Woo hoo, we are now officially two-thirds through winter. I don’t know about you, but after such a horrible year, I really hope summer will bring us some joy, which means warm days and not fires. What do you reckon? However we still have some winter to get through, and we have some lovey awards news and books to read about so on with the show …
Actually July was sort of jumping, because we had 45 reviews posted, versus 36 in July 2019 and 41 last month. It’s always nice to see an increase. Here are the highlights:
- Our most reviewed authors this month each had three reviews: debut novelist Pip Williams for The dictionary of lost words, and established authors, Tara June Winch for The yield and Charlotte Wood for The natural Way of things and The weekend.
- Our most reviewed books were Pip Williams’ The dictionary of lost words and Tara June Winch’s The yield.
- Our top reviewers were both GoodReads reviewers: Georgia Rose with 13 reviews, and regular here, Cass Moriarty with 6.
- Ten reviews this month – or 25% – were for books by Indigenous Australian women writers.
After no classics posted in June, we had one posted this month, albeit a controversial one. I say controversial not for its classic status, but is it Australian? The book is Elizabeth and her German garden, and the author Elizabeth von Arnim. Reviewer Kim Forrester (Reading Matters) recognised that von Arnim is questionable, saying that she’d added the book to the challenge “on the basis that von Arnim could be claimed as an Australian writer”. Here’s the thing. As Wikipedia describes it, she was “an Australian-born British novelist”. Her family left Australia when she was 3 years old, and she lived the rest of her life in England, Europe and the USA. However, you know, she’s a great writer and we love to claim anyone who might possibly have an Australian connection, so I’m happy to include her. Also, Australian writer Gabrielle Carey has a biography of her due out this year.
So, let’s just let her slip in here, eh? Having read several of her books, I highly recommend her, but for a thorough review of this particular book do read Kim’s review. She describes it well, when she says:
Written in diary format (although the entries are often months apart), employing a gently mocking tone throughout — her husband, for instance, is only known as “the Man of Wrath” — it is a delightful excursion to another world, where what women could (or could not) do was strictly controlled by societal norms.
Von Arnim, by the way, moved amongst many of Europe’s literati, and was cousin of New Zealand’s Katherine Mansfield.
And now, given I’m walking on the wild-side here, I’m going to include a book that’s not quite a classic, Helen Demidenko’s controversial 1994 Miles Franklin award-winning novel, The hand that signed the paper. Bill (The Australian Legend) reviewed it in July, and focuses on the controversy for those who don’t know it. He explores some of the issues it raises about how we perceive fiction, whether we should or should not separate the author (or creator) from their work, and what we understand by authenticity when it comes to fiction.
Indigenous Australian writers
Given July is usually NAIDOC week (although it has been postponed this year to November because of COVID-19), I’ll list the reviews of books by Indigenous Australian writers posted this month. They include non-fiction, novels, poetry collections and a play:
- Larissa Behrendt’s Finding Eliza (reviewed by Georgia Rose)
- Anita Heiss’s Growing up Aboriginal in Australia (reviewed by Bill Holloway)
- Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip (reviewed by Jennifer Cameron-Smith, Kai Napier)
- Nakkaih Lui’s Black is the new white (reviewed by Kali Napier)
- Ellen van Neerven’s Comfort food (reviewed by Jonathan Shaw)
- Ellen van Neerven’s Throat (reviewed by Jonathan Shaw)
- Tara June Winch’s The yield (reviewed by Mrs B’s Book Reviews, Cass Moriarty, Georgia Rose)
Check out these reviews – there’s some good reading and good recommendations here. For example, Jennifer Cameron-Smith says of last year’s Miles Franklin award-winner, Too much lip:
These pages are peopled with complex humans: people trying to do the best they can with limited resources in circumstances that are often hostile. Difficult issues are addressed, with insight and compassion and humour.
Several awards announcements came through in July, including the big one, the Miles Franklin!
Miles Franklin Award
… and the winner is Tara June Winch’s The yield, which was reviewed three times this month, including by this month’s top reviewer, Georgia Rose, who commented on what the book made her feel and think:
I loved thinking about the gap between good intentions and good outcomes as I read Reverend Greenleaf’s letter about Mission life.
August’s storyline was a gorgeous exploration of what it means to come home and belong somewhere.
National Biography Prize
The shortlist for the National Biography Prize was announced, with 4 of the 6 being by women:
- Chloe Higgins’ The girls, a memoir of family, grief and sexuality
- Jacqueline Kent’s Beyond words, a year with Kenneth Cook
- Amra Pajalic’s Things nobody knows but me
- Jessica White’s Hearing Maud
All have been reviewed for the challenge, but none this month.
Queensland Literary Awards
The Queensland Literary Awards also announced their shortlists. They have a swag of categories, so I’m focusing here on those most relevant to my Literary corner. All, except those by the emerging writers have been reviewed for the challenge, though few this month.
Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance (3 of 4, by women)
- Melanie Myers’ Meet me at Lennon’s
- Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone sky gold mountain
- Jessica White’s Hearing Maud
The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award (3 of 5, by women)
- Anna Krien’s Act of grace
- Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone sky gold mountain
- Tara June Winch’s The yield
The University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award (3 of 5, by women)
- Helen Innes’ Olive Cotton: A life in photography
- Brenda Niall’s Friends and rivals
- Cassandra Pybus’ Truganini
University of Southern Queensland Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection (4 of 5, by women)
- Alice Bishop’s A constant hum
- Joey Bui’s Lucky Ttcket
- Yumna Kassab’s The house of Youssef
- Josephine Rowe’s Here until August
David Unaipon Award for an Emerging Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Writer (3 or 4, by women)
- Jazz Money’s The space between the paperbark (poetry)
- Mykaela Saunders’ Last rites of spring (novel)
- Melanie Saward’s Burn (novel)
Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards
And the winners of the Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards were announced, but most of the categories aren’t particularly relevant here. However, one winner is, and that’s Amanda Curtin who won the Western Australian Writer’s Fellowship from a shortlist of 5. Congratulations Amanda!
Four of Curtin’s books have been reviewed for the challenge over the years.
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, which is why I am here today doing this round-up! 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 been included a good percentage of Australian (and other) women writers in my reading di
Thanks for the double mention, Sue. That a very interesting bunch of books!
Thanks for the double reviews Jonathan! It is an interesting bunch isn’t it.
Your round-up made me realise that my Aust fiction reading this year has been mostly male writers (Arnott, Birch, Boyd), although my non-fiction and children’s books have been predominantly female.
I’ll be able to contribute next month though, as my book club will be reading Pip Williams book for August.