Interview with Paddy O’Reilly, Author of The Wonders


Paddy O’Reilly won the Age Short Story Award in 2002, and has since published three novels and a short story collection in Australia, Europe and the USA. Heart of Pearl, a short film for which she wrote the screenplay, was nominated for an Australian Film Institute award. Her latest novel is The Wonders.

Did you grow up in a bookish house? What was your early relationship with books?

We had books in our house but, more importantly, we were regular library borrowers. As the youngest of the family I first read all the hand-me-downs, which were old and musty because I was a late arrival, and which my older sisters and brother scorned because they had outgrown them. So the biggest thrill for me was discovering books at the library. Every week we would go to the library and get new books, and the closer I got to being able to borrow from the adult library the more excited I became. In preparation, I read books from the bookshelf in our lounge room: From Here to Eternity, The Vivisector, Agatha Christie mysteries, The Grapes of Wrath. At 11 or 12 years of age I was too young to understand them properly, but I was fascinated by them all the same. This was the adult world and it was dark and I was longing to get there.

Your screenplay for the short film Heart of Pearl was nominated for an AFI award. How did writing for the screen compare to writing short stories/novels?

Writing for film was an extraordinary experience, utterly different to writing fiction. The process was long and involved all sorts of constraints fiction writers need never worry about. If a novelist wants to have an Arabian desert scene in her book, she writes it in. If a screenwriter wants the same in a film, the cost of filming that scene will add millions to the budget. If the budget is limited, you have to write your way around such things. Heart of Pearl was set on a Pacific Island. It was filmed on some vacant land in Sydney but you would never know, thanks to the extraordinary photography by Andrew Taylor. Aside from budgetary constraints, you have a director and a producer who want to have a say, and in a full length feature you might have many more people involved in vetting and changing the script. Then when the film is made, all kinds of things can happen: scenes can’t be shot; filmed scenes turn out badly; in the editing room it becomes clear that the ending doesn’t work; etc. And at that point, you are no longer involved in the project. So what you end up seeing on the screen may not be what you thought you had written. (In the case of Heart of Pearl, I have to say that wasn’t the case, but I have worked on another project where the film turned out quite differently to what was on the page.) You have to learn to let go.
Apparently there are a number of screenwriters in Hollywood who make a good living yet have never had a film produced. That would be depressing.

wonders-cover-usa-webWhat do you do when you feel creatively stuck?

Unfortunately, I eat. That, of course, doesn’t help at all. Walking helps. Mundane tasks help. At a certain point, bloated and still stuck, I’ll try ways to trick myself. I might change tack and start something different, something that I tell myself is simply playing around. I might decide that the work I’m stuck on is no good and try to find one paragraph or one line that has some life and start over from there. If I am desperate, I might force myself to sit down at the computer with the screen blacked out and write for fifteen minutes. I’ll walk again or pull some weeds or take a shower. I think swimming would be great – that delicious and freeing immersion in water – but I don’t like swimming pools and I’m too far from the sea.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing the final edits for a short story collection that will be out in the middle of 2015. It’s called Peripheral Vision and will be published by UQP. I’m thrilled to be published in UQP’s loose series of short story collections that includes writers like Jennifer Mills, Abbas El-Zein and Josephine Rowe. Most of the stories in Peripheral Vision have already been published in literary magazines or anthologies.

We are lucky to have such a vibrant culture of small magazines and literary enterprises here. Each time I get a new issue of a magazine I find exciting work by new writers and I keep an eye out for more of their writing. It’s fantastic to watch them coming out into the world.

What’s your favourite book by an Australian female author?

The trouble with a question like this, and I’m sure we all feel this way, is that I love so many books by Australian women writers it feels like a betrayal to pick one. So I’ll talk about one of the books that inspired me when I was starting to write. Lillian’s Story by Kate Grenville is a book with huge energy. It is often funny despite the darkness of the character’s early life, and it gives voice and power to a character who broke out of all the strictures of her time about ‘being a woman’ in a way that is both tragic and oddly uplifting. The prose is rich and clean, the imagery is sumptuous, the narrative proceeds and coheres beautifully in titled fragments. Lillian’s Story is one of the books that made me feel I could write whatever, and in whatever way, I wanted. If you haven’t read it, you have a treat awaiting you.


The Fine Colour of Rust, reviewed by Katie Keys

The Wonders, reviewed by Michelle McLaren

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Interview with Amanda Curtin, author of Elemental

November 2014: General Fiction

For the purposes of this challenge ‘general fiction’, is defined as fiction set post mid 1900′s, which does not fit neatly into a specific literary genre.


Rachael’s Gift by Alexandra Cameron

rachaelsgift-cameronRachael is a child prodigy, a talented artist whose maturity and eloquence is far beyond her fourteen years. She’s also energetic, charming and beautiful, beguiling everyone around her. To her mother, Camille, she is perfect. But perfection requires work, as Camille knows all too well.
For Rachael has another extraordinary gift: a murky one that rears its head from time to time, threatening to unbalance all the family has been working towards. When Rachael accuses her art teacher of sexual misconduct, Wolfe and Camille are drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that pit husband against wife, and have the power to destroy all their lives.
Set in contrasting worlds of Australia and Paris, told from the perspective of husband and wife, Rachael’s Gift is a detective story of the heart, about a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter and a father’s quest for the truth.

Marcia from Book Muster Down Under writes; “Rachael’s Gift is Alexandra Cameron’s debut novel and she should be commended for drawing so many emotions from this reviewer from incredulity, anger and distress …contempt [and] sympathy…”  Shelleyrae from Book’d Out also notes; “ Cameron explores some of the modern concerns of parenting such as cyber-bullying, sexual predation and the narcissism of youth, and questions the choices parent have in an era where they are expected to protect their children from the consequences of their own behaviour and to support their ambitions without censure.”


Wife on the Run by Fiona Higgins

Wife On Run HigginsA mother’s greatest fear… A wife’s worst nightmare… What would you do?
When two technology-related disasters hit within days of each other, Paula knows her comfortable suburban life has been irrevocably blown apart. One involves the public shaming of her teenage daughter, the other is a discovery about her husband that shocks her to her core. With her world unravelling around her, Paula does the only thing that makes any sense to her: she runs away from it all.
She pulls her children out of school and takes off on a trip across Australia with her elderly father and his caravan. The only rule is No Technology – no phones, no Facebook, no Instagram, no tablets, games or computers. It’s time to get back to basics and learn how to be a family again.
It all sounds so simple – and for a while, it is. But along the way Paula will meet new, exciting complications, and realise that running away is only a temporary solution. The past has to be faced before the future can begin.

“Part cautionary tale, part “finding yourself” yarn, Wife on the Run is full of flawed, believable characters and tackles modern-day issues with candour and compassion.” writes Monique of Write Note Reviews. Bree of All the Books I Can Read says, “…the parts of the story concerning family and marriage and relationships kept me utterly fascinated.”


Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McIerney

hellofromthegillespies-mcierney“For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself–she tells the truth….
The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.
Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together–and pull themselves together–in wonderfully surprising ways…
From the bestselling author of The House of Memories comes a funny and heartfelt novel about miscommunication and mayhem in a family like no other.”

“…this is an exceptionally well crafted story set in a beautiful part of outback South Australia….I loved this novel. ” says Sam Still ReadingCarol @ Reading, Writing and Riesling writes, “This is such a surprising read – glance quickly over it and you will discover a family story with characters that you identify with or have met along your way in life but this novel is so much more than the individuals in it; it is a story about the struggles of modern day Australians whether they live in regional or city communities, for all the issues here affect us all in one way or another.”


Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill

reluctantlycharmed“It’s Kate McDaid’s birthday and she’s hoping to kickstart her rather stagnant love-life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great-great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.
Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Instantly, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye. As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil the final, devastating step of the request . . . or whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t… “

Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out writes,  “Entertaining and light, Reluctantly Charmed is a fanciful story about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic, with appealing touches of humour, intrigue and romance.” Marcia from Book Muster Down Under notes, “Along with these fine characters and her deftly structured narrative, Ellie’s cracking turn of phrase and scenic descriptions are something to be savoured.” Tracey of Carpe Librum finished her review with this statement, “Reluctantly Charmed was the most unexpected and surprising read of the year for me and reinforces the lesson that if you generalise and make snap judgements about a book, you could be missing out on a rewarding reading experience. I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.”


Can You Keep a Secret? by Caroline Overington

canyoukeepasecret-overington“How well do you really know the one you love?  ‘Why do some people decide to get married when everyone around them would seem to agree that marriage, at least for the two people in question, is a terrifically bad idea?’ The year is 1999, and Lachlan Colbert – Colby – has the world at his feet. He’s got a big job on Wall Street and a sleek bachelor pad in the heart of Manhattan. With money no object, he and his friends take a trip to Australia to see in the new millennium. And it’s there, on a hired yacht sailing the Whitsundays, that he meets Caitlin.  Caitlin Hourigan has got wild hair and torn shorts – and has barely ever left the small patch of Queensland where she grew up. But Colby is smitten and for Caitlin, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, a blissful future awaits – marriage, a big house, a beautiful little boy. But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. And for Lachlan and Caitlin the nightmare is only just beginning.”

” Caroline Overington once again takes a complex topic at large and brings it to light. In Can You Keep A Secret the reader comes to grips with the less heard of realities of international adoption as well as the complex forces that bring and keep some couples together.” writes HelenElizabeth of Devoted Eclectic says; “Overington’s style interests me, as does her boldness in writing the “truth” as she sees it. She is unafraid to polarise, to offend, to invite judgement of behaviour she sees as wrong. She has found a way of doing this, of critiquing aspects of society and human behaviour, while telling a page-turning story.”


You can browse more general fiction titles reviewed by participants on the AWW review site

Cleanskin Cowgirls Treasure isabelleofthemoonstars-joneslola-bensky



About Me

My name is Shelleyrae Cusbert I am a mother of four children, aged 8 to 18, living in the mid north coast of NSW. I am an obsessive reader and publish my thoughts about what I read at my book blog,  Book’d Out.  In 2012 I read and reviewed a total of 109 books for the AWW Challenge and in 2013 a total of 117. I juggle caring for my family with a part time job and volunteer at both the town’s local library and the children’s school library.

October Roundup: Diversity

What with organising the Christmas shopping, dodging extreme heat and storms (in Queensland at least), and generally hurtling towards the end of the year, our review numbers are slowing. Despite this, reviewers have still covered a wide range of books which feature diverse themes or characters, many of them in the young adult genre.

UntamedCowanAnnaKate of The Ecstasy Files was intrigued by Anna Cowan’s Untamed (also reviewed by BookThingo last year). She found ‘the premise of a feisty, opinionated heroine and a manipulative cross-dressing duke who is “so aristocratic he is almost brain-damaged” pretty damned interesting.’ One of its main themes is the subversion of gender roles, and Kate thought Cowan did an excellent job of this, as she writes, ‘the duke is often both fascinated and repulsed by Kit’s coarse physicality. He stands by, dressed in the finest silks, watching her chop wood, mend fences, and curse in the very best swear words. On the other hand Kit is made breathless by his beauty, his softness, and is driven to passion by his emotional intensity and complexity.’ This sounds fantastic!

UnsuitableAnother romance which plays with gender roles is Ainslie Patton’s Unsuitable. Kaetrin ‘moved this one up the TBR queue when [she] realised it had a male nanny.’ In this work, she continues, ‘traditional roles are flipped on their heads. Reece is the nurturer, the one who cooks and does laundry (although, he’s also much more than that – of course, everybody is) and Audrey is in the traditional “breadwinner” role with the late nights and the corporate travel.” Kaetrin had some quibbles with the pacing and found the ending a bit rushed, but otherwise thought the examination of gender roles was ‘really interesting.’

Nona & MeBree of All the Books I Can Read reviewed Clare Atkins’ Nona and Me, a novel about two girls, one Aboriginal and one white, raised in an Aboriginal community. They are inseparable until the Aboriginal girl, Nona, moves away. When she returns to her community, both girls are 15, but have been shaped by their different experiences. Rosie finds it difficult to reconcile other people’s perspectives on Aboriginal people with what she knows of Nona and her family. ‘In a word,’ Bree writes, ‘this book is powerful.’ It demonstrates the impact of the Intervention in the Northern Territory, as well as ‘the bonds that can develop between two very different families.’ Bree would, however, ‘have loved Nona’s side of the story as well as Rosie’s and found herself ‘wondering about her long after [she’d] finished the book.’

laurinda-pungAlice Pung was a guest author for our focus on Australian women writers of diverse heritage last year. Her debut novel, Laurinda, has just been released. Its protagonist, Lucy Lam, is a young girl of Vietnamese parents who has been accepted into an elite school, and the work has similar themes to Nona and Me. As Bree notes in her review, it’s about the pressures on Lucy to belong, and how she tries to maintain a sense of self despite these pressures. Bree concludes that the book is ‘a very clever, funny portrayal of the school portion of life as well as gender and the role of friendship and power’ and that with Laurinda, Pung ‘breathes fresh life into the Aussie YA world.’

KaleidoscopeA few other works also demonstrate the liveliness of the YA genre. The stories in Kaleidescope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios, explode with diversity. Those reviewed by Sean the Bookonaut canvas sexism, refugees, immigrant exploitation and disability, but all of them ‘put story first or entertainment first.’ Like its title, this is a brilliant and multifaceted work, and one that has empathy at its heart, as Sean writes: ‘Only one thing is better than finding a character that you can identify with, who is just like you. That thing is having other people see and perhaps gain insight and understanding into what it means to be “different”.’

22588703Continuing this thread of diverse themes in young adult novels is K.A. Barker’s The Book of Days. In her review of this book, Rochelle of Inside My Worlds mentions a favourite character, Jack, who ‘didn’t let his disability stand in his way and was quick to make light of it. He was so sweet and brave.’

