Woo-hoo! Congratulations all you Classics-Literary reader-reviewers! In last month’s round-up I asked whether we could up the reviewing ante from about 30-35 books a month to around 40 and we did it! This month we have 42 reviews in this category – and, hand-on-heart, I didn’t manipulate the categories to make it happen. Can we keep it up?
I must say, July wasn’t jolly weather-wise here in the capital where somewhat warmer-than-usual temperatures were off-set by greyer, bleaker days. But, our stats were jolly and that’s what counts here.
- The 42 reviews were posted by 29 reviewers: writereaderly posted 5 reviews; while author Annabel Smith (on GoodReads), AWW challenge team member Shelleyrae (Book’d out) and I (Whispering Gums) posted 3 each.
- 32 authors were reviewed: Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites topped the list with 4 reviews. She sure is going great guns with this book. Melissa Lucashenko was reviewed 3 times; and Michelle de Kretser, Rachel Hennessy, Kirsten Krauth, Yvette Walker and Evie Wyld were each reviewed twice.
- 5 reviews were for indigenous authors, Melissa Lucashenko and Rachel Hennessy.
- Contemporary stories continue to dominate this category, with 29 reviews being so classified. There was just one classic, and two non-fiction works reviewed.
This month’s classic was what is turning out to be the most reviewed classic of the challenge, Miles Franklin‘s My brilliant career. Given Franklin’s contribution to Australian literature that’s deserved, but there’s a great wealth of other Aussie classics out there just waiting to be read and reviewed. Anyhow, Sue (in her gorgeously named blog, Discombobula) wrote of its relevance today:
Whatever systemic and social changes differ between Sybylla and me, the beauty and space and time that Sybylla yearns for in which to think, to write and to be her own person remain my own. That fight, to claim the space that is your self, whether fuelled by internal or external forces, goes on.
Debut novelists featured well this month. It’s good to see new writers gaining a good following in the challenge. Some of these authors have been writing for a long time. Romy Ash, for example, has had short stories and other works published for over a decade, but Floundering, which was shortlisted this year for both the Stella Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award is her first novel. So too, Favel Parrett. She’d had many short stories published before her debut novel Past the shallows was published. It was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award last year. Psych Babbler said it “stayed with me long after tearing at my heart.” And then there’s Kirsten Krauth, who has been writing reviews, articles and short fiction for some time. Her debut novel just_a_girl was published in June. Michelle McLaren, reviewing it in The Newtown Review of Books, says
More than a coming-of-age story, this novel is a meditation on loneliness in the age of social media.
She adds that it’s not only young people who are lonely in this world.
Hannah Kent’s credentials, on the other hand, are a little different. She did a creative writing degree, and is co-founder and deputy editor of the gorgeous literary journal, Kill Your Darlings, but I’ve found little mention of a publishing history for her. What I did find though is that her debut novel, Burial Rites, was published by Picador after an international bidding war. Pretty impressive, eh? It is historical fiction about a real murder that took place in Iceland in the early 19th century. Raelke Grimmer (Little Swag Book Club) likes the fact that it’s based on fact and said that
Kent skilfully explores another side of the story, suggesting that nothing is ever as black and white as it seems.
Amanda McInerney commented that it’s “beautifully written and exactingly researched”.
Courtney Collins is another debut novelist who has had astonishing success. Her novel, The Burial, is, like Kent’s novel, based on a real woman who is also a criminal. In Collins’ case, it’s the bushranger Jessie Hickman. The Burial was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and it has already been optioned for a feature film. Author Annabel Smith loved it, for its “startling” point of view and “visceral” writing.
I reckon many of us are looking forward to these authors’ second novels. No pressure, though!
July’s non-fiction offerings
I’m embarrassed to say that the two reviews of non-fiction works this month were by me. I’ll keep it brief, but I do want to highlight one of them, Dymphna Cusack‘s A window in the dark. Dymphna Cusack, who wrote many novels including Come in spinner and Caddie, worked for two decades or so as a teacher. This book chronicles that part of her life. Cusack is scathing about the lack of relevance of the curriculum she was supposed to teach, about the exam-based pedagogy, and about the treatment of women teachers. While some things have moved on, this is still well worth reading, as I wrote in my post:
It works as social history and a history of education. It provides insight into the development of her political philosophy and social values. It shows off her skills as a writer, particularly her ability to evoke people and place. And, for all its seriousness, it contains many entertaining anecdotes.
NOTE: 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.