And so we start the third year of our challenge, and the second year of this blog. Welcome back to all our loyal readers and contributors – and, if this is your first time visiting our blog, welcome to you too. We hope you enjoy what we have to offer and decide to join in.

How are we tracking?

Here at the challenge we like to think we are making a difference, that is, that more people are reading and reviewing Australian women’s writing. Team member Yvonne recently published an analysis of last year’s reviews which showed that our overall number of reviews increased 20% on the previous year. Let’s hope we can continue that this year.

The Literary and Classic area started off pretty well with 23 reviews posted. This is four less than were posted in January last year, but it’s early days eh? Last year I did a little stats roundup each month, but I don’t plan to do it the same way this year. I will though choose a “fact” or two to highlight. This month’s are:

  • Amanda Curtin (3) and Kirsten Krauth (2) were the most reviewed authors in January.
  • UWA (University of Western Australia) Publishing was the most reviewed publisher, which is not surprising as they published Curtin and Krauth.

Congratulations to UWA, Amanda and Kirsten!

The Classics

Elizabeth Harrower's The Watch Tower

I always like to highlight the classics that are reviewed for the challenge because, while we want to read and support contemporary writers, it’s also important to know our literary tradition. Two classics were reviewed this month, Elizabeth Harrower’s chilling novel, The Watch Tower, and the third novel in Henry Handel Richardson’s Richard Mahoney trilogy, Ultima Thule.

Jane Rawson wrote a brief but heartfelt review of The Watch Tower on Goodreads:

Painful and disturbing, and not just because Felix reminded me of someone I know. In no way fun to read, but very accurately told. Read it if you want to be grateful for how much easier it has gotten for women to extricate themselves from abusive marriages, and to understand why it’s still so hard.
Our loyal American reviewer, Marilyn, introduced her review of Ultima Thule with:
The first two volumes of the trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, were enjoyable and beautifully written, but I was still amazed at the power and drama of the final book of the trilogy.
That’s a pretty powerful recommendation, and one that I feel I should heed. How about you?

Amanda Curtin and Kirsten Krauth

ElementalCurtinThe three reviews of Amanda Curtin’s books encompassed two of her novels, The sinkings (1) and Elemental (2). One of her reviewers, Angela Savage, wrote of Elemental that it is ultimately:

a book to savour and reflect on. Curtin poses big questions about remembering and the repression of memory, about fear, courage, love and forgiveness. These themes and the characters who bring them to life will stay with me for a long time to come.

Amanda is not only one of “our” authors, but she also reviews for the challenge. As I’ve said before, I love that our authors are here supporting each other.

Kirsten Krauth’s debut novel just-a-girl was reviewed twice. Published last year, it was reviewed 6 times for us then, and has clearly started off well this year. A coming-of-age novel about a 14-year-old girl, it confronts teenage sexuality in the digital age. It’s a book that has got people talking. Reviewer Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) says that

This book will stay in my mind for all that it says about growing up negotiating the digital world.

It made her think about “digital identities”. She believes that they will not be as big a problem in the future as conservatives are forecasting because everyone will have on-line accounts. This is surely the joy of fiction, the way it can stimulate us to think about our values, our lives, our ideas.

The poets …

Regular readers of this round-up know that we don’t only cover novels in this category, but any works that reviewers classify as “literary”. This means we include poetry, short stories and non-fiction. This month three poetry collections, two short story collections, and one memoir were reviewed. The three poetry reviews came from two of our male reviewers, Jonathan Shaw and Sean the Bookonaut.

Jonathan reviewed Jordie Albiston’s XIII poems. He divides the poems into “public” ones,  those dealing with public events or issues like Gallipoli or the Kinglake fire, and the “intensely private”, such as three love sonnets. On the writing, he says:

The poems are also wonderfully varied formally. Some of them rhyme, and Albiston’s way with rhyme, both at line ends and internally, is truly wondrous. So is her extraordinary way of playing poetic form off against speech rhythms.

Ghostly SubjectsSean reviewed Sarah Holland-Batt’s Aria and Maria Takolander’s Ghostly subjects. As I have a book of short stories by Takolander in my TBR pile, I’ve decided to report on Sean’s review of Ghostly subjects. He found it a challenging collection, which is not necessarily a surprise with poetry. He found some sections – the poems are grouped under headings – easier to comprehend than others, and concludes:

I liked the collection.  I wasn’t blown away, but I suspect that the deficiency is mine.  If you have the time to sit and give individual poems attention it would be well worth it.  And that’s perhaps the pleasure of poetry, revelations that can be nutted out over multiple readings.

I like his honesty – and I totally agree. That is the pleasure (and sometimes the frustration) of poetry.

These are only a few of the works reviewed for the challenge this month. If you want to see the lot, perhaps look for something to read, check out full list here.


About Me

I am Whispering Gums and I read, review and blog about (mostly) literary fiction. It was reading Jane Austen when I was 14 years old that turned me on to reading 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 been making sure to include a good percentage of Australian (and other) women writers in my reading diet.