I also penned my thoughts on Anna Romer’s novel Thornwood House and on its positive portrayal of a deaf man, Danny. Romer also took some of Danny’s characteristics, such as his attentiveness to body language and lipreaing, and used them to add tension to her work.

small-shen-chanFinally, Tsana’s review of Kylie Chan’s Small Shen takes the cake with her description of its main character, Gold, a ‘bisexual, gender-swapping rock in human form.’ This is a ‘short graphically-enhanced novel,’ in which Gold’s ‘historical shenanigans touch on Chinese history in a real-world sense, rather than just a mythological sense.’ As Tsana asks, ‘What’s not to like?’

The holidays are beckoning, and these reviewers have all really enjoyed the diverse themes in these books. If you need something to read beneath a beach umbrella, or in a hammock with a glass of lemonade, pick up one of the works they mention, or head to our reviews listings for some ideas – you won’t be disappointed!


About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012).  I’ve recently received funding from the Australia Council’s new Artists With Disability program to write my third novel, The Sea Creatures.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter@ladyredjess.



August/September 2014 Roundup: Diversity

As Indigenous author Ambelin Kwaymullina wrote in a recent guest post, ‘The stories that people read about us matter, especially because, for many non-Indigenous people, stories are all they know of us.’ It’s important that we read the stories of Indigenous women not only to gain an understanding of their lives, but also because readers’ consumption of such stories finances the production of many more, in turn creating even greater awareness of and respect for Indigenous culture. Ambelin also offered five reviews of books by Indigenous women writers, and her post and these books are a fantastic read.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin KwaymullinaOver August and September, participants in the AWW challenge continued to read and think about the characters, themes, structure and politics of books by Indigenous women writers. Jane of GoodReads reviewed Ambelin’s speculative fiction novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, and loved it. She was ‘particularly impressed by the structure, which allowed the story to completely turn on its axis about one-third of the way in. It was clever, and it worked logistically and emotionally. The reader is left to figure things out for themself, but never left hanging, unsure of what happened.’ In the very best recommendation for a book, Jane writes, ‘When I finished it I wanted to rush to the library for book two (the library was shut).’ Oops!

amostpeculiaract-munkaraMaree of GoodReads picked up Marie Munkara’s novella A Most Peculiar Act, which is set in Darwin in WWII and uses a short extract from the Aboriginal Ordinances Act of 1918 to introduce each chapter. Maree described this structure as ‘an ingenious way to weave the harsh facts, and point out the peculiarities (or rather injustices) that ruled the lives of Aboriginal people forced to live under the Act, and ones like it, throughout most of Australia in the twentieth century.’ While she felt the writing was uneven at times, she also found the book had many positives, including ‘an original voice, great structure, some laugh out loud moments and some strong passages.’

TiddasAnita Heiss’ latest novel Tiddas was reviewed by Faith of Beyond the Dreamlines. Faith was delighted that ‘Tiddas is speckled with affectionate references only a Brisbanite would really get, giving it a very strong sense of place. It’s also wonderful to read a book in which Aboriginal culture, and Aboriginal characters, are given such prominence.’

Hannah Kent, Burial RitesNalini of DarkMatterZine posted on an interview with Anita about her novel at the Melbourne Writers Festival, revealing Anita’s motivations for and crafting of her work. Nalini also posted on queer author Hannah Kent’s interview with Bethany Blanchard at the Melbourne Writers Festival, describing Kent’s fascinating research process and search for a voice: ‘There was no room for Agnes to tell her story. Agnes needed her own language to tell her story as an outsider. Agnes employs body-centric, lyrical, deep-seated language, telling her story outside the dominant language-form.’ It’s a recovery project akin to Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (which tells the story of the women at the Eureka stockade), but uses fiction rather than history.

Banana Heart Summer Merlinda BobisA good number of reviews featured books by Australian women writers of diverse heritage. Marilyn of Me, You and Books reviewed Filipino-Australian author Merlinda Bobis’ Banana Heart Summer, a work about a girl growing up in the Philippines in poverty. ‘As in her other books,’ Marilyn writes, ‘Bobis blends the imaginary and symbolic with concrete bits of reality. Perpetually hungry, Nenita fills her story with recipes and descriptions of food.’ These act as a vehicle for commenting on the characters, including the protagonist and, ‘underneath the banana hearts and coconut milk, we see her own need not just for food, but for love.’

Maree of GoodReads reviewed Lily Brett’s Lola Bensky. Brett is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and Maree found that the power of her writing lies in ‘the juxtaposition of the ordinary, even banal, with the horror of inhumanity. I imagine that this is what it must be like to grow up in the shadow of such overwhelming grief, and it adds a poignancy to Brett’s writing that pulls me in time and again.’

wedding-seasonRochelle of Inside My World enjoyed Su Dharmapala’s The Wedding Season, about happily single Shani whose mother is desperate for her to wed. Like an Indian version of Tiddas, this book focuses on female friendship, and Rochelle ‘felt as though I was part of [the friends’] inner circle, sharing their lives with them.’ She was also impressed that she didn’t see the plot twist coming, and thought it was ‘so great to see the representation of an Australian group that you don’t see much of in fiction.’ I think so too!

And if you’d like to read up on books by Australian women writers with disability, you can find a swag of them in last month’s focus, summarised in my post. I was so happy with the reviews and guest posts written for this focus that I bounced into October with a spring in my step. At this rate, you’ll have me skipping to the end of the year!


About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012).  I’ve recently received funding from the Australia Council’s new Artists With Disability program to write my third novel, The Sea Creatures.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter@ladyredjess.

Focus on Australian Women Writers with Disability Roundup

ThroughTheCracksHoneyBrownThe light and shade woven into one’s writing from disability, memoir as protest, a rugged journey to wellness, and the consolations of deafness – these were all ideas explored in our guest posts by writers with disability over September. Honey Brown, author of five novels, described how writing saved her following a farming accident which left her with a spinal cord injury. Her first completed manuscript reminded her of who she was, while each subsequent story, she wrote, ‘revealed a little more of me.’ Writing gave her pride and restored her sense of self.

the-art-of-being-deafJust as sadness can motivate one to write, so too can anger. In the process of writing her memoir, The Art of Being Deaf, Donna McDonald created ‘both a personal reckoning and a protest that stands alongside many other such accounts, contributing to a bigger picture of the struggle by generations of deaf and hard-of-hearing people around the world.’ Although Donna was dubious about the impact of her efforts, her memoir defies the assumption that to be deaf is to lead an impoverished life.

madnessamemoirThe genre of memoir opens its hands to readers and guides them through the life of an author. Kate Richards, who suffered from depression and psychosis, was compelled to write Madness: a Memoir because she ‘couldn’t find any books written by someone with mental illness that expressed the ragged rawness of their experience, the intensity, the in-the-moment exhilaration or bewilderment or black despair.’ Her finished work details the baffling and often terrifying world of mental illness, the negative impact of the irregular provision of mental health services, and the solace of literature as she strove courageously to become well. I didn’t want to let go of Kate’s hand when I finished the book.

entitlementI lost one of my senses – my hearing – when I was small, but the equally fundamental act of writing replaced it. Writing was foremost a means to process the painful emotions of deafness, but as my craft developed, it also became a vehicle for articulating the lives of other people on the margins. As I explained in my guest post, my two novels, A Curious Intimacy and Entitlement, express the emotions of my childhood and adolescence through their characters. They also make a plea to their readers to contemplate the effects of ostracism and estrangement from home and society, experiences which are common to people with disability.

