June was an exciting month for Literary Fiction. Let me count the ways:
- Michelle de Kretser‘s Questions of Travel was announced as this year’s Miles Franklin Award winner.
- 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)
- 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.
- The year’s challenge reached the halfway mark, with some good achievements for the Literary Fiction area – but more on that anon.
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.
Two 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
Three 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”.
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.
Do you think the lack of reviews is linked to the lack of ARC’s or giveaway copies that available, which is linked to how the books are marketed? The 2 I have reviewed (and one more to follow when finished reading) have been free copies – either from The Reading Room or NetGalley.
That’s an interesting comment, readingwritingandriesling (great name, btw!), though in my experience you can get review copies for literary fiction if you make your interest known. It’s probably a bit of chicken-and-the-egg. There seem to be fewer bloggers focusing on “literary fiction” than on genre fiction so publishers are probably more active in getting genre books out. But, they will send “literary fiction” if they know you’re there.
The name reflects my interests and the region I live in – a wine growing area. 🙂
So how do I let them know I am out there? I am relatively new to blogging and reviewing, I only started in Feb this year – have reviewed about 50 books thus far and share reviews on my blog and The Reading Room, Good Reads, any advice as to how to grow my audience and access more reads? I am particularly interested in crime fiction and contemporary fiction.
Ah, that’s why I hadn’t come across you before perhaps. You can contact publishers directly … most are open to that. It’s good though to have some active traffic on your site and there are many ways of doing that: good content, good tagging, and commenting on other like-minded blogs. Perhaps you already know that … but just in case.
Thanks….I haven’t tried the direct contact method – though Random House Aust have now pre approved me on Net Galley – so that is a good start.
Yes, that is a good start … I still haven’t managed to read the first book I downloaded that way so I’m not going well with NetGalley but I keep getting offers!
I have just uploaded a couple of my reviews and I was surprised to note that some of the books I have read this year were by Australian Women – I hadn’t noticed that at the time. Maybe the jackets need to have a sticker or something…maybe I’ll research more on the writers I am reading.:)
Oh good for you Carol (hope it’s ok to use your name as you’ve put it on your About Me page). Interesting point about the jackets … although the way Aussies seem to stay away from Aussie films in droves publishers might see it as a disincentive! I guess I tend to always be conscious of the nationality of the writer I’m reading. Not sure why that it but it seems to be something I like to know!
Now I have my own theory on Aussie film and audiences and I think it is largely to do with funding models – .Aust Gov funding for film/tv/docs is largely based on Australian content/Aust story – I wish it was just about the story! But anyway…that is another story for another day. I dont have any clue how writers get there writing funded.
I will start looking a bit more at the writers I am reading in future.
Great roundup Sue! I’m also interested in reading Anna Goldsworthy’s memoirs after hearing her at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but who knows when I will get to it.
So hard to find time for everything isn’t it Yvonne.
I’ve been trying to read Questions of Travel and don’t seem to be retaining it although I did read one review that mentioned this was a problem at the start, but with summer and kids and an increasing number of distractions, I’m having to put it aside until I have a long enough period to concentrate so I can it justice. But I too have seen very few reviews of this book. Looking forward to giving it the justice I am sure it deserves though.
Thanks Claire, I’m prepared for a read that will demand real concentration, but I’m looking forward to it. I do like de Kretser and the subject matter sounds up my alley. I’ll be reading it later this month. (I have a few books I’ve put aside over the years because they’ve needed the right concentration!)
I definitely haven’t given up and think it says more about the many other distractions I have currently, so I don’t want to continue whilst I’m having difficulty remembering what I’ve read previously, that usually suggests I need a little more time to get into it, because everything I’ve read about it suggests I should love it! I’ll be looking out for your review, I am sure it will encourage me 🙂
Oh, I understood that was the situation Claire. I’ll do my best to spur you on.
Another good roundup, Sue, and thanks for the shout out! Much appreciated 🙂
Thanks Jessica … as for the shout out, it’s much deserved.
I love reading the monthly round-up posts, and I’ve “discovered” some great new titles and authors from them, so thanks!!
I have a big fat copy of Questions of Travel on my desk that I’m really hoping I can get to soon – was lucky to get hold of the UK copy as sadly not many Aussie books get released over here in North America. It’s like a drought… and when you do get one they sometimes edit them till they’re barely recognisable as Australian. But that’s a rant for another day! Just meant to say that I haven’t been able to get copies of other short-listed or recently released books, here in Canada – we really must do something about making international readers more interested in reading Australian fiction (and vice versa, with Canada – in the same boat).
Oh. Thanks Shannon, I’m glad you like the round-ups. I do too … In both the areas I read and don’t read so much. Glad you have Questionsnof travel but I do understand what you mean about access to Aussie books over there. Book Depositorynwouldnhelp a bit? Have you tried Fishpond … Anyhow, as the Literary “editor” here I’ll be looking out for your de Kretser post!
Yep, I get most of my books from the Book Depository and can sometimes get UK editions of Australian books – even Allen & Unwin have a UK office, which is good! Not to worry, I’m moving back home to Tassie in October so won’t have to stress about getting hold of books then! 🙂
Oh good … Did I say my daughter is currently np based in Toronto, though right now is in Cedar City, Utah … And my brother lives in Tasmania. To add to the coincidences, sort of, my son lived in Tsugawa, Niigata Prefecture for three years. A JET … Is that what you did?
Ha ha, I love coincidences! I wasn’t with JET, did three years with NOVA and about 6 months after we left and went to Melbourne the company went bankrupt and all those teachers were stranded there, unpaid. We had good timing. We were in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. Wonderful place. My brother did JET for 2 (3?) years and loved it.
Ah, yes I know about NOVA. I had a staff member who was in Sendai with NOVA but that would have been a long time before you because she’d been back for some years when NOVA went bankrupt. We’ve been to Japan 3 times and on the third occasion planned to go to Sendai as we’d only been through there on the train up to Hokkaido BUT that tripped was booked for May 2011! Needless to say we didn’t go to Sendai but we did still go to Japan and spent more time in southern/western Honshu. One of our favourite places in Japan is Kanazawa.
Would love to hear more of your theory one day, Carol, regarding how funding impacts attendance. Am lunching today with ae ex-staff member of the AFC … He left a long time ago now (is in his mid-70s) but will try to ask, if I get the opportunity, what he thinks.
Re Questions of Travel – Is an easy read – once you get past the first few chapters…:)
Oh thanks Carol … I was hoping that.
You may be interested in my two-part commentary (a bit long for a review I guess) on The Mountain which I wrote earlier this year as part of the AWW 2013 on my book blog:
Having lived in PNG (then TPNG) at the time in which Part I of the book is situated, I both enjoyed the book and found parts of it extremely irritating. Either way it caused lots of fairly volatile discussion about it in our house.
Thanks, Pauleen. I notice that you identify in both posts – which I found fascinating – that you read them for the challenge, but did you register (link) them on the challenge website/blog? I think you didn’t … that is how we know you are contributing and the spreadsheet that is generated from reviewers’ links is what we use for our round-ups. To link your posts, look for the “2013 Challenge – now open” page under the blog banner, and click to get its dropdown list, then select “Link your review”. Follow the prompts. I think you’ll need to link both posts – or just link the first and presume people will see the second?
Thanks I possibly didn’t so will remedy that…makes sense.
Great … and please add the other books I notice that you’ve read for the challenge!
Thanks Whispering Gums! I had signed up for the AWW but hadn’t done the links. Have now remedied that. I appreciate your guidance.
A pleasure, Pauleen … This blogging is all a learning thing. We will all enjoy seeing your reviews here …