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.

Historical Fiction wrap up

It’s been a while since I posted a Historical Fiction wrap up for which I apologise! It has been interesting to look at three months worth of data instead of a month at a time though! That doesn’t mean to say I intend to leave it quite so long until the next wrap up!

Without doubt there is one book that continues to dominate the historical fiction reviews for AWWC and that is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Between March and May which was reviewed six times. There were two other books that were reviewed three times and three books that were reviewed twice which shows just how much this book is dominating in this genre. I am not going to put up any quotes or anything in relation to Burial Rites because it is a book which has been mentioned extensively in both the literary and historical wrap up posts previously.


Cicada by Moira McKinnon was one of the books that was reviewed three times over the last couple of months. It certainly sounds like a very interesting read, set in the 1930s in the Kimberley region and with a strong focus on indigenous themes. Louise Allan says of it:

I’d describe this story as a tribute to the Kimberley. It is also a tribute to indigenous culture and highlights how little we, as a predominantly white society, have understood the depth of indigenous knowledge and skill. Wirritjil is the true heroine of this story.


The other book to have three reviews posted of it was Ronan’s Echo by Joanne Os. Given that it has a dual narrative style following a modern storyline and then also a storyline back in World War I, it was classified as mixed genre by a couple of people when they entered the data into our spreadsheet, but I have chosen to add it to the historical fiction round up because of the strong historical threads.

Shelleyrae from Book’d Out says of Ronan’s Echo

A moving exploration of the legacy of war and family secrets, Ronan’s Echo is a well crafted and eloquent novel. I found it to be an absorbing and thought provoking story which I’d recommend to readers of both historical and contemporary fiction.

Marcia from Book Muster Down Under also enjoyed the book saying


A fine descriptive writer with a strong eye for detail, Joanne’s vivid descriptions of life on the frontline are compelling, right from the brilliant prologue through to the poignant epilogue and her words are brought to life in the construction of authentic war scenes, from the deep bloody trenches and broken bodies to the courage that is always under fire – not  to mention her geographical descriptions and the intricacies involved in the exhumation of old bones – which all pays homage to the amount of research that must have gone into this novel.



I mentioned before that there were three books that had been reviewed twice during the last three months. Two are books that have been reviewed quite regularly for the challenge, being Elemental by Amanda Curtain and The Light Between Oceans by D L Stedman. I thought I would focus more on the third book in this group which is The Yellow Papers by Dominique Wilson. Both the review at Writenote Reviews and at Booklover Book Reviews were touched by the issues that were raised in the book around war and separation. For example, here is an excerpt from the review at Writenote Reviews.


What stood out for me, and still does a week after reading it, is the way Wilson conveys the pain of war and racism – it’s honest, emotive, vivid and at times, raw. A recommended read for anyone who likes historical fiction and has a tendency to think over the issues raised for some time afterwards. A big thumbs up from me.


I was happy to see that Tarla Kramer reviewed All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato. I have fond memories of reading this book as a young woman and loving it. A couple of years ago I rewatched the mini series, and if I ever find myself on a paddle steamer or at Goolwa my thoughts inevitable turn to this story! This was not Tarla’s first read of the book and I found it interesting to read how her thoughts about the book have changed over the years.

I’ll be back next month (yes, really!) with more reviews. As always you can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.


Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction and she loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 7 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.



February 2014 Wrap Up: Historical Fiction

Welcome to the February round of historical fiction novels that have been reviewed as part of the challenge.

This month there were 10 reviews that were linked up to the challenge. There was a good  mix of newer or less reviewed titles and those that we have seen plenty of reviews for previously like All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (click on the links to go to those reviews)

There were two authors who were reviewed more than once during February. Amanda Curtin continues to be strongly represented in the challenge with two reviews this month of Elemental. The first was by Monique at Write Note Reviews who loved it and also by Danielle at Goodreads. Given that I spent a lot of time talking about this author last month, I thought that in this post I would focus instead on the other author who was reviewed twice.

wedding-shroudDuring February there were two reviews of books by Elisabeth Storrs. Jennifer at Goodreads reviewed The Wedding Shroud, the first book in a series looking difference between life in the Etruscan societies and their near neighbours in Rome using the marriage between a Roman girl to an Etruscan as the basis.



Golden-Dice-storrsBree at All the Books I Can Read reviewed the second book in the series, The Golden Dice, which continues the story and luckily it left her waiting eagerly for the third book!

