Already this year twenty-eight Australian women writers of histories, biographies and memoirs have had their work reviewed for the Challenge. This is the work of passionate readers of these genres. Half of the people who have committed to review at least one book that is a history, biography or memoir have already done so. This augurs well for this section of the Challenge this year.
If you have not already done so, read the review of Beyond Chernobyl: Women Respond written for the Challenge by author, Isolde Martyn. This review introduces a book about a well-known topic but written using the voices of a population who tends to be overlooked in the reporting of this environmental catastrophe. Martyn, describes this book as “an important contribution to women’s history”.
The literary legacy of the author Hazel Rowley has been reviewed by Peter Corris. Rowley wrote books about two famous partnerships; that of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Beauvoir, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Read more on the Newtown Review of Books.
The memoir of influential movie producer, Sue Milliken, has been reviewed by Sue on Whispering Gums. Milliken has produced some well-known Australian films so Selective Memory: A life in film should be of interest to many Challenge readers. In her review Sue mentions the Australian comedian who wasn’t that funny and other anecdotes. She concludes, “this is a good read, not just for those interested in Australian film history but for anyone interested how films are made, particularly from a producer’s point of view”.
The beginning of the year is a good chance to review books reviewed in previous years. Challenge reviewer, Mindy, has taken this to a new level by committing to review all the books on the Stella Prize long list for 2013 that she has not already read. Over the last month she has reviewed The Mind of a Thief by Patti Miller and People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny.
As many of the reviewers in this section of the Challenge are on Twitter, I have created a Twitter list of those who have signed up this year. I encourage you to reach out to other reviewers in the Challenge who have similar interests to yours. The #OzHst hashtag on Twitter is also a good source for news and discussion about Australian history. The #familyhistory and #genealogy hashtags may also be of interest to you.
Later this week we have something special for everyone who is interested in history. Stella Prize shortlisted author, Clare Wright will be interviewed for the Challenge. Wright is an historian who also writes and presents history for television. We look forward to sharing with you Wright’s thoughts on the portrayal of women in history, writing and her experiences as a female author. Her history of women and the Eureka Stockade, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka has been reviewed for the Challenge by Janine Rizzetti and myself.
Next month Australia and New Zealand will be commemorating Anzac Day. If you want to review a war history, biography or memoir by an Australian woman author take a look at our list of histories of war on Goodreads.
There are more reviews than can be mentioned in these roundups. Have a look at our list of the reviews of histories, biographies and memoirs entered in the Challenge this year.
I’m Yvonne Perkins. Currently I am researching the beliefs, religious or otherwise, of soldiers who served in World War I. In my spare time I enjoy reading history and writing about it on my blog, Stumbling Through the Past. I can also be found @perkinsy on twitter.
Great write up as usual, Yvonne. I enjoy this category of the challenge – not only reading myself, but seeing what others read, as reviewing this sort of material offers quite a different challenge for reviewers doesn’t it?
And I enjoy your comments too Sue!
It is quite a challenge to both write and review non-fiction. The genre by definition asserts that it offers ‘the truth’ which means that authors must research their topic thoroughly. Then an author needs to present this research in a different way to other authors otherwise there is no point in writing a book. This involves some form of analysis, but also creativity in the presentation of the material and the writing style used. Nailing the three; research, analysis and writing, is a tough task.
Reviewers need to understand all this. A book may have exhibit the signs of great research and interesting analysis yet be a chore to read. I tend to give these kind of books a pass when reviewing for a general audience. Yet to be fair, the topic may be demanding in itself and may not be able to be covered in the light manner many readers would prefer. A reader of nonfiction is a partner in the book. Sometimes the topic demands that both the author and the reader work hard to understand the topic. Yet on other occasions it is possible to present a difficult topic in an engaging manner. I tend to look at the preface and judge the books in terms of the goal that the author has set for themselves in writing the book.
My first review for the Challenge this year was fiction. It was much easier to review, though I hasten to add that I don’t specialise in fiction so it may be just my lack of experience with those types of genres which made me think it was easy. Ignorance etc etc.
LOL, Yvonne … I wouldn’t agree that fiction is easier to review. I usually spend significantly longer on my fiction reviews than my non-fiction ones. I’m not sure why that is, but I think it’s the very fact that it is fictional, it is imaginative, adds an additional very slippery layer to do with discerning what it is all about. Why did Mantel write Bring up the bodies? What are the clues to my discovering that? And then how valid do I think that is, and how well has she achieved it which can involve looking at style, structure, language, characterisation, tone, imagery … I love it, but am ALWAYS anxious that I will do the writer a disservice, that I will miss their point altogether!
Non-fiction sure has its challenges too … But overall I find it easier because the writer has usually at least told me what their goal or attention is. I have a starting point! Hmmm … Perhaps we are both talking about fools rushing in! Not that I think you are a fool of course!!