Our readers also picked up and reviewed books by women writers with disability over this month, which was fantastic to see.

Elizabeth Lhuede of Devoted Eclectic bravely persisted with Gillian Mears’ Foal’s Bread after finding the opening emotionally distressing. She concluded ‘There aren’t too many books I can honestly say have changed my life, but Gillian Mears’ Foal’s Bread is one of them.’ Amazing words, indeed! Mears, who has multiple sclerosis, tells the story of Noah, her husband Roly and their daughter Lainey with an exquisite use of language. She also renders the complexity of childhood sexual assault with ‘remarkable sensitivity’, which gave Elizabeth a space to re-negotiate trauma from her own childhood. This book, Elizabeth writes, ‘could sneak inside your soul, break your heart, move even the most prosaic reviewer to poetry.’

survivingpeace-simicOver at Whispering Gums, Sue contemplated Olivera Simić’s Surviving Peace: a political memoir. Written ‘unapologetically … from the point of view of a survivor’, the work details Simić’s post traumatic stress disorder, a condition which severely disables the lives of its sufferers, and which affected Simić following the bombing of Sarajevo. Among a discussion of the Yugoslav, Bosnian and Kosovo wars though which she lived, identity, ethnicity and the aftermath of war, the discussion of PTSD is ‘the most personal, intimate part of the book.’ Sue writes that she’s ‘never one to say you must read a book,’ but even without this gentle exhortation, her review has persuaded me to add this title to my TBR pile.

Deeper Water Jessie ColeOther mentions of disability in the books reviewed over September include Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca. The protagonist Francesca’s mother, as Rally the Readers writes, ‘fell into a deep depression that left the rest of the family at a loss to help her.’ Jessie Cole’s Deeper Water features a character, Mema, who has a club foot. Mema has an affinity with nature that erases her sense of difference, for the land ‘shored up all my weak points.’ In town, however, ‘all the straight lines and pavements tripped me up. The world became even, no undulations, and I became off centre.’ It’s an interesting challenge to the concept of the ‘civilised’ world, which often doesn’t treat people with disability well. Mema’s difference makes her attractive to a stranger to her town, a worldly older man, but Lou Heinrich of the Newtown Review of Books found this a ‘kind of an old story.’

The Singing GoldOne of the things I love about the AWW Challenge is that it introduces me to new writers. When I asked for suggestions to add to the list of Australian Women Writers with Disability, writer Michelle Dicinoski mentioned Dorothy Cottrell. I picked up Cottrell’s novel, The Singing Gold, and enjoyed its theme of a woman gaining financial independence through writing. I was also impressed with Cottrell’s nature writing, and I wonder if her attention to the natural world might have come about because, being confined to a wheelchair because of polio, she had an opportunity to observe more than most.

The Golden Age Joan LondonPolio also features in Joan London’s The Golden Age, reviewed by Brenda at GoodReads. It’s the story of two young people who meet at the Golden Age Children’s Convalescent Home in Perth, where they develop a ‘ burgeoning and secret friendship.’ Brenda describes the book as melancholy and sad, uplifting and hopeful, the word pictures are painted with a passion that shows the fragility of life, the deep impressions of a childhood love and the strength of coping with what life sometimes throws at you.’

Indeed, among all of these stories – those reviewed by our readers and those of the guest authors – the most pervasive theme is that of resilience. Having a disability can be exhausting and humiliating, while our interactions with others often show us the ugly side of human nature. It’s no surprise that literature by writers with disability is threaded with so much darkness. Yet people with disability, like their able-bodied counterparts, still strive to live their lives well and to access love, education, relationships and respect. By reading the works of Australian women writers with disability, we can become aware of the issues they face and join them in their fight for accessibility and equality.

We also held a book giveaway for four books by the guest authors this month, and many thanks are due to Penguin Books for copies of Honey’s and Kate’s books. I plugged our 5 reviewers (minus myself, to be fair!) into, and the winners are Sue, Elizabeth, Brenda and Lou. Thank you for your reviews, and I’ll contact you about your books. In the meantime, if anyone would like more ideas for Australian women writers with disability, you always can head to the list on our diversity page.


About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012).  I’ve recently received funding from the Australia Council’s new Artists With Disability program to write my third novel, The Sea Creatures.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

September 2014: General Fiction

For the purposes of this challenge ‘general fiction’, is defined as fiction set post mid 1900′s, which does not fit neatly into a specific literary genre.


The Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett


Colt Jenson and his younger brother Bastian live in a world of shiny, new things – skateboards, slot cars, train sets and even the latest BMX. Their affluent father, Rex, has made sure that they’ll be the envy of the new, working-class suburb they’ve moved to.
But underneath the surface of the perfect family, is there something unsettling about the Jensons? To the local kids, Rex becomes a kind of hero, but Colt senses there’s something in his father that could destroy their fragile new lives.

 Kate from Booksaremyfavouriteandbest writes; “Like of all of Hartnett’s stories, there are many layers – I haven’t even mentioned the significant theme of children realising faults in their parents OR her wonderful analogies with seawater OR the brilliant scene where the Jenson’s above-ground swimming pool is filled OR how Hartnett slowly, slowly build the evidence and the tension OR how the violence jumps off the page OR how much I loved the character of Syd OR how the back-stories of Garrick and Avery were very, very cleverly constructed.” Bree from All the Books I Can Read concludes; “a highly skilled novel, well crafted and written and it’s the sort of story that sneaks up on you and leaves you thinking about it long after you’ve completed it.”


Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd



Four mothers. Four teenage daughters. An isolated tropical paradise with no internet or mobile phone reception. What could possibly go wrong? There’s tension, bitchiness, bullying, sex, drunken confessions, bad behaviour and breakdowns – and wait till you see what the teenagers get up to…
How can we let our daughters go to forge lives of their own when what we most want to do is hold them close and never let them go? How do we let them grow and keep them protected from the dark things in the world at the same time? And how can mothers and daughters navigate the troubled, stormy waters of adolescence without hurting themselves and each other? A clear-eyed, insightful and wildly entertaining look into the complicated, emotional world of mothers and daughters

Thematically, Mothers and Daughters hit the spot. However, the overall emotional impact given those themes was less than I expected.” asserts Monique from Write Note Reviews. Lynette from The Clothesline thinks; “…Ladd does provide a nuanced look at life in a remote Aboriginal community. Mason, an Aboriginal man and Tia’s father is an interesting character with an authentic voice. Ladd addresses problems and deep-seated racism, facing them head on usually through Amira’s empathetic eyes, and it is possible to feel you have glimpsed some of the complex difficulties facing Indigenous people in Australia, and also to have an insight into a possible solution where healthy, functional, self-managed Indigenous communities can exist.” Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out writes; “I glimpse elements of my own relationship with my mother, and my teenage daughter, in this story of these women and girls, and pieces of mothers and daughters I have known in the characters.”


Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer



When all that you know comes crashing down, do you run? Or face the truth? Ruby Cardel has the semblance of a normal life – a loving boyfriend, a fulfilling career – but in one terrible moment, her life unravels. The discovery that the death of her sister, Jamie, was not an accident makes her question all she’s known about herself and her past.
Travelling back home to Lyrebird Hill, Ruby begins to remember the year that has been forever blocked in her memory . . . Snatches of her childhood with beautiful Jamie, and Ruby’s only friendship with the boy from the next property, a troubled foster kid. Then Ruby uncovers a cache of ancient letters from a long-lost relative, Brenna Magavin, written from her cell in a Tasmanian gaol where she is imprisoned for murder. As she reads, Ruby discovers that her family line is littered with tragedy and violence. Slowly, the gaps in Ruby’s memory come to her. And as she pieces together the shards of truth, what she finally discovers will shock her to the core – about what happened to Jamie that fateful day, and how she died.

“Beautifully written, richly characterised and intricately plotted, Lyrebird Hill is one of those books that draws you in and doesn’t let go …:” writes Monique of Write Note ReviewsDebbish says; “I found myself very eager to discover Brenna’s story in particular. And although it didn’t feature heavily, I also loved the insight into the challenges and injustices being faced by the Indigenous community (and to a lesser extent, women) over a century ago. “


When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett


Running away from the mainland was supposed to make their lives better. But, for Isla and her brother, their mother’s sadness and the cold, damp greyness of Hobart’s stone streets seeps into everything. Then, one morning, Isla sees a red ship. That colour lights her day. And when a sailor from the ship befriends her mother, he shares his stories with them all – of Antarctica, his home in Denmark and life onboard. Like the snow white petrels that survive in the harshest coldest place, this lonely girl at the bottom of the world will learn that it is possible to go anywhere, be anything. But she will also find out that it is just as easy to lose it all. For Isla, those two long summers will change everything. Favel Parrett delivers an evocative and gently told story about the power fear and kindness have to change lives.’

Brenda’s opinion is effusive; “What an amazing novel! Evocative, pure, resonating and powerful, this second novel by Aussie author Favel Parrett is absolutely beautiful. The writing is inspiring, the descriptions of Hobart, Antarctica and Bo’s home in Denmark are such that I felt I was there, experiencing the icy cold and frigid beauty.” Kathryn; “…was quickly seduced by the style and rhythm of Parrett’s prose and read the book in just a few hours. “


The Golden Age by Joan London

The Golden Age Joan London


He felt like a pirate landing on an island of little maimed animals. A great wave had swept them up and dumped them here. All of them, like him, stranded, wanting to go home. It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia.  At the Golden Age Children’s Polio Convalescent Hospital in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow-patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond. The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs, love and desire, music, death, and poetry. Where children must learn that they are alone, even within their families.

 The Incredible Rambling Elimy suggests; “This is not a novel which is heavy in plot; in fact were we to focus on the plot it would be a rather short book indeed.” “The Golden Age is a beautiful book – melancholy and sad, uplifting and hopeful, the word pictures are painted with a passion that shows the fragility of life, the deep impressions of a childhood love and the strength of coping with what life sometimes throws at you.” writes Brenda.


You can browse more general fiction titles reviewed by participants on the AWW review site



About Me

My name is Shelleyrae Cusbert I am a mother of four children, aged 8 to 18, living in the mid north coast of NSW. I am an obsessive reader and publish my thoughts about what I read at my book blog,  Book’d Out.  In 2012 I read and reviewed a total of 109 books for the AWW Challenge and in 2013 a total of 117. I juggle caring for my family with a part time job and volunteer at both the town’s local library and the children’s school library.

August 2014: General Fiction

For the purposes of this challenge ‘general fiction’, is defined as fiction set post mid 1900′s, which does not fit neatly into a specific literary genre.


Deeper Water by Jessie Cole

Deeper Water Jessie Cole

Innocent and unworldly, Mema is still living at home with her mother on a remote, lush hinterland property. It is a small, confined, simple sort of life, and Mema is content with it.
One day, during a heavy downpour, Mema saves a stranger from a flooded creek. She takes him into her family home, where, marooned by floods, he has to stay until the waters recede. And without either of them realising it, he opens the door to a new world of possibilities that threaten to sweep Mema into the deep.

Lisa Walker writes; ” ‘Deeper Water’ is a sensuous portrayal of what happens when innocent desire clashes with the hardened edges of the wider world. Mema will linger in your mind for some time after you close the pages.” Brenda describes Deeper Water as; “Beautifully written, evocative and poignant…”


Family Secrets by Liz Byrski

Family Secrets Liz Byrski


When patriarch Gerald Hawkins passes away in his Tasmanian home, after ten years of serious illness, his family experience a wave of grief and, admittedly, a surge of relief. Gerald’s dominating personality has loomed large over his wife, Connie, their children, Andrew and Kerry, and his sister Flora, for decades.
Connie, whose own dreams were dispensed with upon marriage, is now determined to renew her long friendship with Gerald’s estranged sister, Flora. She travels to France where she finds Flora struggling to make peace with the past and searching for a place to call home. Meanwhile Andrew’s marriage is crumbling, and Kerry is trapped in stasis by unfinished business with her father.
As the family adjusts to life after Gerald, they could not be more splintered. But there are surprises in store and secrets to unravel. And once the loss has been absorbed, is it possible that they could all find a way to start afresh with forgiveness, understanding and possibility?

Shelleyrae of Book’d Out introduces her review with; ” When Liz Byrski turned fifty she keenly felt the lack of literature that reflected the lives of women in mid life, and drawing on her experience as a journalist and freelance writer, set out to change that by writing the sort of books that she wanted to read.” Emily of  The Incredible Rambling Elimy writes; “Byrski has brought sensitivity and lightness to her depiction of the Australian family.  Her characters are lifelike, each with strong opinions of their own…”  


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty


Sometimbiglittlelies-moriartyaues it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . . A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?  What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what? Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.’

Carolyn opines; “All the characters and their relationships felt very real and typical of parents at a primary school anywhere in the world.”  Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out summarises her thoughts with; “Part noir suburban mystery, part domestic drama, Big Little Lies is compulsive reading. Thought provoking, clever, witty and wonderful, this is another wickedly brilliant novel from best selling Australian author Liane Moriarty.”


