And so our challenge comes to the end of its second year. I have enjoyed my involvement this year and would like to thank the AWW Team Members for their support and, of course, all you reviewers who have supported the challenge so well this year. The women writers of Australia thank you, I’m sure.

As you know, the Literary and Classic category is a slippery one, there being no tried-and-true definitions for either. Consequently, the AWW Challenge has relied mostly on each reviewer’s decision regarding categorisation. I have tweaked this occasionally, such as where most reviewers have categorised a book as Literary but one or two haven’t. As “Literary” is a sub-category, some reviewers I suspect forget to apply it. Given all this, by my reckoning, nearly 400 reviews were posted in this category in 2013.

Most reviewed Literary/Classic books in 2013

Hannah Kent, Burial RitesThose of you who have been reading my monthly round-ups will not be surprised to read that Hannah Kent’s debut novel, Burial Rites, was the most reviewed book for the year. I expect it will appear in some of the 2014 literary awards shortlists, but time will tell! My predictions aren’t always correct.

Here are the most reviewed books:

  • Hannah Kent, Burial Rites (21)
  • Kate Forsyth, The Wild Girl (11)
  • Ashley Hay, The Railwayman’s Wife (11)
  • Poppy Gee, Bay of Fires (9)
  • Michelle de Kretser, Questions of travel; ML Stedman, The Light Between Oceans; and Carrie Tiffany, Mateship with Birds (8 each)

What is exciting about this list is its diversity. These are Australian writers but their settings range from 19th century Iceland to post World War 2 Thirroul, from 19th century Germany to post World War 1 Western Australia. Interestingly only two of these most reviewed books – de Kretser’s and Gee’s – are set in contemporary times. Also interesting is the fact that three of them (Kent’s, Gee’s and Stedman’s) are debut novels, which augurs well for the future, don’t you think?

Most reviewed Literary/Classic authors in 2013

whisky-charlie-foxtrotNot surprisingly, the authors most reviewed closely equates with the books most reviewed, but not completely. This is encouraging  because it suggests that people are also reading backlists. Other authors well reviewed, in addition to those listed above were:

  • Annabel Smith (9) for Whisky Charlie Foxtrot and A New Map of the Universe (9)
  • Toni Jordan (8) for Addition and Nine Days

Also, Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens was reviewed twice, in addition to her 11 reviews for The Wild Girl.

Most reviewed Classics

my-brilliant-careerSome 30 reviews were posted in the Classic category over the year which seems a little low. I had hoped that the push given to Australian classics by publishers such as Text Publishing might have resulted in a higher number. It is nonetheless good to see older books being read, albeit mostly the tried and true. I’d love to see more reviews for some of the lesser known books and authors. We hope to promote this with a couple of special posts during the year.

For 2013, however, the most reviewed classics were Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (6), and Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career and Ruth Park’s Harp in the South, each with four reviews. The most reviewed authors of classics were Miles Franklin and Ruth Park again, and Henry Handel Richardson, with five reviews each.

Other observations

Jacobson, The sunlit zoneBecause “Literary” is a subcategory, many of the works so categorised are also covered by other round-ups, so I’m just going to make a few additional random comments. The first concerns verse novels. Three were reviewed this year. This is a form that scares some people but, if you haven’t tried one, you may be surprised. Susan Hawthorne’s Limen, Lisa Jacobson’s The sunlit zone (which was shortlisted for some awards this year) and Lesley Lebkowicz’s Petrov Poems are good places to start.

Short stories – singly and in collections – featured well, with Cate Kennedy, one of Autralia’s best-regarded contemporary short story writers, topping the list of reviewed short story writers. Her collection, Like a House on Fire, which was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and won the Steele Rudd prize at the Queensland Literary Awards, received 5 reviews by challenge participants.

mullumbimbyFinally, several indigenous authors were read and reviewed, with Larissa Behrendt, Dylan Coleman, Rachel Hennessy, Jeanine Leane, Melissa Lucashenko, and Alexis Wright each receiving at least two reviews. Melissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby was, in fact, reviewed four times. More, I believe, were reviewed elsewhere in the challenge, as I expect we’ll see in a Diversity round-up.

Aims for 2014

We don’t need to have specific aims, really, beyond reading and reviewing more Aussie women writers, but it’s always pleasing to see growth, particularly when the cause is worthy! And so, for my own enjoyment if no-one else’s, I’d love to see more reviews for:

  • classic novels by Aussie women, particularly from the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries
  • writing (of all kinds) by indigenous women writers

Increases in these two areas will help us promote just how broad and deep Aussie literary culture is.

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 in childhood with Banjo Paterson’s ballads and Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians. 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.