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by Robbie Arnott

Debut Books of the Month Debuts Literary Fiction Modern and Contemporary Fiction

LoveReading View on Flames

When Levi and Charlotte McAllister’s mother dies, she suffers the post-death fate experienced by many a McAllister woman. After cremation, she re-appears and bursts into flame on the lawn. Fearing his sister is headed for the same end, Levi swears to “bury her whole and still and cold”, which prompts Charlotte to flee southward “towards the bottom of the earth”. What follows is a cleverly twisting story that crackles with intrigue and invention as the lives of an assortment of compelling characters collide. There’s the wildly eccentric coffin maker Levi commissions to make Charlotte’s casket, and the hard-drinking female detective he employs to track her down. There’s the wombat-farmer slipping into insanity, and the young woman who works for him and changes Charlotte’s life.

Raw and real, yet also suffused in otherworldly magic, the author has conjured an elemental mythological landscape alongside the true-world Tasmanian setting. I raced through these blistering pages, but this is a book I shall undoubtedly return to.

Joanne Owen

Flames Synopsis


A young man named Levi McAllister decides to build a coffin for his sister, Charlotte - who promptly runs for her life. A water rat swims upriver in quest of the cloud god. A fisherman named Karl hunts for tuna in partnership with a seal. And a father takes form from fire.

The answers to these riddles are to be found in this tale of grief and love and the bonds of family, tracing a journey across the southern island that takes us full circle. 

Flames Press Reviews

Unique and memorable... Extraordinary energy... A rich and memorable picture with prose of an exceptionally high quality. - Kill Your Darlings

Flames is an exuberantly creative and confident debut. This is a story that sparks with invention... Invigorating, strange and occasionally brutal. - Australian Book Review

[With a] magic realist flair that will appeal to fans of Angela Carter... It is glorious, messy, and a bit weird. - Press Association

Robbie Arnott is a vivid and bold new voice in Australian fiction - Danielle Wood

Ambitious storytelling from a stunning new Australian voice. Flames is constantly surprising-I never knew where the story would take me next. This book has a lovely sense of wonder for the world. It's brimming with heart and compassion. - Rohan Wilson

Visionary, vivid, full of audacious transformations: there's a marvellous energy to this writing that returns the world to us aflame. A brilliant and wholly original debut. - Gail Jones

Flames is a spectacular novel; exciting and spirited, overflowing with imagination. Arnott invites us in to a thrilling new world where everything may look familiar, but there are magical surprises to be discovered around every corner. Join him on the journey, and you will not be disappointed. - Culturefly

Delightful... Jumps playfully between different writing styles in every chapter...[An] enchanting story. - Guardian

A strange and joyous marvel. - Richard Flanagan, Man Booker-winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781786496294
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781786496294
Publication date: 1st August 2019
Author: Robbie Arnott
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 240 pages
Genres: Debuts of the Month, Debuts, Literary Fiction, Modern and Contemporary Fiction,
Collections: 40 unmissable magic realist reads - “It’s real-life, but not as we know it”, 30 Novels Featuring The Lands Down Under,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Fantasy,

About Robbie Arnott

Robbie Arnott was born in Launceston in 1989. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He won the 2015 Tasmanian Young Writers' Fellowship and the 2014 Scribe Non-fiction Prize for Young Writers. He lives in Hobart.

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