The Golden Dice is an excellent follow up to The Wedding Shroud, giving us a story rich in colour and history with some clever characters. The end of this one leaves so much yet to happen and I can’t wait for the third book to discover what comes next.

perfect north bondAmong the books that haven’t had as much exposure through the challenge is Perfect North by Jenny Bond. The book was reviewed a couple of times last year but I don’t think I mentioned it. This month Kathryn reviewed the book over at Goodreads saying:

This is an impressive first novel by Jenny Bond and I really enjoyed reading it, though I tend to be frustrated by novels whose characters trap themselves by not speaking, by keeping their thoughts or truths to themselves. (I nearly threw Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn across the room, so annoyed was I by Eilis. But that’s another story.) Bond’s central character, Anna, is this kind of character, but I remained engrossed in her story and very keen to know what happened next. And the fact that I wanted to shake her (and occasionally Stubbendorf) and tell her to speak is hardly a flaw of the novel – just proof that I was drawn skilfully into Anna’s world.

skins - sarah hayA new to me book is Skins by Sarah Hay which was reviewed by Danielle. In actuality, this is a book that came out back in 2002 and was very well received, including winning The Vogel Prize which is awarded for unpublished manuscripts by writers under the age of 35. Danielle says of the book:

Skins‘ is an enthralling historically accurate tale providing one woman’s insight into the extreme harsh reality of life in the very early days of our settlement.

rosegrowerThe final book I will mention this month is The Rose Grower by Michelle DeKretser, a book that was published back in 2001. I must admit that I haven’t heard a lot about this book but as soon as I read Marilyn’s review I was wondering why I haven’t already read it! Marilyn says:

 The Rose Grower is full of period detail but the way the characters react to events remains the focus.  Love, sometimes unrequited, is a major theme, but so is betrayal and tragedy.  It is a story we see too often in today’s world: a community living more or less peacefully together turning violently on each other.  Yet this is not a sad book.  People learn to live their lives day by day in the face of forces that invade from outside and change them.  But they survive, most of them.

I’ll be back next month with more reviews. As always you can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.


Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction and she loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 7 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.

January 2014 Roundup: Diversity

Welcome back to the monthly wrap-ups for reviews of books that showcase diversity!  2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year, with a focus on Australian queer women writers in March and on women writers with a disability in September, while in July we’ll bring you an interview with an Indigenous women writer.

We strive to draw attention to such diverse authors all throughout the year however, and over January the challenge kicked off with six great reviews.

theswanbook-wrightChris White reviewed Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, which is about a girl, Oblivia, surviving in a world altered by climate change.  The book inspired a variety of emotion, leaving Chris ‘deliriously happy, thanks to the beautiful combinations of brilliant prose and of the teasing, twisting poetry. It made me feel guilty, as a white Australian, of the Intervention and of our treatment of Aboriginals in general’.  Chris’ final recommendation – ‘If I didn’t feel like giving The Swan Book six stars was cheating I’d give it seven’ – should persuade anyone to pick up this novel!

channelling mannalargenna marksSue of Whispering Gums mused on an essay by English author Kathy Marks which won the Indigenous Affairs award at the Walkley Awards.  Titled ‘Chanelling Mannalargenna’, it discusses the ‘thorny issue regarding the definition of indigeneity in Tasmania.’  The essay reminded Sue of Anita Heiss’ Am I Black Enough For You? in that it, as Heiss writes in her book, pointed to the ‘complexities around individual and collective Aboriginal identity’.  The essay is available online through Griffith Review’s website and is part of their bestselling issue on Tasmania, and it’s well worth a read.

Old-school-196-300There’s been much excitement about the release of PM Newton’s second novel, Beams Falling, a sequel to her tightly-bound, plotted and paced The Old School.  Bree of All the Books I Can Read reviewed the latter, and ‘was engrossed … from the very first page and couldn’t wait for each twist to unfold and each new bit of information to present itself.’  The story revolves around Ned, a detective whose Dad was Irish-Australian and Mum was Vietnamese and who, as Bree writes, ‘seems to face judgement and preconceptions about her appearance every day with few people understanding that she identifies as Australian with no real connection or ties to her Vietnamese heritage’. The book was such a good read for Bree that she’s been persuaded to ‘read more crime’.  As an admirer, too, of The Old School, I’m also really looking forward to the sequel.

