(Imported from Blogger; formatting glitches need to be fixed)

Yesterday on Twitter, Astrid (@asteriskthat) put out a call for names of Australian women authors of historical fiction. Angela from Literary Minded suggested Kate Forsyth, M L Stedman, Mardi McConnochie, Lisa Lang (interviewed by Angela here), Marele Day and Gail Jones. Marg Bates’ suggestions included Kerry Greenwood, Elisabeth Storrs, Jules Watson and Kate Grenville. Paula Grunseit added Jesse Blackadder, Tobsha Learner, Kim Wilkins and Judy Nunn. Vassiliki Veros recommended historical romance authors Anna Campbell, Anne Gracie and Stephanie Laurens, to which Kat from BookThingo added Christina Brooks (and I’d add Isolde Martyn). Other authors of historical fiction include Geraldine Brook and Jessica Anderson.Can you recommend any other Australian female authors of historical fiction not listed above?Another of Marg Bates’ recommendations was Belinda Alexander.Alexander’s novels have appeared worldwide, including in France, Germany, Holland, Poland, Norway and Greece. When asked what fiction by Australian authors are her favourites, Alexander answered, “I am always hanging out for the next Kim Wilkins and Kate Morton novels. I love how their stories unfold. I have always admired the styles of Helen Gardner and Drusilla Modjeska. Their styles are different to mine – I often find Gardner’s work a challenge to my vision of beauty, but that’s good. It’s always good to be challenged.” (Australian Literature Review

Today’s guest review is by fellow Australian author Christine Darcas. Here she reviews Alexander’s 2011 publication, Golden Earrings.

Christine Darcas writes:

Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexander is a masterfully crafted, rich
feast of a read. Knowing too well the amount of time, effort and hope that goes
into writing a novel, I won’t review a book unless I have only good things to
say about it … and I have lots of terrific things to say about this one.

Alexandra creates a passionate,
deeply interwoven story about a girl, Celestina, born in Barcelona’s early 20th
century ghettos, who survives to become a world class Flamenco dancer. Through
Spain’s turbulent civil unrest, she becomes involved with the Montello family
whose wealth and naïve sense of privilege amidst Spain’s elite represent
everything she has been raised to hate. The book opens in 1970s Paris with
Celestina’s ghost appearing to a young, disheartened ballet dancer named Paloma
who lives with her grandmother, Mamie, in the same building where they run a
small ballet studio. In the solemn quiet of that early morning, Celestina
wordlessly gives Paloma a set of golden hoop earrings. And so the mystery
The book’s setting sweeps expertly
between Franco’s dictatorial ascendency in Spain and 1970s Paris. Even while we
read about Paloma’s more contemporary challenges, the brutal atmospherics of
Spain’s civil war and their implications for individuals in this
case Celestina, her family and all of the Montella family members
permeate the story. Alexandra’s characters love, hate, betray and are betrayed.
The romance and intrigue build with slow-burning intensity, as does the full
realisation of the destructiveness of key characters’ deep-seeded
misperceptions and misunderstandings about each other as a result of their
shattered circumstances. Just when you might think that Alexandra can’t raise
the stakes any higher, she does.
She also clearly did extensive
research. Not only is the story satisfying, but so is the history lesson. In
considering early 20th century history, many of us may be inclined
to focus on the two world wars to the extent that they overshadow the ferocity
of Spain’s civil war and the ways in which it scarred its population. This
account will certainly encourage you to reflect on that further. Her knowledge
of the cultural and artistic details of her eras including the emotional and
technical aspects of Flamenco dancing, piano concertos, Catalan traditions and
language is equally impressive.
was particularly gobsmacked by this book’s structure. Alexandra tells the story
from three points of view while working between two different eras. Plenty of
experienced writers would falter with this. But instead of rehashing prior
scenes, Alexandra moves from each point of view to the next in a way that
seamlessly moves the story forward. This was definitely a book that I was sorry
to see end.

Another AWW review of Golden Earrings appears at:

Guest reviewer Christine Darcas is the author of two novels Dancing Backwards in High Heels and Spinning Out, both published by Hachette Australia. 

Giveaway opportunity: If you are interested in reviewing either of Christine Darcas’ books for the AWW challenge, please nominate which book in the comments section below and include your email. (If more than one person wants to write review, a name will be picked out of a hat.)