2020 is off to a cracking start for reviews of books by diverse Australian women writers. We’ve had 12 reviews linked of 11 books, with a great variety in genre. I’ve noticed a few in here that are still on my ‘to be read’ pile (an ever-growing stack!) which I think I’ll try to shuffle further towards the top.
Fast-paced crime fiction: Darkness For Light
Darkness For Light is the third book in Emma Viskic‘s popular crime fiction series. Published by Echo Publishing in December 2019, it features the troubled PI Caleb Zelic, who is finally making some good decisions about his life. He’s in therapy, reconnecting with the Deaf community, and reconciling with his beloved wife. But his past is quickly catching up with him.
Brenda highly recommends it in her Goodreads review:
An electric pace with spine chilling twists and something I definitely hadn’t been expecting near the finish, Darkness for Light would have to be Viskic’s best work to date in my opinion.
Reviewer and author, Cass Moriarty, gave it 5 stars in her Goodreads review. She says it can be read as a standalone but highly recommends starting from the beginning of this series, with Resurrection Bay. I loved her discussion of how the series reframes ‘disability’:
One of the best aspects of this series is the way in which Viskic reframes Caleb’s disability – his world is one where ‘hearies’ are the abnormal, not the other way around. He is constantly having to remind people that he can’t hear them if their head is turned, or if they mumble, or if they have facial hair. He’s always contending with idiots who think his deafness affects his vision, or his mental capacity.
Intergalactic colonisation: The Old Lie
From the award-winning Indigenous writer, Claire G. Coleman, comes a new speculative fiction novel about the impacts of colonisation. I reviewed The Old Lie, by Claire G. Coleman, published in August 2019 by Hachette Australia, over at Story Addict. I highly recommend this one for anyone who enjoys action-packed (and fairly gory) futuristic space fiction:
In her award-winning first novel, Terra Nullius, Coleman proved herself a master at putting colonisers in the shoes of the colonised and giving them a taste of what it’s like to be invaded by a race who believe the existing inhabitants are inferior and expendable.
She has managed to do it again in The Old Lie, this time on an intergalactic scale.
Heart-breaking Ugandan YA: I Am Change
I Am Change, by Suzy Zail, is fiction but it’s based on true stories of the difficulties faced by girls fighting to get an education in Uganda to break themselves out of the poverty cycle. Shelley Carter calls it an “important young adult book” in her review at Underground Writers:
Don’t expect a happy ending in this book. Yes, it’s an amazing example of the power of feminism and speaking up for yourself, but the tragedies and abuse that Lillian (and other characters) must endure in order to simply be treated with the respect they deserve is bleak to read about. Go into this story knowing that it is going to be hard-hitting and spirit-breaking, but ultimately Lillian displays incredible strength and courage against the difficult odds she is faced with.
More reviews of books featuring diversity
Cass Moriarty reviewed the much-applauded There Was Still Love, by Favel Parrett. With a narrative split between time and place – Prague, Czechoslovakia and Australia; 1921 through to 1980 – Moriarty says it is a novel:
full of half-remembered incidents from the author’s own life, combined with fictional imaginings of the lives of her ancestors, braided together to create a whimsical meditation on love and loss, on the ties of family, on the sense of belonging and on the place we call Home.
I’m halfway through reading There Was Still Love (which I was given for Christmas, hurrah!) and am also loving it. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t given it rave reviews, so definitely one worth picking up.
Shelley Carter discussed the representation of mental health struggles by women in 18th century France in Kate Murdoch’s The Orange Grove in her review at Underground Writers. She sums up the book as “Think Mean Girls, but starring characters like Marie Antoinette.”
I’m also part way through reading my own signed copy of The Orange Grove (I was lucky enough to meet Kate Murdoch at an event late last year), so clearly this is destiny trying to tell me to hurry up and finish books rather than continually trying to read four at once.
Ashleigh Meikle reviewed the middle-grade novel, Dragonfly Song: “A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.” The story features a mute girl who is thought to be cursed but soon discovers she has other powers far greater than speech.
Reading for diversity
I hope you’ll consider adding one or more of these books to your reading list for 2020. If there’s nothing here which quite tickles your fancy, check out some of our recent Diversity round ups or have a look through the reading lists on our Reading for diversity page.
Keep the reviews coming! Remember to check the “Diversity” box when you link your review if the author is from a diverse background or your review touches on Indigenous issues, migrant heritage, LGBTQI/non-binary or disability experiences.
I’m Rebecca Bowyer, a storyteller, novelist and Diversity Editor here at the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I live in Melbourne, Australia with my husband and two young sons. When not at my day job or wrangling kids, I can be found writing my next novel, or writing about books, reading and writing over at Story Addict.
Maternal Instinct, my first dystopian fiction novel, was published in October 2019.