beloved-faulknerIt was great to see another review of Annah Faulkner’s The Beloved.  As reviewer Maureen writes, the protagonist Bertie’s encounter with polio leaves her ‘with a disability which means she must eventually wear a boot to correct her gait. Her deformed foot impacts on her perception of herself and how she chooses to dress, as well as forces her to compensate in many areas of her life.’  Despite her disability, Bertie is determined to practice her art, an impulse which is at odds with her mother’s desire that she become a doctor.  The conflict is a plot device, as Maureen notes, and ‘the battle between mother and daughter draws the story along at a page-turning pace, ensuring an easy read.’

caleb-200-300Australian women writers such as Geraldine Brooks have  focussed on the encounters and histories of Indigenous people in other countries.  In Caleb’s Crossing, as Marilyn of Me, You and Books writes, Brooks’ depiction of a friendship between Bethia, a girl from a Puritan family, and Caleb, a Native American, contributes to the dismantling of the ‘widespread assumptions that all Indians were like those involved in the wars with settlers in the late 1800s.’  For Australian readers, Marilyn continues, it also ‘provides a comparison with their own nation’s initial settlement a century and a half later. And the book excels as simply an enjoyable novel.’

gil-scott-heron-parole-clarkeDiversity was also showcased in poetry this month, with poet Katie Keys penning a review of Gil Scott Heron is on Parole by poet Maxine Beneba Clarke, an Australian poet of Afro-Caribbean descent (also mentioned by Marisa in the poetry/short stories roundup).  In this work, as Katie writes, ‘Clarke highlights and re-writes stories from the convenient myths of colonialists, oppressors and misogynists to white-faced fairytales and out-dated definitions. The collection is at moments harsh and angry, sometimes shocking. But change isn’t always polite and the revolution will not be televised.  Overall, it is powerful, persuasive and justified’.

On the topic of things poetic, on Tuesday we will have the first of our guest writers for our spotlight on queer women writers, Michelle Dicinoski.  Michelle is also a poet – her first collection is the stunning Electricity for Beginners – and author of the memoir Ghost Wifeabout her journey to Canada to marry her wife Heather. Stay posted for further details!


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’m currently writing a book of creative non-fiction on Queensland novelist Rosa Praed and her deaf daughter Maud.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.


January 2014 Wrap Up: Historical Fiction

There were only seven reviews for Historical Fiction in the first month of this year’s challenge. Whilst it would be fantastic if there were more than that, what having so few means is that there is space to have a look at all the books that participants reviewed. Often we don’t have the capacity to do that.

caleb-200-300I did find the mix of books quite interesting. We had four reviews by different authors, and then the remaining reviews were all for one author. Let’s start with what I would call a big name, Geraldine Brooks,  and yet, since we started keeping this blog, there have been less than a handful of reviews for her books. I would certainly suggest that this author would be the most well-known of the authors who were reviewed this month. Marilyn from Me, You and Books has reviewed Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks and she finishes her review by saying

I strongly recommend Caleb’s Crossing. Overall it reflects the best current historical research available into early interactions between the English and the Indigenous people of North American. It is important in breaking down widespread assumptions that all Indians were like those involved in the wars with settlers in the late 1800s. For Australian readers, it provides a comparison with their own nation’s initial settlement a century and a half later. And the book excels as simply an enjoyable novel.

lena-gaunt-farrJane reviewed The Lives and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr over at Goodreads, a book that had “lovely writing, and the historical detail rang perfectly true, without ever being overdone” but Jane was never completely engrossed. As far as I can tell this is the first review of the book for the challenge, and I have to say that just from the synopsis Lena Gaunt sounds like she must have been an interesting woman! The synopsis starts “musician, octogenarian and junkie” and that she was the first female theremin player. Yes, I had to go and google to see what a theremin was!

juno hannah fletcherOver at Whispering Gums  Beryl Fletcher’s book Juno and Hannah has been favourably reviewed for the challenge, although with a disclaimer about why given that the author is a New Zealander with strong Aussie connections. The story is set in 1920’s New Zealand which sounds like a very interesting setting. There seem to be quite a few good historical fiction novels with a NZ setting at the moments, or maybe it has just been highlighted with The Luminaries winning the 2013 Man Booker Prize. The review concludes:

Juno and Hannah is a compelling read. There were times when the plot seemed to be slipping from my grasp. Loose ends perhaps, or maybe just part of the uncertain world Fletcher was creating.  It was never enough, however, to stop my being invested in Hannah and her trials. There’s something about Fletcher’s direct narrative style evoking an almost other-worldly setting that drew me in. I didn’t want to put it down.

