I’m pleased to report that June continues our upward trend for reviews in the HMB category with 19 reviews this month.
Memoirs remain our most popular way to get our historical fix. Some we have featured previously, some are new releases and many are amazing, eclectic finds that reflect the many and varied interests of our reviewers.
I was delighted to see two reviews for Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look pop up this month, however in one of those quirky reader/blogger things, I refuse to read anyone’s review of the book I am currently reading until I have finished the book and finished my own review.
I will join in when I’m done!
Jennifer @Goodreads has reviewed the classic war memoir by Army nurse Belinda Jeffrey, White Coolies. She found it ‘deeply moving’ and ‘inspirational’.
‘With these women, it was a different kind of war.’
Betty Jeffrey and her colleagues were held prisoner in and around Sumatra for over three and a half years. They lived in crowded and unsanitary conditions – thirty-two people in a small three roomed cottage, in October 1942 – on a diet of rice contaminated by dirt, bugs and rocks, and rotting vegetables. Occasionally, they might receive a sliver of meat. Many of the nurses had literally the clothes on their backs, and no shoes because they had removed their shoes before diving off the SS Vyner Brooke.
Jennifer also tackled a history of Botany Bay by Maria Nugent that claimed to draw
on oral histories and memories and on the landscape to present this account of Botany Bay and its symbolism. Ms Nugent’s narrative covers both the significant events that have occurred at Botany Bay as well as the urban development that has occurred.
On a similar theme, Anna @Goodreads reviewed Roslyn Russell’s High Seas and High Teas: Voyaging to Australia – a ‘beautifully presented book’ filled with excerpts from diaries and journals and various reproductions of artwork.
For the crime lovers amongst us, we have Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth-Century Crime Fiction: The Mothers of the Mystery Genre (phew! what a title!) by Lucy Sussex.
Emma @Newtown Review of Books reveals the ‘long and complex genealogy’ of crime writing but found the later chapters “devoted to the work and often sobering personal circumstances of writers Ann Radcliffe, Catherine Crowe, Harriet Prescott, Caroline Clive, Mary Braddon, Mary Fortune, Ellen Davitt, Ellen Wood, Metta Victor and Katharine Anna Green” to be the most fascinating.
These chapters are page-turners. Sussex maintains that ‘both writer woman and woman written are intertwined’, and seamlessly interleaves excerpts of their writing and summarised plot lines with insights into their complicated domestic arrangements. Although some women left little trace, there are piquant snippets about unmarried liaisons, rambling blended families, precarious finances, political preoccupations with the abolition of slavery and workers’ rights, and physical disabilities such as chair-confining scoliosis.
If you’d like to continue your journey into the story of Louisa Collins and 1880’s Australian society that was referred to in last months HMB Roundup of Carol Baxter’s Black Widow, check out Kira @Read Write Run’s review of Last Woman Hanged by Carol Overington.
The 2016 West Australian Premier’s Book Awards Shortlist was announced this week. They have given us a whole stack of fascinating HMB titles to get excited about.
The Non-Fiction shortlist:
Atkinson, Alan The Europeans in Australia: Volume 3 – Nation UNSW Press (2014)
Bungey, Darleen John Olsen: An Artist’s Life ABC Books, an imprint of HarperCollins (2014)
Garner, Helen This House of Grief Text Publishing (2014)
Niall, Brenda Mannix Text Publishing (2015)
Sayer, Mandy The Poet’s Wife Allen and Unwin (2014)
Starke, Ruth and Hannaford, Robert My Gallipoli Working Title Press (2015)
Ward, Biff In My Mother’s Hands Allen and Unwin (2014)
Barnard, Simon A-Z of convicts in Van Dieman’s Land Text Publishing (2014)
Metzenthen, David and Camilleri, Michael One minute’s silence Allen and Unwin (2014)
West Australians are also great at highlighting the history of their own state with a specific WA History shortlist category:
Bolton, Geoffrey Paul Hasluck: A life UWA Publishing (2014)
Erickson, Dorothy Inspired by Light & Land: designers and makers in WA Western Australian Museum (2015)
Morgan, Ruth A. Running Out? Water in Western Australia UWA Publishing (2015)
Newstead, Adrian The Dealer is the Devil: an insider’s history of the Aboriginal Art trade Brandl & Schlesinger (2014)
Taylor, John J. Between Duty and Design: the architect soldier UWA Publishing (2014)
To read all the reviews posted for HMB during June, click here.
About Bronwyn: I have been a book blogger at Brona’s Books since 2009 and a bookseller (specialising in children’s literature) in Sydney since 2008. Prior to this I was as an Early Childhood teacher for 18 years in rural NSW.
I taught myself to read when I was four by memorising my Dr Seuss books. I haven’t stopped reading since.
You can find me on Twitter @bronasbooks.