Firstly, thank you to each and every person who participated in The Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2020 and in turn helped support and promote our wonderful Australian women writers. Every review counts and your input is greatly appreciated – especially when it comes to short stories. If you would like to sign up this year’s challenge you can do so here. Let’s get straight to business and start with a run-down of 2020’s results.
The overall Short Story statistics for 2020 are as follows: 108 reviews of 68 books by 69 reviewers. This is up on last year which had 79 reviews of 62 books by 68 authors. Yah!
The most prolific reviewers of short stories in 2020 were: Ashley Meikle – The Book Muse (16), Cass Moriarty (11), Sharon Hill (10), Theresa Smith Writes (6), Brenda Telford (5), Cloggie Downunder (5), Jennifer Cameron-Smith (5), Whispering Gums (3) and Dark Matter Zine (3)
The most reviewed books of 2020 were Midwife in the Jungle by Fiona McArthur (5) Here Until August by Josephine Rowe (3) Well-Behaved Women by Emily Paull (3) Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney.
Moving on to the December 2020 and January 2021 Round Up.
The first review for December was by submitted by Cloggie Downunder for the Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard. She found the twenty-eight story collection a ‘mixed bag.’ She described Hazzard’s writing as ‘often beautiful, and her characters are complex’ but was not enamoured by the works, commenting ‘She throws her characters into situations and records their reactions, so the result is very much dialogue and inner monologue driven. As with Anne Tyler novels, not much happens, but Tyler does it better.’
The two Christmas themed offerings, Christmas Among the Gum Trees, a collection of stories by Australian Women Authors, and Sculpture: A Magical Christmas Short Story by Philipa Nefri Clark, were reviewed by Helen Sibbritt. The first book was a collection of page turners, which she very much enjoyed. The latter Helen described as ‘moving and heart-warming’ and said that book 4 in Dr Grok’s Peculiar Shop series left her very happy. ‘I do love to see things work out for people and MS Clark has a way with words that does just that.’
One short story collection that has piqued my interest is Smart Ovens for Lonly People by Elizabeth Tan. In her review of the book Jennifer Cameron-Smith says ‘These are quirky stories, often darkly disturbing. Clever, compact, and compelling.’ Summing up she says, ‘If you enjoy unusual short stories, then I can recommend this collection.’
As always, Australian literary journals offered the short story lover a plethora of great reading choices. Whispering Gums writes an in-depth review of issue 68 of the Griffith Review – Getting On The overarching theme is ageing and includes writing from such luminaries as Helen Garner and Charlotte Wood. Whispering Gums comments ‘Getting on is informative, as you’d expect, but it is also inspirational and challenging.’
Cass Moriarity briefly mentions the Overland Issue 239, which explores health care systems, psychological health, healing, connection and care. She gives a more detailed review of issue 70 of Griffith Review – Generosities of Spirit describing this issue as ‘an absolute corker’. Not only does this edition contain some great essays and poetry but it includes the four winners of The Novella Project VIII, which, Cass says are just a joy to read. ‘This is indeed an extraordinary issue of Griffith Review and one I urge you to buy, read and share.’
Cass also highlights KYD’S New Australian Fiction 2020 edited by Rebecca Starford, calling it a ‘tasting plate of what’s new and happening in Aussie fiction.’ The Pandemic themes feature strongly, as do those of hope and the future. Lastly, Cass reviews Lighthouse: An Anthology. describing the collection as ‘A multi-genre cornucopia of stories that all feature lighthouses, some in a tangential way but most using the lighthouse as the focus of the story, either as the setting or even as a character.’ The idea for the book was conceived after fifteen authors met randomly at a writers’ conference dress-up dinner. They chatted about a vision of creating an anthology of writing with the common theme of lighthouses and a year later, the anthology was published. Cass says ‘This fantastic collection is an example of writers getting together, talking through an idea, having a vision and then actually working hard to make it reality.’
That’s it until the next round-up. Take care everyone xx