Over February and March there were close to forty reviews of books by authors who have a diverse background, or who feature such characters in their works, which is simply stellar!
Many of the reviews were of recently released novels. P.M. Newton’s Falling Beams, the sequel to The Old School, led the charge, with her protagonist Detective Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly keeping six readers glued to their books. Nhu is an Australian, of Irish and Vietnamese heritage. Angela Savage notes how Newton, ‘gently in the course of the story with evocative images and without preaching’ explores trauma, both Nhu’s and that of the Vietnamese who migrated to Australia. Yvonne penned a review at GoodReads, detailing ‘the difficult moral tightrope the police are working on at the time’, the destructiveness of war (particularly the Vietnam war, felt particularly in Cabramatta), the ‘dark recesses of post traumatic stress disorder and the insidious tentacles of police corruption’. This book, she continues, is ‘grimy’ and not for bedtime reading. Now I am kind of desperate for all my writing deadlines to be done so I can sit down (in daylight) with a copy of the book. For the other reviews of this work, you can check out our AWW Review Crime Listings page.
Katherine Howell’s Deserving Death kept four people awake at night, including Bernadette at Fair Dinkum Crime, who also mentioned Howell in her a post on Sleuthing and Sexuality for our spotlight on lesbian/queer women writers last month. Bernadette found that the story delivered more than a great plot, being ‘particularly struck by variety of topical human relationship issues the book explored. We see, for example, the complex mix of emotions experienced by Carly and her girlfriend, one of whom is fearful of her family’s reaction to the news she is gay while the other tries to cope with the fact that her part in her girlfriend’s life is a secret.’ Brenda at GoodReads loved the fast pace and action, but lamented that ‘I’ll have to wait another 12 months for the next episode of Detective Ella Marconi and her paramedic friends’. We recommend more doses of Aussie women’s crime fiction in the interim!
If you’re interested, AWW contributing editor Marisa also interviewed Howell about her writing and lesbian characters.
Three people made themselves comfy on a couch with Indigenous author Anita Heiss’ new novel, Tiddas, about five tiddas (an Indigenous word meaning friends who are as close as sisters) in Brisbane on the cusp of 40. Lisa Walker writes that ‘On one level this is a study of issues relevant to all woman of this age — sex, fertility, career and relationships. But the book also gives an insight, through the tiddas, into Aboriginal culture and politics.’ Bree of All the Books I Can Read loved the format of exploring issues through friends, and thought it ‘a great way to get an issue out there to a reader because it really lessens the feeling of being preached to’. Shelleyrae of Book’d Out by contrast found ‘Heiss’s socio-political agenda’ a little overwhelming,but still ‘enjoyed spending time with the Tiddas, just as I do with my own friends.’
There were also 2 reviews of Indigenous author Ambelin Kwaymullina’s speculative fiction novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf. Jason of Vampires in the Sunburnt Country described it as ‘a story of community, of mutual care and understanding, as well as a plea to respect the planet and the beliefs that have formed it.’ Stephanie of GoodReads also liked the book and found Ashala a ‘fascinating character’, but would have liked more worldbuilding and backstory.
Mullumbimby, by Indigenous author Melissa Lucashenko, gave poet Katie Keys ‘hope for the quiet revolution, the one that I have to believe is still ticking along beneath all the noise of Federal politics and policy backpedalling: a piecemeal reconciliation after a shared national shame as we all start working the way back to ourselves.’ The novel also compelled Sue of Discombobula to think about her own emotions about and connections to Australia.
There was also a plethora of reviews of other interesting works, such Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (reviewed by Annette for the Newtown Review of Books, who opens with ‘What a ride!’), Love Like Water by Meme McDonald (reviewed by Marilyn of Me, You and Books, who describes it as ‘a wise and sensitive story about young people searching for their places in the world and falling in love, a love complicated by their racial difference), and Ina’s Story (a memoir by Catherine Titasey about Torres Strait Islander Ina Mills, reviewed by Marion of Historians are Past Caring).
Meanwhile, Margaret Merrilees’ The First Week was reviewed by Sue of Whispering Gums, who also meditated on the politics of white authors writing on Indigenous subjects.
Unfortunately I haven’t the space to include every review of the books that have showcased diversity over the past two months, but it’s great to see our readers responding so intelligently to them. Keep up the wonderful work!
I’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis. I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012). I’m currently writing a book of creative non-fiction on Queensland novelist Rosa Praed and her deaf daughter Maud. You can find more information about me at my website. I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.