ache, so many times, for the loss and the love, the inter-generational connections, and the truth of human frailtyForgiveness and love underpin this story, flowing outwards from a beautifully intelligent narrative that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Highly recommended.’ from Theresa Smith’s review of Matryoshka

Praise for The Better Son

‘The Better Son maps an emotional landscape as shifting and precarious as the limestone country so splendidly evoked here. Katherine Johnson is a sure-footed guide to lives hollowed out by secrets that reach deep into the past’ Michelle de Kretser, winner Miles Franklin Literary Award 2013

‘A gripping story of loss, trauma and the devastating impact of family secrets, The Better Son is a literary thriller that haunts the reader well beyond its final page’ Rachel Power, author of Creativity and Motherhood: The Divided Heart

‘A fabulous read: moving, haunting, at times devastating, redemptive, and so evocative of the Mole Creek area’ Vern Field, editor of Island Magazine

‘Fans of Alex Miller and Michelle de Kretser will enjoy this deep and imaginative story with nuanced and relatable characterisation’ Hannah Cartmel, Books + Publishing

Reviews of Pescador’s Wake

‘Katherine Johnson’s debut novel is much like the icebergs that threaten both vessels. Perfectly crafted crystalline prose dazzles on the surface while intricately woven characters and their stories explore the unknown depths of heartache and betrayal, love and resilience.’ Goodreading magazine, February 2009

‘It’s all about the characters. Pescador’s Wake is equal parts drama, thriller, adventure, romance and documentary- and it works. It’s going to be a handseller’s delight, and might just be a surprise hit. I thoroughly recommend it.’ Bookseller and Publisher magazine, Dec-March

‘Johnson shows the beginnings of substantial talent’ Sun-Herald, February 15 2009

‘There are passages of real tension and Johnson’s descriptions of the sea and the weather and the groaning boats shiver with authenticity. In the pitch of phrase and the surge of sentence there are moments of deep beauty.’ Spectrum magazine (Sydney Morning Herald), Jan 31-Feb 1, 2009

‘It is this aspect of detailing the family’s lives on shore as well as showing the extreme elements of the sea, and the accompanying excitement, risk and danger, that has already prompted comparisons with Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm.’ Courier Mail, Jan 10-11, 2009

‘It augurs well for the future that Johnson has written an informed, intelligent, sympathetic and resonant novel to begin what will surely be a long career as an author.’ Sunday Tasmanian, Jan 11, 2009

‘An impressive debut—a confident and suspenseful page-turner with engaging characters, a skillfully orchestrated suite of plots and an important message gracefully and memorably conveyed.’ The Advertiser Review, Jan 24, 2009

‘From the first pages, this debut novel stands out for its subject matter: deep-sea fishery …The novel balances the sea story and the artistic novel; a different novelist would have swashbuckled, or made more of the crime suspense. Johnson instead draws lives, ordinary people drawn into exceptional circumstance. Like most debuts, it promises much for the next book. Unlike most debuts, it is ambitious and unusual.’ The Sunday Age ‘M’ Supplement, Jan 18, 2009

‘Johnson, in her use of multiple perspectives, and in the clarity and ease of her writing, has managed to produce something much more character-focused, and inherently more enticing.’ Canberra Times, Jan 3, 2009

‘A good solid read’ The Australian, Jan 3-4, 2009

‘A talented first novel’ The Age, Dec 26-27, 2008

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *