In times of uncertainty and ongoing isolation, we are all still turning to books for comfort. Winter has given way to Spring and I am filled with gratitude to all of you who are still reading and reviewing and contributing to our challenge. Historical fiction has had a surge of interest throughout August and September with 68 reviews on 42 books, indicating once again that several titles have enjoyed a wide readership. There’s also been a trend towards picking up older titles which is always lovely to see.

A look at what’s been read:

The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman – 8 reviews
Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham – 4 reviews
The Wreck by Meg Keneally – 3 reviews
The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat – 3 reviews
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams – 3 reviews
The Road to Ironbark by Kaye Dobbie – 2 reviews
The Mystery Woman by Belinda Alexandra – 2 reviews
Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson – 2 reviews

What to look out for:

The Mystery Woman by Belinda Alexandra reviewed by Theresa Smith Writes:
There are few mysteries woven into this story, intersecting at different points. The atmosphere is at times chilling, tense, and as the novel careened towards its conclusion, it spiralled into something quite horrific – much to my admiration. I do really love a chilling gothic tale. Themes of domestic violence and the abuse of power and male privilege are explored thoroughly within some thought-provoking contexts. The whaling sub-plot linked to the setting was also highly interesting. I have read quite extensively on whaling history in Australia and I felt that the author wove this topic neatly into her narrative without overwhelming the reader with too much history; nicely balanced.

Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham reviewed by Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf:
The story travels from London to New York where we see the American side of Partridge Publishing. Leo Bloom is sent from New York to the London office to check through their accounts with a view to selling the London office. I loved the nostalgic mentions of blocks of book shops and how important books were for people’s mental health and it was sad to learn about the demise of a lot of these shops. These things are still extremely relevant, especially this year when books are being used to entertain and distract as we are isolating.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville reviewed by Denise Newton Writes:
The title of Kate Grenville’s latest and much anticipated novel put me in mind of the famous work by Virginia Woolfe – A Room of One’s Own. The message in both titles includes, I believe, the necessity for all women to have a space (whether that be an actual room, a favourite place in nature, or a corner of their imagination) where they can dream, write, plan, think, or simply be. In this and in many other ways, while A Room Made of Leaves might be a work of historical fiction, its themes are as relevant to today as to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The Wreck by Meg Keneally reviewed by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out:
Set in the early 1800’s, The Wreck exposes what life was like for the women and men of the working class in London, left to starve when industrialisation made them redundant. Merging fact with fiction, Keneally places Sarah at the Peterloo Massacre, described at ‘the bloodiest political event of the 19th century in English soil’. The wreck of The Serpent also draws inspiration from a true event, the sinking of The Dunbar in the mid 1850’s, which still ranks as one of Australia’s worst maritime disasters with the loss of all but one of its 122 crew and passengers, a young Able Seaman thrown onto a cliff ledge. A well-written story of rebellion, betrayal, survival and courage, I enjoyed The Wreck.

The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman reviewed by Mrs B’s Book Reviews:
Victoria Purman presents her readers with a full and involving narrative. We see everything from post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by returned soldiers, to trade union difficulties, tensions experienced by the wharfies, the demise of marriages and family life due to strains of war, economic conditions, housing shortages, employment conditions, political movements and rationing influencing day to day living in post war Sydney. What I found illuminating was Purman’s focus on the female experience. From changed gender relations, employment opportunities, the heightened anxiety of lost loved ones, increased freedom in sexual relations and the challenges faced by women trying to retain roles and pay conditions they achieved during the war. Through the character of Tilly, we see how the media industry, journalism and reporting was forever changed by the effects of the war. These were incredibly hard times, which was very much evident as I made my way through The Women’s Pages.

Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson reviewed by Jennifer Cameron-smith:
Ms Simpson follows several stories, including those of Margaret, Celie, and Celie’s daughter Mili. This is a story of hardship, heartbreak, and hope. But there are secrets as well, imbalances of power which lead to anger and resentment. There is always an opportunist waiting to take advantage. And who speaks for the country? In this beautifully written story, with descriptions of land and the importance of connection, Ms Simpson explores what happens when connectedness is disrupted. This is achieved in part through ancestral spirits who try to guide members of the family. Stories are important, as is choice.

the dictionary of lost wordsThe Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams reviewed by Brona’s Books:
The Dictionary of Lost Words is a wonderful, rich historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I’m grateful that my book club gave me a good reason to finally pick this book up. My only quibble is that I failed to feel a deep emotional bond to any of the characters. I was completely absorbed by the story and the ideas, but I was curiously unmoved by the drama of their daily lives. First person narratives can do that to me sometimes, especially when the narrator is so reserved and quiet. This book has left me with a thirst to know more about James Murray and his family. All of his eleven children helped work on the dictionary at various times, especially, his fourth daughter, Rosfrith, who spent most of her life working on the dictionary. I’m very grateful to Williams for highlighting the lives and work of the women who were involved in the creation of the OED. I’d also be keen to read more about Edith Thompson and her sister.

The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat reviewed by Cloggie Downunder:
Perrat’s extensive research is apparent in every chapter and, while many readers will know something of this generation of stolen children, her novel graphically illustrates the severity of the conditions, the physical and mental cruelty to which these innocent children were subjected by those appointed to provide their care, the scandalous cover-ups, the lies and betrayals. A powerful, heart-breaking read.


Until next month, enjoy your reading and take care. 📚☕

Theresa Smith Writes