Can you believe that it is November – meaning another Challenge year is almost done? We still, though, have a few awards to report on – and well as all your reviews that keep coming in. The award announcements are the winners of the Queensland Literary Awards and the shortlist for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. I’ll report on those below. Meanwhile, on with my report of our reviews.

Oh, October

Liane Moriarty, Nine perfect strangersOctober’s figures, at 41 reviews, are similar to last month’s 42, meaning we continue to track well. Here are some highlights:

  • Our most reviewed authors were Liane Moriarty and Karen Foxlee with four reviews for their novels Nine perfect strangers, and Lenny’s book of everything.
  • Our top reviewers were Amanda (Mrs B’s Book Reviews) and Ashleigh Meikle (The Book Muse) with four reviews each.
  • Ten or nearly 25% of this month’s reviews were for books published by Allen & Unwin.

The Classics

We only have one classic this month – and it’s not really a book! It’s a course in writing novels created by the wonderful Australian author Christina Stead! It was written up in a post by Bill of The Australian Legend. He found out about this course from an essay by Susan Lever. He writes that:

Stead’s course consisted of 12 classes with headings as you’d expect: Choice of Subject; Making a Start; Kinds of Novels; Characters; Composition …. Unfortunately her notes for the tenth class, Novel of Social Criticism, Political Novel… are missing.

Christina Stead, Seven poor men of SydneyWhat a shame those notes are missing!

Christina Stead is one of our most significant writers. Several of her books – including For love alone, The man who loved children, Seven poor men of Sydney – have been reviewed for the challenge, but we could always have more! Hint!

Meanwhile, if you are interested in joining a special Australian classics project, Bill’s AWW Gen 2 Week would be a great option. Running from Jan 13 to 19, 2019, it will concentrate on women’s writing from the 1890s up to and including the Great War. Click on the link to see some of BIll’s suggestions.

Allen & Unwin

According to Wikipedia, Allen & Unwin is an Australian independent publishing company, that was established in 1976 as a subsidiary of the British firm George Allen & Unwin Ltd. In 1990, it separated from the parent firm through a management buyout. These days, Allen & Unwin publishes around 250 titles a year, across a wide range of forms and genres, including Australian literary fiction and classics. They have regularly won the Australian Publisher of the Year Award. They are also a contributor to The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for unpublished manuscripts by writers under the age of 35.

Sofie Laguna, The eye of the sheepOf particular interest to us is the work of Jane Palfreyman who joined the company in 2007. She is responsible for literary fiction, including Miles Franklin Award winners Questions of travel by Michelle de Kretser and The eye of the sheep by Sofie Laguna, and Charlotte Wood’s Stella Prize winner The natural way of things. In fact, over the years, A&U’s books have won many of Australia’s significant literary awards.

The books published by A&U and reviewed for this month’s round-up are Sarah Bailey’s The dark lake, Karen Foxlee’s Lenny’s book of everything, Kate Morton’s The clockmaker’s daughter, and this year’s Vogel winner, Emily O’Grady’s The yellow house.

Karen Foxlee, Lenny's book of everythingOne of the four reviewers of Foxlee’s Lenny’s book of everything is new one to me, Rebecca (Seeing the Lighter Side). She enjoyed the book, starting her review with:

Lenny’s book of everything, by Karen Foxlee, is one of those books you press into your friends’ hands and quietly insist, “Read this.” It’s incredible, uplifting, warmly funny and devastating in equal parts. I loved every character (except the lecherous Mr King).

Kate Morton. The clockmaker's daughterKate Morton has had several novels published by A&U, with The clockmaker’s daughter being her latest. Amanda (Mrs B’s Book Reviews) is a fan, and loved this book in particular:

The Clockmaker’s Daughter demonstrates Kate Morton’s willingness as an author to expand her repertoire and take a risk. This is a visionary novel, which sees Kate Morton move away from her dual time frame, past to present style narratives, to something much more grandiose…
Emily O'Grady, The yellow house

Emily O’Grady’s dark book, The yellow house, is, by contrast, not what you’d call uplifting, but Cass Moriarty (GoodReads) liked it, starting her review with a clear explanation of why it is “literary”:

Emily O’Grady was awarded the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for her debut novel The Yellow House. The story is classified as ‘literary’ because of the emphasis on the development of the characters, and the use of beautiful, descriptive language, but it is also a story that is easy to read and accessible, all the more remarkable because it is narrated by ten-year-old Cub.

She found the book “compelling”, and liked that it  encourages us “to examine our own moral compass” on such issues as loyalty and the ties of blood when people do terrible things.

Awards News

Two awards had announcements in October:

Barbara Jefferis Award

The shortlist for the Barbara Jefferis Award was announced in early October. This is a biennial award for “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society”. The novelist does not have to be female – the award is about the subject not the author – but mostly the authors are, and so it is with this year’s shortlist:

  • Libby Angel’s The trapeze act
  • Madelaine Dickie’s Troppo
  • Catherine McKinnon’s Storyland
  • Jane Rawson’s From the wreck
  • Holly Throsby’s Goodwood

Storyland Catherine McKinnonAll of these have been reviewed for the challenge – woo hoo – but just one this month, Catherine McKinnon’s Storyland. Calzean describes the plot which has an arching structure for 5 different stories, but she doesn’t feel it works completely:

The stories are linked by the area, birds, Aboriginal history, relationships. Four are based on real events. One is speculative fiction.

It’s a creative book, each character has their own voice. Did it work? In patches.

Queensland Literary Awards

Jackie Ryan, We'll show the world Expo 88The winners of the Queensland Literary Awards were announced in late October. Here are those most relevant to this corner of the challenge:

  • Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance: Jackie Ryan’s We’ll show the world Expo 88
  • Young Publishers and Writers Award: Bri Lee’s Eggshell skull and Anna Jacobson, whose debut poetry collection will be published by UQP in 2019.
  • Glendower Award for an Emerging Queensland Writer: Melanie Myers for her manuscript Garrison Town. 
  • David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer: Kirstie Parker for her manuscript The making of Ruby Champion
  • University of Southern Queensland Short Story Collection-Steele Rudd Award: Jennifer Down’s Pulse points (Text Publishing)
  • University of Southern Queensland History Book Award: Jackie Ryan’s Expo 88: We’ll show the world (UQP)
  • University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award: Alexis Wright’s Tracker (Giramondo)

Some of these are, as yet, unpublished – but Jackie Ryan’s We’ll show the world Expo 88, Bri Lee’s Eggshell, Jennifer Down’s Pulse points and Alexis Wright’s Tracker have all been reviewed for the challenge.

And so ends another round-up. Do any of this month’s books tempt you? If so, or even if not, we’d love you tell us in the comments.


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. 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 fell in love with Elizabeth Jolley, Thea Astley, Olga Masters, Helen Garner and Kate Grenville. Ever since then I have included a good percentage of Australian (and other) women writers in my reading diet.