Martyn Mistress to the CrownLynxie reviewed Mistress of the Crown by Isolde Martyn for the challenge. I only realised last year that Isolde Martyn was an Aussie author and that she wasn’t writing fantasy but rather writes historical fiction! Lynxie wasn’t all that impressed although she did have a suggestion of who might like the book:

If you’re looking for a nice historical romance, this is not for you. If you want to read about beheadings, hangings, burnings, stoning and all other means of killing or hurting someone, then pick this one up. You might really enjoy it.

the-sinkingsWhilst it may be a bit of a skewed result when you consider that there were so few reviews, but Amanda Curtin was the author with the biggest impact during January with a total of three reviews of her two books. Amanda Curtin is an author who I have been introduced to by as a result of AWWC. Karen from Karen Has Things to Say reviewed Curtin’s debut novel, The Sinkings, and summarised her review by saying

This is an intelligent, immensely satisfying book of wide and deep sweep; if you hadn’t picked it up yet, I loved it – 5 stars! Now, I’m going to further immerse myself in this wonderful author’s work by reading Inherited!

inheritedTwo other reviewers did just that during January, with both Sonja from Sonja’s Creative Journal and Angela Savage reviewing Inherited.  Sonja started her review with great enthusiasm saying

It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an evocative, richly woven story that drew me into the depth of the pages so convincingly that I felt I was experiencing the life of the character in Technicolor.

Angela Savage was similarly enthusiastic in her review saying

Elemental is rich in historical detail, from the unforgettably harsh conditions of village life in remote coastal Scotland, to the challenges facing migrants in early twentieth century Fremantle. This detail is woven seamlessly and skilfully into the story, never jarring or slowing down the pace of the narrative

I look forward to seeing what historical fiction books are read for the challenge during February.

As always you can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.


Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction and she loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 7 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.



2013 AWW Challenge: Poetry and Short Stories

liquid-nitrogenJennifer Maiden’s win of the overall prize for the Victorian Premier’s Prize for her poetry collection Liquid Nitrogen is a boon for Australia’s women poets.  As Paula notes in her roundup of these awards, author Magdalena Ball reviewed this collection, contemplating its themes of waking and politics, and its technique of layering:

Though Maiden’s poetic description of the Carina Nebula alone is worth the price of the book, this building up of smaller things into something larger, powerful, and transformative, is exactly what Liquid Nitrogen does, taking the many cultural, political and literary characters and references, in order to create a complex theory of everything, woven together on a Maiden’s “spinning jenny.” 

Like-a-house-on-fire-kennedyShort stories also garnered recognition in the prize stakes.  Cate Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire was shortlisted for the 2013 Stella Prize and won the 2013 Steele Rudd award for short story collections offered by the Queensland Literary Awards.  It was reviewed by 6 readers for the AWW challenge – If Not, Read, Kathy, Janine, Denise, myself and Belinda – making it our our most-reviewed collection of stories.

This shows that, although winning brings literary recognition, readers are most the most important prize of all.  Happily, there were 33 reviews of poetry collections last year, eclipsing 2012’s count of 7 reviews, and 89 reviews of short stories or short story collections, up from 76 last year – an amazing effort!  Below are some highlights from the year.


Elizabeth Hodgson, Skin paintingPhillip Ellis and Jonathon Shaw blitzed the reviews, with 10 and 8 penned respectively.  Philip paid care and attention to collections by Indigenous authors, including Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s The Dawn is at Hand, Anita Heiss’ I’m Not Racist, But … and Elizabeth Hodgson’s Skin Painting.  The latter, winner of the 2007 David Unaipon award for Indigenous writers, has ‘a level of candour running throughout the whole’, perhaps because it is, as Philip explains, ‘nonfiction poetry, poetry arising out of and engaging with the poet’s lived experience of the world and her life’.

domestic-archaeology-pilgrim-byrneLesbian relationships featured in Limen, reviewed by Sue of Whispering Gums, and Marilyn of Me, You and Books, while Phillip Ellis reviewed Domestic Archaeology, about poet Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne’s conception of a child with her partner.  Dorothy Porter’s lesbian thriller classic The Monkey’s Mask was reviewed by If Not, Read and WriteReaderly, who sums it up nicely: ‘The plotting is smart, the affair is sexy, Sydney is gritty and real, the poems are bitey and sharp – a damned fab book.’

Lilliey-realiaIn terms of other contemporary works, Jon Shaw penned an entertaining review of Kate Lilley’s Realia (in tandem with John Tranter’s Ten Sonnets) in which, piqued by Lilley’s poem “GG” on the sale of auctions from the estate of Greta Garbo, he consulted the list of said items on the web to check her source, and uncovered an image of a collection of irons.  ‘Some liberty taken as befits a poet,’ he concludes, ‘but an honest steal.’