Cherry Bomb by Jenny Valentish

Cherry Bomb Jenny Valentish


Nina Dall is one half of Sydney pop-punk band, The Dolls. Have they got what it takes to stay on top or are they just a one hit wonder? Told through the eyes of a young singer who’s seen it all, this is celebrated rock journalist Jenny Valentish’s debut novel – a wild ride into Australia’s music scene. ‘I didn’t know it yet, but one day my Wikipedia entry would begin: ‘Nina Dall is one half of Sydney pop-punk band The Dolls. Since forming the group as a sixteen-year- old with her cousin Rose Dall under the guidance of veteran producer John Villiers, she has written and recorded one gold album, It’s Not All Ponies and Unicorns (2012), and one platinum album, Tender Hooks (2014), and has taken home six ARIA awards.’ There will be more photographs of me in existence than the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and any visiting dignitaries put together. I will only stay in suburbs with a Park Hyatt in them.’
Twenty-one year old Nina Dall has seen it all, including her own meteoric rise to fame and its inevitable aftermath. She created teen band The Dolls to escape suburban hell. Now she needs to prove she’s not a one-hit wonder and convince veteran producer John Villiers to be her own personal svengali. But he’s got his own problems. Rose Dall craves adoration, and through The Dolls, she gets it. But with the band’s every move coming under media scrutiny and cousin Nina going off the rails, she’s pushed to breaking point. Can The Dolls survive each other? Alannah Dall had a pop career in the 1980s before disappearing from public view. She’s resurfaced to steer her nieces away from the same scandals, but with her own comeback on the cards, The Dolls start to become a threat.

” Kudos to Jenny Valentish for creating a protagonist who knows she’s not everyone’s favourite and dares you to continue anyway. I love Nina’s sass.” writes Sam Still Reading. Jason Nahrung‘s conclusion is succinct; “This book — Jenny’s first fiction title — totally rocks. Read it loud!”


The Eye of The Sheep by Sofie Laguna

The Eye of the Sheep Sofie Laguna

“Ned was beside me, his messages running easily through him, with space between each one, coming through him like water. He was the go-between, going between the animal kingdom and this one. I watched the waves as they rolled and crashed towards us, one after another, never stopping, always changing. I knew what was making them come, I had been there and I would always know.”
Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids. He finds a lot of the adult world impossible to understand – especially why his Dad gets so angry with him. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall sleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father’s way. But when Jimmy’s world falls apart, he has no one else to turn to. He alone has to navigate the unfathomable world and make things right.

“This book touches on many topics, domestic abuse and family dysfunction and a mother’s love for her children but all told from Jimmy’s perspective.” writes Carolyn . Brenda offers high praise; “What a wonderful, emotional and heartbreaking story….An amazing novel…which was incredibly sad, but also uplifting and real.”


You can browse more general fiction titles reviewed by participants on the AWW review site

My Brother-But-One - TM Clark The Golden Age Joan London Tea House in the Lime Trees Elizabeth Martin



About Me

My name is Shelleyrae Cusbert I am a mother of four children, aged 8 to 18, living in the mid north coast of NSW. I am an obsessive reader and publish my thoughts about what I read at my book blog,  Book’d Out.  In 2012 I read and reviewed a total of 109 books for the AWW Challenge and in 2013 a total of 117. I juggle caring for my family with a part time job and volunteer at both the town’s local library and the children’s school library.


Focus on Australian Women Writers with Disability: Guest Post by Honey Brown

What I love about my role as contributing editor for AWW in the area of Diversity is the sheer range of viewpoints to which I’m exposed through the books I read and the reviews I collate. It fascinates me to see and understand the impact that heritage, sexuality or disability can have upon a writer’s craft. Disability has certainly influenced Honey Brown’s writing, as she outlines below in the first guest post for our focus on Australian Women Writers with Disability over September.

Honey BrownHoney’s books (there are five so far) are the sort that should come with a warning: they will keep you up at night and you will be tired for work the next day (but it will be totally worth it!). The psychology of her characters is incisive, insightful, and sometimes a little unnerving. She muses that this might stem from the trauma and sadness she endured after her accident, and writes, ‘It’s both comforting and a little disturbing to think that the depths of human emotion need to be reached so that our creative cogs can begin to turn.’

We have a book giveaway for Honey’s latest novel, Through the Cracks (thanks to Penguin), as well as three others from authors who will be guest writers this month: Donna McDonald’s The Art of Being DeafKate Richards’ Madness: A Memoir and my own novel, EntitlementIf you read and review a book by an Australian women writer with disability, or a book by an Australian women writer that features a character with disability, you’ll be in the running for a book! Links must be posted by 30th September through this form. You can also find authors on our list of Australian Women Writers with Disability.


Light and Shade

ThroughTheCracksHoneyBrownWith each new book I write it’s as though I’m a novice again, and my five published novels fall away, my writing ability feels fragile, and I have to remind myself of the most basic and fundamental writing rules. A similar thing happens when I’m asked to reflect on my disability – I’m unsure all over again. What do I feel? How has it changed me? How does my disability impact on my work? No matter what I’ve said in the past or what I’ve believed, it all seems to fly out the window and I’m left feeling uncertain and none the wiser for my fourteen years living with paraplegia. Creativity and adversity share quite a few traits in that way. Just as there’s no set formula and no guarantees when it comes to overcoming hardship, so it is with the process of creating. There are guidelines and lots of helpful advice, but it all comes down to an intangible thing inside us in the end. And just because I may have hit upon a winning strategy and achieved a goal once before, doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate to success a second time around.

Honey BrownI was 29 when a farm accident left me with a spinal cord injury and unable to walk. Although at the time I’d written some short stories, and had tinkered with the idea of writing a novel, I wasn’t serious about the craft or about being a novelist. After my accident I wasn’t able to go back to the sort of employment I was used to – hospitality work, casual odd jobs, customer service – not only because of the wheelchair, but also because I struggled to cope emotionally. My sadness impacted on every part of my life; I felt as though I was unable to return to who I had been as a person. I didn’t feel like I was a mother anymore, or a wife, or a friend, or an effective sister or daughter. Suddenly, all it felt like I had, the only thing that made me get out of bed each day, was my writing.

dark-horse-brownWithout realising what I was doing, I turned to my creative side as a way to reconnect with myself. That alone says a lot about how honest and personal the act of creating is. When we create, we’re tapping into our most private self, we’re making our own rules and revealing our uniqueness. My first completed manuscript reminded me of who I was. There I was, on the page in front of me – not spelt out in memoir fashion, but in the subtext, in the descriptions, within character reactions, in the ideas fuelling the story. Each manuscript revealed a little more of me. My depression lifted enough for me to feel some pride again, and with that came the want for the words I was using to do my storytelling more justice. I believed that if I put some study and academic effort into writing, I might enjoy the process even more.

after-the-darknessIf not for my accident I wouldn’t have been pushed to write with the sort of seriousness needed to write well. The joy in creating comes saddled with a fair whack of torment. Getting better at something goes hand in hand with becoming more critical. One minute I’d be smiling at a stunning line, I’d be gloating over a masterful plot twist that I hadn’t even seen coming, and then in the next moment I’d be holding down the delete button and fearing not even that would work to erase such horrific writing from the face of the earth. But without this type of yin and yang, the highs of writing wouldn’t have soared and excited me as much as they did, and the lows wouldn’t have stood out as much as they needed to. My writing would have flat-lined and been mediocre.

