Goodness me! You have all been reading and reviewing A LOT of diverse books recently! For the month of April we’ve had 41 reviews added to the Australian Women Writers Challenge database which have been tagged with “Diversity”!

And because we all love a good-story statistic in these dark times, I’m pleased to tell you that’s a 41% increase on last month (which was a 21% increase on the month before that).

In this diversity round up post I’m highlighting just a few of the 25 books that have been reviewed by our lovely reviewers. To find more books by Australian women writers from diverse backgrounds, or featuring diverse themes, type “Diversity” into the keyword search on our Books reviewed page (you can sort the mega-list by genre or year of publication to narrow your search a little).

Remember you can join in the Australian Women Writers Challenge at any time – Sign up here.

“Phenomenal read”: The Paris Secret, by Natasha Lester

Book coverNatasha Lester’s new historical novel has been very popular with our reviewers – 5 reviews were linked this month! I own every historical fiction book Natasha has ever written and I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of her new book in the post. It sounds like a cracker.

A wardrobe of Dior gowns, a secret kept for sixty-five years, and three women bound forever by war…

The Paris Secret takes us from 1939 England to 1947 Paris and right up to present-day Australia to unravel a mystery.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith calls it “a beautifully detailed historical novel, blending fact and fiction into an unforgettable story about love and sacrifice.”

Brenda Telford, a self-confessed fan of everything Natasha has ever written, gives it 5 stars: “What a phenomenal read!!! Outstanding, heartfelt and breathtaking, The Paris Secret might just be Aussie author Natasha Lester’s best yet!”

Be prepared to be moved and set aside a good chunk of time. Helen Sibbritt describes it as “a story I could barely put down” and says: “I have just finished this book and wow, I am feeling so many emotions at the moment and I am not sure where to start…”

Ashleigh Meikle from The Book Muse said it left her with “a huge smile” on her face. She also highlights what I, personally, have loved about all of Natasha’s books:

Natasha Lester does something amazing with her books – she puts female history front and centre – and makes this the focus of her book, and leads us gently, and delicately into the romance at the end…

And only Natasha Lester could manage to weave a tale that connects the plight of female pilots in WWII with a collection of Dior gowns! She wrote a guest post for one of our reviewers, Theresa Smith Writes, where you can find out more: The Amazing Women Who Ruled the Skies in The Paris Secret.

“Gripping. Tense. Mysterious.” – Inheritance of Secrets, by Sonya Bates

Part historical fiction, part murder mystery: Juliet was raised by her grandmother and grandfather, a German solider who emigrated to Adelaide to build a new life. When they’re murdered in their own home, she discovers that all was not as it had seemed.

This tense and compelling dual timeline narrative moves between the present and the postwar period and Nadia L. King has a warning for you: “I. Could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down.”

Ashleigh Meikle from The Book Muse was struck by the contrast between hidden and known history:

This novel is about the grey areas of morals and ethics – where the choices one makes might not be what we want or might be forced on us.

Hidden treasure: The Lost Jewels, by Kirsty Manning

The Lost Jewels by Kirsty ManningIt’s all about diverse historical fiction this month, with 3 reviews of Kirsty Manning’s new release, The Lost Jewels. The story is inspired by the true mystery of the ‘Cheapside Hoard’, a large cache of expensive jewellery unearthed during construction in a London street in 1912. The narrative wanders through America, England, India and France in the present day, the early 1900s and two separate points in the 1600s.

Brenda Telford gave it 5 stars:

The Lost Jewels is the author’s best yet. I was immersed in Essie’s story; the heartbreak, poverty and despair came across the pages perfectly. An excellent historical read which I highly recommend.

Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out found it “a pleasantly engaging read, of family, secrets, love, loss, and new beginnings.”

Ashleigh Meikle from The Book Muse recommends it to “people who enjoy historical fiction and who have read Kirsty’s previous books… a great book, filled with mystery, intrigue and drama…”

More reviews of books featuring diversity

Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi RiwoeFor Aussie gold rush historical fiction, Theresa Smith Writes recommends Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe. Telling the story of siblings Ying and Lai Yue who flee their home in China to seek their fortunes in Australia, she calls it a “remarkable novel… full of unforgettable characters and deals with timeless questions of identity and belonging.”

For 5-star contemporary YA dealing with neurodivergence, Emily from A Keyboard and an Open Mind suggests you try Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal, by Anna Whateley: “I kind of want to hug it. It feels like such an honest, authentic depiction of the neurodivergent experience.”

Cass Moriarty reviewed debut contemporary novel, The Loudness of Unsaid Things, by Hilde Hinton. Set largely in a psychiatric institution – a ‘place for the damaged, the outliers, the not-quite-rights’ – and told through the eyes of a 7-year-old girl, Moriarty calls it: a “meandering tale of loneliness, isolation and connection” with prose that is “simple, evocative of the time, and impossibly sad.” There are, however, slivers of hope that let the light in.

Reading for diversity

I hope you’ll consider adding one or more of these books to your reading list. If there’s nothing here which piques your interest, 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.

Finding it hard to find books during the coronavirus outbreak? If your local library and local bookshop have closed, I can recommend trying out reading ebooks on your phone, tablet or ipad. Most online bookstores are also still open for business and many libraries are increasing the catalogue of ebooks they have available.

About me

Rebecca BowyerI’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, is out now.