What I enjoyed about Jon’s review is his articulation that poetry isn’t necessarily easy, as he writes, ‘Neither of these books appealed to me much on first contact, but when I came to write about them, even so spottily, I warmed to them both.’  Even if a poem seems difficult on a first reading, persistence with it pays off.  The poem opens up as you get to know it, and might even become a friend.  I look forward to reading your reviews on making the acquaintance of works by Australia’s women poets over 2014.

If you’d like to read the reviews in full, and also look at others that I haven’t had space to mention here, you had head to our Weebly pages:

January – June 2013

July — December 2013


Short Stories

When I look at the pages for our short story reviews, I’m always blown out of the water by the diversity of genres.  They cover speculative fiction, classics and literature, nonfiction, romance, contemporary fiction and historical fiction.  I’ve penned a snapshot of reviews from these genres below.

Caution contains small parts mcdermottReaders of spec fic/fantasy/horror/sci fi were our biggest contributors, with 34 reviews.  As Tsana mentions in her wrap-up of speculative fiction, Margo Lanagan’s collections Cracklescape (reviewed by Mel and Dave) and Yellow Cake (reviewed by Heidi, in her admirably titled Salute Your Shorts feature) were popular with readers, as was Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: Contains Small Parts (reviewed by Stephanie, Mark and Narelle), while Thoraiya Dyer’s Asymmetry proved the most popular work after Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire, with 4 reviews (from Tsana, Alexandra, Mark and Dave).

letters-george-clooney-adelaideIn contemporary fiction, which includes literary fiction, there were 28 reviews.  It’s hard to go past the title of Debra Adelaide’s Letter to George Clooney, reviewed by Kylie in the Newtown Review of Books.  Although she found it an engaging read, she was disappointed that some of the stories were so similar, especially as ‘one of the attractions of the short story to both writers and readers is the opportunities the form allows for experimentation with structure, voice and narrative’.

great unknown meyerAngela Myer, editor of The Great Unknown, pulled together a selection of stories from some of Australia’s finest writers to unsettle her readers.  Also reviewed by Kylie, it sounds like the book is a corker, with novelist Krissy Kneen opening the proceedings with ‘a genuinely spooky tale about a sleepwalking woman and her watchful husband’.

It was also good to see women of diverse heritage being reviewed, with WriteReaderly commenting on Merlinda Bobis’ White Turtle.  She found it ‘competent enough’, but wasn’t enamoured, and recommended that readers pick up Bobis’ Fish Hair Woman for a more satisfying read.

dear ruth parryRomance stories also featured strongly, with 22 works reviewed.  Many of these were single stories, such as Bronwyn Parry’s ‘Dear Ruth’ (reviewed by Brenda, one of our prolific reviewers, and Jess) and Robin Thomas’ ‘Bonjour Cherie’ (reviewed by Lauren).

There were also two reviews of classics by Sue of Whispering Gums, who pays detailed attention to the use of language and its unsettling effects in Barbara Baynton’s ‘Scrammy ‘and’ and ‘A Dreamer’.  Historical fiction featured twice, in ‘The Convict’s Bounty Bride‘ and ‘The Last Gladiatrix‘, both reviewed by Lauren.  Finally, there was one book of nonfiction, Bush Nurses, reviewed by Marcia.

In all, it seems like reading short stories are an excellent way to sample the diversity of talent in Australia’s women writers.  If you’re pressed for time (as so many of us are!), reading stories is a great way to participate in the AWW Challenge in 2014.

As with poetry, if you’d like to see these reviews in their entirety, please head to the Weebly pages listed below.

January – June 2013
July — December 2013


About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a writer and researcher.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012). My short stories and poetry have been published in OverlandSoutherlyIsland and the Review of Australian Fiction.  You can find more information about these at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

2013 AWW Challenge Wrap-up: Historical Fiction

Welcome to the wrap up post for Historical Fiction in the 2013 challenge.

It was a very good year for historical fiction here at the challenge with just under 200 reviews classified as being historical fiction. Let’s start with a couple of stats and then we can have a look at the books and authors that were most represented in the challenge.

All up there was a total of 197 reviews of historical fiction novels which covered 100 different books, and there were 79 individual authors reviewed for the challenge.