The Good DaughterCreativity is in us all, there to be unlocked. It might not manifest artistically. The arts aren’t the only way people express their creative side. Problem solving, and striving for change, is a form of creativity. Elite sportspeople are creative souls; they have to find new ways to improve, they put in all the basic training and work, but they have to rely on an elusive inner magic to truly shine (anyone who’s listened to Ian Thorpe talk about his relationship with water knows he’s tapping into a unique place in order to perform). My sense of wonder and adventure has been me with all my life. I was dreaming up stories as a child. At age ten, I was mouthing dialogue as I walked to school. I never grew out of my imagination. Even if not for my accident, I believe would have knuckled down and written in earnest at some point, but probably much later in my life, when I’d stopped being so exclusively a mother and a wife, a sister and a daughter. red-queenAnd, maybe, without having experienced the trauma I have, without the resulting emotions to inform my work, my writing wouldn’t have had much gravitas, my characters might have lacked light and shade. Looking back, it can only mean that adversity feeds creativity. Those two things entwine in so many ways.

We all have moments in our lives when we struggle, and we all have moments when we’re creative. It’s both comforting and a little disturbing to think that the depths of human emotion need to be reached so that our creative cogs can begin to turn. My experience of writing with a disability makes me think (for now at least) that this may well be the case.





July 2014 Roundup: Diversity

When, in an interview with Indigenous author Ambelin Kwaymullina for our focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women writers over July, I asked what books by Indigenous authors we should be reading, Ambelin replied, ‘all of them.’  For non-Indigenous writers, reading these stories is the ‘only way to begin to grasp the diversity and complexity of the lives of Indigenous women.’

Swallow the AirAs our reviewers powered on into the second half of the year, it was great to see them absorbing and thinking about such stories. Marilyn of Me, You and Books and Sue of Whispering Gums both reviewed Tara June Winch’s Swallow the Air.  As Sue notes, this collected of loosely-tied stories about a young Indigenous girl trying to find her place and identity ‘is “political” in the way that most indigenous writing can’t help but be’ but at its centre ‘is a searching heart, for May has been cast adrift by the suicide of her mother.’ However, although it is a work about Indigenous identity, its themes are also universal, as Marilyn writes, ‘[Winch] seems to understand the current conditions of Indigenous life and to be able to write from an Indigenous perspective.   At the same time she has created a story that resonates with all of us who have ever wanted to belong somewhere. In doing so, Winch  has written a story which is both specific and universal.  For me, such narratives are essential to good literature.  May is a whole person, never reduced to her ethnicity.’  As well as this, the writing is ‘deliciously poetic,’ as Sue notes, with Marilyn adding that ‘Her sentences have bite and power.’

power-of-bones-mailmanMeanwhile, Yvonne of Stumbling Through the Past reviewed Keelen Mailman’s memoir The Power of Bones. Mailman ‘had a hard childhood and a poor education but she has risen from this to be the first Aboriginal woman to run a commercial cattle station. This book is a lesson in never writing a person off, no matter how bleak their background appears to be.’ As Yvonne elaborates, despite abuse and violence, Mailman worked hard and took care of her family, ‘represented herself at court in order to gain custody of her sister’s children even though it scared her and she had never been involved with courts in her life. She raised her sister’s children as well as her own and made sure they had better education than she had. She fixed cars and fences without any formal training or work experience. Keelen Mailman is courageous.’

Nalini Hayes of Dark Matter Zine was also inspired by Mailman’s story, and penned an account of her interview with Mailman, which reveals the intricacies (or, perhaps, contortions) of Native Title, something Yvonne also touched on in her review.

KayangAndMeScottBrownHaving read Marilyn’s review of Kayang and Me for the AWW Challenge last year, I decided to pick up this book, which was a dialogue between WA Indigenous author Kim Scott and his elder, Kayang Hazel, whom he grew to know as he was looking for information about his family. I loved the sound of the Noongar language and Scott’s nuanced considerations of identity, and like Marilyn I included this book in the challenge because of Hazel’s strong, straight-talking voice.

TiddasIt was fab to see another review of Anita Heiss’ Tiddas popping up again. Lynette Washington thought that in this story of five friends, or ‘tiddas’ in Brisbane, ‘Heiss strikes a nice balance between typical chick-lit subject matter (friendship, careers, romance and shopping) and race-related subject matter (racism, discrimination, cultural expectations on Aboriginal women from within their communities, inter-race marriage and connection to country).’ She also particularly appreciated Heiss’ focus on the positive aspects of Aboriginal culture.

These reviews amply demonstrate Ambelin’s observation that there is a wide range of stories and genres written by Indigenous women writers which testify to the complexity and strength of their lives. Do keep engaging with them!

a change of skies - yasmine gooneratneThere were also a handful of reviews of women writers of diverse heritage.  Marilyn reviewed Yasmine Goonerante’s 1991 novel A Change of Skies about an upper class couple that migrates from Sri Lanka to Sydney in the 1960s. The novel details how the move changes the couple, including the Anglicisation of their names and the careers they build, but Marilyn felt it glossed over the pain migration can bring.

after darkness - christine piperJane of GoodReads reviewed Vogel award winner Christine Piper’s After Darkness about a Japanese doctor who emigrates to Broome and is interred in a prisoner of war camp at the outbreak of World War Two. She found it uneven in places, but enjoyed the ‘accomplished writing and many beautifully described moments of joy and despair’.

Foreign-soil-clarkeMaxine Beneba Clarke’s book of short stories, Foreign Soil, was reviewed by Lou Heinrich in the Newtown Review of Books.  An Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent, Clarke’s work ‘throws racism in our faces, and adds complexity to societal stereotypes.’ Her stories capture accents and cultures, and ‘gives space to people often ignored.’ After reading Lou’s review, I’ve added this book to my TBR pile.

thornwoodhouse-romerIt was also really good to see a review of a book that features a deaf character – Anna Romer’s Thornwood House, reviewed by Rochelle.  A mystery set in rural Australia, the love interest uses sign language and, as Rochelle writes, that’s a ‘Plus one for diversity’!

On that note, next month we’ll be holding a focus on Australian women writers with disability, with guest posts from Honey Brown, Donna McDonald, Kate Richards and myself. I have also put together a list of Australian Women Writers with disability. If you know of any such writers who should be on the list, please mention them in the comments!


About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012).  I’ve recently received funding from the Australia Council’s new Artists With Disability program to write my third novel, The Sea Creatures.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

July 2014: General Fiction

For the purposes of this challenge ‘general fiction’, is defined as fiction set post mid 1900′s, which does not fit neatly into a specific literary genre.

Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

let-her-go-barkerHow far would you go to have a family? What would you hide for someone you love?
Confused and desperate, Zoe McAllister boards a ferry to Rottnest Island in the middle of winter holding a tiny baby close to her chest, terrified that her husband will find her or that her sister will call the police.
Years later, a teenage girl, Louise, is found on the island, unconscious and alone.
Flown out for urgent medical treatment, when she recovers she returns home and overhears her parents discussing her past and the choices that they’ve made. Their secrets, slowly revealed, will shatter more than one family and, for Louise, nothing will ever be the same again.

“Barker’s skill as a writer is her ability to develop realistic plots based on complicated issues.  She does this with sensitivity and a balanced understanding of the situation from many points of view.” writes Emily of The Incredible Rambling Elimy. Lauren of The Australian Bookshelf agrees and also commends Barker’s ability to “create characters who are likeable yet flawed, who present with strength and determination on the surface and who have a wealth of uncertainties, fears and doubts lingering deep below.”  The Opal Octopus says “Another thing I adore in a book is a vivid, effective sense of place. Let Her Go is set in Perth/Fremantle, my hometown, and throughout the book the setting plays a part – the layout of the city, how the summer’s heat feels, the native vegetation, and more.


Being Jade by Kate Belle

Being Jade - Kate BelleBanjo Murphy is killed on the night he finally walks away from his wife, Jade, after twenty-five years of her adultery. In the aftermath, Banjo is bewildered to discover he still exists, and in despair he watches Jade collapse into deep depression and his daughters, Lissy and Cassandra, struggle with their unexpected loss.
Lissy is tortured by the mystery surrounding her father’s death. What compelled Banjo to leave the night he died? And why won’t Jade talk about what happened? Despite their volatile relationship, Lissy believes her parents’ love to have been enduring, but sensible
Cassandra sees things differently. When Cassy discovers a sketchbook chronicling Jade’s affairs, the truth of their parents’ relationship begins to unfold and Lissy’s loyalties are divided.
Searching for answers, Lissy contacts Jade’s ex-lovers. And watching from afar, Banjo aches as he discovers what these men meant to Jade – until Lissy’s quest reveals an explosive truth … One that will finally set their family free.

“This is such an eloquent, sensual and visually stunning read…” states Carol of Reading, Writing, Reisling. “…a near faultless, emotion-rich portrayal of love, family and the clarity brought by grief.” writes Rowena Holloway. Shelleyrae of Book’d Out concludes her review with “A searing portrait of the complexities of love, intimacy and truth Being Jade is an eloquent and powerful piece of storytelling from author Kate Belle.”


Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

LostAndFoundBrookeDavisMillie Bird (aka Captain Funeral), seven-years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her red, curly hair. Her struggling mother leaves Millie in a local department store and never returns.
Agatha Pantha, eighty-two, has not left her house – or spoken to another human being – since she was widowed seven years ago. She fills the silences by yelling at passers by, watching loud static on the TV and maintaining a strict daily schedule.
Karl the Touch Typist, eighty-seven, once used his fingers to type out love notes on his wife’s skin. Now he types his words out into the air as he speaks. Karl is moved into a nursing home but in a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.
A series of events binds the three together on a road trip that takes them from the south coast of WA to Kalgoorlie and along the Nullarbor to the edge of the continent. Millie wants to find her mum. Karl wants to find out how to be a man. And Agatha just wants everything to go back to how it was.
They will discover that old age is not the same as death, that the young can be wise, and that letting yourself experience sadness just might be the key to life.

“I don’t fall in love with many books. It’s happened maybe 3 or 4 times in the last few years…But I’ve another to add to my list.” says Debbie of DebbishJo of Booklover Book Reviews writesIn Lost & Found Davis has fearlessly unleashed a quirky band of characters on Australian suburbia. She allows the reader to see the world as each of her characters do, through their unique narrative voice as they process what they see before them and reflect upon their lives and the people they have shared them with. Their observations exude a compelling rawness and honesty – a potent mix of the extremes of childlike wonder and world-weary experience.”


What Came Before by Anna George

what came before - anna george“David Forrester and Elle Nolan are sophisticated, mature people who don’t understand love. They live in a world where love is revered but marriages commonly end in divorce, or worse.
When jaded lawyer David meets Elle, he decides she’s his last chance of happiness and does everything he can to woo her and keep her. Everything, that is, except face his demons.
Elle, a lawyer herself once but now a blossoming filmmaker, is done with heartbreak. But romance can be intoxicating and David is determined.
Over the course of one ill-fated night, David and Elle recount the journey of their love affair. And it begins with David admitting into his dictaphone to the killing of Elle.
Hovering above her broken body, Elle sees the sweep of her life, its triumphs and its mistakes. She sees how, when she first met David, her newfound success as a filmmaker had made her reckless and her idealised ideas about romance misled her.
As the night progresses, we learn their story of a love of unprecedented intensity; a love David was compelled, at turns, to destroy. A love that Elle has yet to survive.”

“With keen insight and deft characterisation, George exposes the dynamic of domestic violence from the perspective of both abuser and victim.” writes Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. Monique of Write Note Reviews recommends “… readers who might be triggered by the subject matter to consider how much they will be affected, before diving in; for everyone else, it’s a dark, complex narrative with a profound message that needs to be heard.


Simmering Season by Jenn J McLeod

SimmeringSeasonJennMcLeodBack in Calingarry Crossing to sell the family pub, Maggie Lindeman has no idea a perfect storm is heading her way until her past and present collide with the unexpected.
Maggie once had a crush on Dan Ireland, now a work-weary police crash investigator, still hell-bent on punishing himself for his misspent youth. Dan has ample reason for not going home to Calingarry Crossing for the school reunion, but one very good reason why he should.
Maggie is dealing with a restless seventeen-year-old son, a father with dementia, a fame-obsessed musician husband, a dwindling bank account and a country pub that just won’t sell.
The last thing she needs is a surprise houseguest for the summer. Fiona Bailey-Blair, daughter of an old friend and spoilt with everything but the truth, whips up a maelstrom of gossip when she blows into town.
This storm season, when a school reunion brings home more than memories, Maggie Lindeman will discover … there’s no keeping a lid on some secrets.

Marcia of Book Muster Down Under writes, “There’s a certain enchantment to Calingarry Crossing that I just can’t help but be drawn to and I love the way the little town almost becomes a character in its own right.  It’s a place where there’s a lot happening to the people who live there and, as with House, it’s main focus is on relationships – the good, the bad and the ugly.” Brenda had this to say, “The plot was intriguing, with a couple of unexpected twists; the story was emotional and had me in tears a number of times – all in all a fabulous read, and one I have no hesitation in recommending highly. “


You can browse more general fiction titles reviewed by participants on the AWW review site

Trope Secrets in Silence Elianne Nunn dont know what youve got till its gone - gemma crisp



About Me

My name is Shelleyrae Cusbert I am a mother of four children, aged 7 to 17, living in the mid north coast of NSW. I am an obsessive reader and publish my thoughts about what I read at my book blog,  Book’d Out.  In 2012 I read and reviewed a total of 109 books for the AWW Challenge and in 2013 a total of 117. I juggle caring for my family with a part time job and volunteer at both the town’s local library and the children’s school library.




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