Drusilla Modjeska, The mountainJune was an exciting month for Literary Fiction. Let me count the ways:

  1. Michelle de Kretser‘s Questions of Travel was announced as this year’s Miles Franklin Award winner.
  2. The shortlist for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was announced, with three of the five fiction titles being by women (Romy Ash’s Floundering, Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of travel, and Carrie Tiffany‘s Mateship with birds)
  3. The two Miles Franklin Award shortlisted books that had not yet been reviewed for the challenge – Annah Faulkner’s Beloved and Drusilla Modjeska‘s The Mountain – were reviewed in June. Thanks Jessica White (her review) and Janine Rizzetti (her review) for filling that gap.
  4. The year’s challenge reached the halfway mark, with some good achievements for the Literary Fiction area – but more on that anon.

Figuring June

Thirty-two book reviews were tagged as Classics and/or Literary in June. That’s four months now in which we’ve had 30-35 Literary/Classics reviews for the month. Can we push it up to around 40 per month by the end of the year?

  • The 32 reviews were posted by 21 reviewers: Elimy (The Incredible Rambling Elimy) posted 4 reviews; Josie Forshaw (on Goodreads) and I (Whispering Gums) posted 3 each.
  • 25 authors were reviewed: Kim Lock’s Peace, Love and Khaki Socks received three reviews, and Kate Forsyth, Susan Hawthorne, Hannah Kent, Emily Maguire and ML Stedman were each reviewed twice. This is the third consecutive month that Kate Forsyth has received multiple reviews. As Yvonne reported in our mid-year review, Forsyth is the third most popular author reviewed in the challenge so far.
  • 28 reviews were classified as Fiction (including 2 verse novels), 3 as Non-fiction, and 1 was for an anthology; 16 were tagged as Contemporary Fiction, 7 as Historical Fiction, 2 as Crime, and just 1 Classic. Contemporary fiction continues to dominate this field, which is probably not surprising for Literary Fiction.


This month’s classic was by M. Barnard Eldershaw, whose A house is built was featured last month. Dani (Dinner at Caph’s) reviewed Plaque with Laurel. She had some challenges reading the book, not least of which was a poorly formatted free electronic version. Another was that she has a “long-standing inability to keep track of a multitude of characters” in a book. Overall, she had mixed feelings but I did love her summation of its view of Canberra, in which the novel is set:

In Plaque With Laurel, the characters share a moment in time, and in doing so, share with us a view of Canberra in its early years. That the city was then a gangling, half-formed pre-teen with limbs too long for its body, and emotions too strong for its mind, is one of those embarrassing memories that perhaps we must just look back on today with a fond if wry smile.

Award contenders

Michelle de Kretser, Questions of travelTwo of the five shortlisted books for the Miles Franklin award were reviewed this month which means that AWW participants have now reviewed all shortlisted books. Overall though, the books shortlisted for our prime literary awards are not being actively reviewed for the challenge. Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of travel, for example, was shortlisted for the Stella Prize, the Nita Kibble Award and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, and won the Miles Franklin award. Yet, it has only been reviewed twice to date. Is this a problem? Or do these authors get enough airplay anyhow?

June’s non-fiction offerings

Anna Goldsworthy, Piano lessonsThree reviews were posted for literary non-fiction in June. One was Anna Goldsworthy‘s memoir, Piano lessons. Louise Allen loved it, saying:

My copy of the book is completely defaced – I fell in love with so many of Mrs Sevin’s words of wisdom.

This has been on my reading radar since it came out, but I still haven’t got to it. Instead, I read Anna Krien’s Night games. Inspired by the rape trial of a footballer, it’s an intelligent and thoughtful book about football culture and how it relates to/treats women but has applicability beyond football too. The third non-fiction booked tagged as literary for the challenge was Marie Williams’ Green vanilla tea about how her family coped with her husband’s early onset dementia. Reviewer Nicole Sulway liked it, describing it as “moving” but “unsentimental”.

Halfway-mark comments

Just over 20% of the reviews posted for the first 6 months of the challenge were tagged as Literary/Classic. And yet, interestingly, only one author whose works have been classified as Literary Fiction made Yvonne’s Top 5 – and that’s Kate Forsyth, with 13 reviews to date. However, several authors have been reviewed multiply, and they include:

  • Ashley Hay: 9 reviews for The Railwayman’s Wife
  • Kim Lock: 7 reviews for Peace, Love and Khaki Socks
  • Karen Foxlee: 6 reviews, 5 of which are for her newest book, The Midnight Dress
  • Poppy Gee: 6 reviews for Bay of Fires
  • Annabel Smith; 6 reviews for Whisky Charlie Foxtrot
  • Madeleine St John: 6 reviews, 5 of which are for The Women in Black
  • ML Stedman: 6 reviews for The Light Between Oceans
  • Cate Kennedy, Hannah Kent and Carrie Tiffany: close behind with 5 reviews each.

There is a not-very-surprising pattern here. All but one of these are currently published authors. Only Madeleine St John is an author who has been “resurrected”; her books were published in the 1990s. I can only assume that Text Publishing’s new Australian Classics series has played a big role here.

Another interesting observation is that this list of most reviewed Literary Fiction authors includes only two authors – Cate Kennedy and Carrie Tiffany – who have been shortlisted or have won literary awards this year. I find this a little surprising, and yet it also says something rather positive about the breadth of this challenge.

This is probably a good time to shout out to the published authors who are reviewing for the challenge – such as Amanda Curtin, Annabel Smith and Jessica White. We thank you for showing that writers are also readers who support other writers.

I’ve featured only a few of the books reviewed this month but you can check all the reviews by clicking this link.

About Whispering Gums

I read, review and blog about (mostly) literary fiction. It was reading Jane Austen when I was 14 that turned me onto literary fiction/classics, which is why I am here today doing this round-up! Little did Jane know what she started!

My love of Aussie literature started with Banjo Paterson’s ballads and Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians in my childhood. But, I didn’t really discover Australian women’s writing until the 1980s when I “met” and fell in love with Elizabeth Jolley, Thea Astley, Olga Masters, Helen Garner and Kate Grenville. Ever since then I have made sure to include a good percentage of Australian (and other) women writers in my reading diet.