One of the most pleasing things about the books read is the range of history covered. Whilst some authors chose to focus on the Australian historical experience, there is enough diversity available to ensure that most readers can find something that they would like to read. From Elisabeth Storr’s books The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice which are set in ancient Roman times although not actually in Rome,  to Jesse Blackadder’s Chasing the Light about Antarctic exploration,  from the pioneer story told in Kate Grenville’s Sarah Thornhill to Courtney Collin’s tale of a female bushranger in The Burial and then on to Mary-Rose MacColl’s story of WWI in In Falling Snow our reviewers explored a myriad of times and places and we met many fascinating characters along the way as well as maybe learning a thing or two.

As well as the many new books that were covered there were also reviews of classics such as Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park and Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Our younger readers were not forgotten either with a number of reviews for the excellent My Australian Girls series and also books by Jackie French.

Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

If we are looking at the basic numbers, there is one book that was reviewed more than any other, and that was Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites, a story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland (yet more evidence of the breadth of the subject matter available to historical fiction readers). This book was reviewed an astonishing 19 times for the challenge last year. I say astonishing because last year’s most reviewed book was only reviewed 9 times! Whilst there were plenty of varied opinions on it, it does sound as though it is a must read book to me.

Other well reviewed books included The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth which was reviewed 11 times for the challenge and The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay which was reviewed 10 times.

Thanks to everyone who contributed a review for this category during the 2013 challenge. I am really looking forward to seeing what historical fiction gems the readers of historical fiction unearth this year as part of the challenge.

As always you can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.


Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction and she loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 7 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.

Australian Women Writers of Diverse Heritage: Roundup

Over October, we held a focus on Australian women writers of diverse heritage, with book offers and a series of fabulous guest posts.  Tseen Khoo, a researcher and writer on Asian-Australian issues (among many other things), voiced her frustration with the limited readings of texts by Asian Australian women such as Hsu Ming Teo’s Love and Vertigo which, its author has stated, was more about class than race.

Alice Pungunpolished-gem also elaborated on the theme of class, describing the ostracism of Australia’s poor, whose culture of ‘ten dollar K mart shower curtains or those twenty dollar fibreglass Buddhas in every aspiring middle-lower class’ would most likely not make its way into the ‘museums of the future’.  However, we can always find these worlds in literature such as Ruth Park’s novels, which ‘preserve lives that would be lost forever through poverty and neglect’.

beautiful-place-dieIn a similar way, literature enables us to hear the stories of those of diverse heritage who might also be overlooked, whether this be about Alice, the daughter of Cambodians, growing up in suburban Footscray, or the world of 1950s Swaziland where people are divided by race, as in Malla Nunn’s novels.  In her post, Malla wrote of her family’s love of storytelling that accompanied her from Swaziland to Australia, and how Australia gave her the freedom to write of the ‘deep, powerful roots that forever connect me to the colonial backwater where I was born and raised’.

FishHair_LMerlinda Bobis, author of Fish-Hair Woman, also wrote a poetic post about the influence of her culture on her writing and of the sensation of being between two worlds, as she opens, ‘It’s 12 midnight in bed in Australia, and I’m in my grandparents’ ancestral house again, in the village of Estancia, Bikol region, Philippines.’

Writers of diverse heritage have a double vision: a unique perception of life in Australia, and of the life they or their families left behind, which results in rich and varied texts.  It was great to see our readers also reading and recognising this diversity!

hateissuchastrongword_ayoubBree of 1girl2manybooks reviewed two novels, Sarah Ayoub’s Hate is Such a Strong Word, a young adult novel about Sophie, the eldest daughter of a Lebanese-Australian family who writhes under her father’s strictness.  Bree writes that ‘This is the kind of book I could happily talk about forever until I had a review that never stopped’ – now that’s a good recommendation!  She also reviewed The Perfect Wife by Katherine Scholes, who was born in Tanzania but now lives in Australia.  This book was set in Africa after World War Two, as are Malla Nunn’s Detective Emmanuel Cooper novels.  The first of these, A Beautiful Place to Die was a fantastic read, and I reviewed it here.

russian-tapestryMonique Mulligan of WriteNoteReviews penned a review of Banafsheh Serov’s first novel, The Russian Tapestry, which begins in St Petersberg in 1913 and spans several years.  Monique describes it as ‘as historical fiction with romantic elements’, and recommends it to ‘those who love historical sagas that weave love and adversity together like Dr Zhivago’.  Banafsheh and her family escaped from Iran to Australia, and her memoir, Under a Starless Sky, relates their experiences.

memory-of-salt-505-721Rita at The Crafty Expat reviewed The Memory of Salt by Alice Melike Ulgezer.  Even though she found the book hard to start with, she responded to its nuances and ambiguities, as she writes, ‘What I really loved in this story was that even though the father of Ali suffers from some kind of mental illness, does terrible things and is not a conventional type of father, I could feel the love the main characters had for him and how special he was in her/his eyes.’

hamiltoncaseMarilyn Brady, who is conducting the Global Women of Color challenge, wrote a detailed review of Michelle de Kretser’s second novel, The Hamilton Case.  Marilyn describes it as a ‘brilliantly constructed novel about Ceylon, the British Empire, and conflicting perceptions of truth by a woman who lived there as a child and knew its mysterious beauty and danger’, a novel in which ‘ambiguity and uncertainty are central themes’.  I really enjoyed de Kretser’s prize-winning Questions of Travel, and Marilyn’s review has prompted me to pick up this one.

We also ran a book giveaway for readers who reviewed books by Australian women writers of diverse heritage.  I had my boss draw three names from a hat, and these were Bree (Hate is Such a Strong Word), Monique (The Russian Tapestry), and Rita (The Memory of Salt).  Congratulations to all our winners (I will be in touch about delivering your books!) and to Malla Nunn, Text Publishing and Black Inc. Books for their generous donations.  Above all, thank you to all who participated last month and helped to highlight the engaging and thought-provoking writing by Australian women writers of diverse heritage.

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), about botany and lesbianism, and Entitlement (2012), about Native Title and grief.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

August/September 2013 Round up: Historical Fiction

Over the last couple of months there have been around 20 reviews written of historical fiction for the challenge. When I look through the reviews there is one book that was reviewed multiple times, one author who had multiple books reviewed and several books that I haven’t previously highlighted in one of these monthly round up posts! Voila…an agenda for this post!

Hannah Kent, Burial RitesThe book that continues to receive a great deal of attention as part of the review is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Last time I mentioned this book in a round up I did say that the reviews were mixed, but this time around they are all glowing reviews! Brenda’s review on Goodreads finishes with ” this is certainly a book which will stay with me for a long time. I have no hesitation in recommending Burial Rites highly to everyone.” and over at Books Are My Favourite and Best it is called “extraordinarily beautiful”.

Louise Allan started her review by saying:

I’d read the rave reviews of this novel prior to buying it. I knew that it had won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award, that it had been sold in 18 different countries and that it had sparked a bidding war for the movie rights. I approached it hoping I’d love it, but fearing I wouldn’t — sometimes, I feel like the sole person on the planet that a book has not charmed …

No need to worry with this novel: I felt desolate as I finished it, and I love it when a book leaves me feeling like that.

Me too, Louise. Me too.

Bernadette from Reactions to Reading summed up her post with words that pretty much encapsulate why I love to read historical fiction about the lesser known figures from the past

In some ways the things I liked most about BURIAL RITES were the things that weren’t there. It didn’t provide easy answers, it’s ending didn’t include lurid details (though Kent doesn’t gloss over the undoubted horror of a public beheading) and there were no implausible scenes better suited to the modern day. It is a sad but rich story that offers a glimpse into the world of someone we have to imagine because Agnes Magnusdottir is one of the millions of people which official history records precious little about. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her.

gatherthebones-stuartMoving away from an author with one book reviewed multiple times to an author who had multiple books reviewed over the last couple of month. Alison Stuart is the author of a number of historical novels, but as far as I can tell she hasn’t been reviewed much for the challenge. Lynxie over at Goodreads has reviewed both The King’s Man and By the Sword which are both set in 17th century England, an era which features one of my personal favourite kings to read about – Charles II. Whilst By the Sword didn’t work that well for Lynxie,  The King’s Man definitely did:

If you don’t know much about this time in England’s history, you’ll find this tale amusing and entertaining, if you do know of this rather turbulent time, you’ll find this tale rich in detail, adding colour to the dreary, daily life of the English subjects.

Also over at Goodreads, Eleni reviewed Gather the Bones saying:

I absolutely loved this book. Beautiful language, beautiful plot of people dealing with the after-math of World War I.

I will finish up with a few of the books that were reviewed during the month that I haven’t yet featured in one of these roundups (or at least that I can remember).



sunset-ridge-alexanderThe first is Sunset Ridge by Nicole Alexander, a dual storyline novel that switches between the present day and WWI. Shelleyrae from Book’d Out says of the book:

A stunning Australian saga told by a consummate storyteller, Sunset Ridge is an absorbing read and one I won’t hesitate to recommended.



The Beloved by Annah Faulkner was longlisted for the Miles Franklin prize when it came out. Set in New Guinea, the story deals with a young girl who gets polio in the mid-1950s. Maree Kimberley says of the novel:

 The Beloved has its flaws but it’s a well-written novel with a great heart, and I look forward to reading more from this author as she develops.


Golden-Dice-storrsOver at Newtown Review of Books, Folly Gleeson gives a glowing review to Elisabeth Storrs’ The Golden Dice, saying:

Elizabeth Storrs is an extremely skilful writer. Good historical fiction is extremely difficult to write – such novels attempt to portray a world that doesn’t exist and the writer has to exercise as much imagination in creating a ‘real’ environment as Tolkien, say, needed to do when writing fantasy. The reality of historical times is simply not there to be taken for granted, unlike in novels set in the world of today. By intertwining the lives of the three women so cleverly this writer has created a satisfyingly rich sense of the harsh life of the period.



The final book I am going to spotlight this month is The Russian Tapestry by Banefsheh Serov a book by the authors own family. Lauren at Australian Bookshelf says of the book:

The Russian Tapestry is such an interesting story, not only from its origins (the author’s inspiration) but how it captures wartime Russia and brings to life two characters that are able to make a new life for themselves in the face of adversity. I found the plot, the setting and the historical aspects of the story very engrossing. I could picture the time and the place and I enjoyed reading about World War I from the perspective of the Russians.

I’ve just noticed how many of the books I have mentioned today have links to World War I. Given that next year is the centenary of the start of the war I suspect we will see a lot more books with this setting coming out!

As always you can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.

Apologies for no round up last month. I had a house guest for a month and it cut into my computer time!


Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction and she loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 7 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 5 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.



July 2013 Roundup: Historical Fiction

There was a slightly lower number of historical fiction reviews during the month of July than there have been through the year so far. Of the 14 reviews that were submitted there was one book that garnered 4 reviews alone, but more on that later. First though, I thought I would mention the books that were reviewed this month that I haven’t mentioned before in my roundup posts.

heaven-I-swallowed-hennessyThe first of these books is The Heaven I Swallowed by Rachel Hennessy which was reviewed by Whispering Gums. Set in the 1950s with flashbacks to earlier days, the book tells the story of Rachel Hennessy’s grandmother who as a member of the Stolen Generation.  This book was also covered in the Literary and Diversity rounds ups this month so be sure to check them out to see if you might be interested in reading the book. I was interested, especially when I read this line towards the end of the review.

Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to her. I recommend you do, because this is a quiet but fierce little book about real people and real situations. It’s not always pretty, but it has a heart

Another new to the roundup book that was reviewed by a participant in the challenge was Torn by Karen Turner which was reviewed by Monique at Write Note Reviews. Torn is the first book in a series set in the early 19th century with the second book due out next year.

falling-snowThe final book I wanted to mention before I get to the big book of the month is In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose Maccoll which was reviewed twice during July.  I had this book recommended to me during a Twitter chat a few months ago but I haven’t managed to read it yet. Belle from Belle’s Bookshelf did read it and says:

Even though I predicted what would happen, the story was still compelling to me. It’s quite an emotional journey, as you’d probably expect from a generation-spanning war tale. The setting of WWI France is beautifully rendered, and I really, really want to visit Royaumont now. Overall this is a gorgeous book; I definitely recommend it for fans of historical fiction.

Maree Kimberley also reviewed the book over at Goodreads and said:

Falling in Snow is a meticulously researched, gorgeously written novel set in two different worlds: a hospital run by women near Paris during WWI, and inner-city Brisbane in the late 1970s. At times it moved me to tears. MacColl’s prose is intensely real. It’s not what I’d term spare but just so matter of fact, so close to the bone in revealing emotions, the joys and devastation of everyday lives.

Sounds like my kind of book!

burial-rites-kentSo what was the book that received 4 reviews this month? Burial Rites by Hannah Kent which Amanda at Goodreads called “astonishing“,  and Jennifer calling it “bleak and beautiful” although not everyone loved it with at least one reviewer giving up and Melanie at Blakkopy Kat finding didn’t quite live up to her expectations:

To say I didn’t make the summit of those expectations is probably the best way of framing my view of Burial Rites, but the journey was still worthwhile and there are plenty of good things to say about it.

It seems that it is one of those books that you have to read for yourself to decide whether you fall into the love it category of readers or not.

You can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.


Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction. She has very strong memories of reading through the entire collection of Jean Plaidy novels in the school library and still loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 7 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 5 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.


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