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Australian Women Writers 2013 Challenge completed – and Miles Franklin Award Winner 2013

June 19, 2013

Australian Women Writers ChallengeAs regular readers here know by now, last year I broke my non-challenge rule to take part in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. It was so satisfying, I decided to do it again this year. After all, it’s really the challenge I’d do when I’m not doing a challenge.

Like last year, I signed up for the top level: Franklin-fantastic. This required me to read 10 books and review at least 6. I have now exceeded this – and will continue to add to the challenge, as I did last year – but one of the requirements of completing the challenge is to provide a link to a complete challenge post. Here is that post.

I have, in fact, contributed 13 reviews to the challenge to date, but decided to wait to write my completion post until I’d read 10 books. I have now done that – with the other three being individual short stories or essays.

Johnston, House at Number 10 bookcover

Courtesy: Wakefield Press

Here’s my list in alphabetical order, with the links on the titles being to my reviews:

Except for the Baynton, Astley and Johnston reviews, they are all for very recent publications. I would like in the second half of the year to read some more backlist, more classics. Will I do it? Watch this space!

Miles Franklin Award winner for 2013 …

has been announced and it is Michelle de Kretser‘s Questions of travel. I’m pretty thrilled as this is the book my reading group decided to do in July (from the shortlist). As much as I enjoyed Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with birds, it has won two significant awards this year already, and I don’t think it serves literature well for one book to have a stranglehold on a year’s awards – unless there really is only one great book published in a year but that would really be a worry wouldn’t it?!

You can read about the announcement on the Miles Franklin Literary Award site.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2013 4:13 pm

    Jumping up and down in delight for this win, it is so well deserved. De Kretser is one of our best novelists writing today and for my money, Questions of Travel was by far the most impressive book on the shortlist.

    • June 19, 2013 4:53 pm

      Thanks Dina … I do like her but have to read the others before I’d say that! I love Tiffany, though.

    • June 19, 2013 6:23 pm

      Yes, I agree, Dina. I’m delighted that she won, it’s exactly the kind of book I think should win, it ticks all my boxes *smile*
      (I am quite often cranky about their choices so that’s why I’m smiling LOL)

      • June 19, 2013 10:36 pm

        Glad you’re happy Lisa! LOL! A little bit of controversy never does any harm, does it? It keeps our culture alive. Still, this seems like a great result and so far everyone seems happy.

  2. June 19, 2013 4:21 pm

    Well done with completing the challenge Sue. I should check where I’m up to. I haven’t read any of the Miles Franklin short list, nor any de Krester in the past. There are simply too many good books…

    • June 19, 2013 4:56 pm

      Thanks Louise … You are right, there are too many good books, and too many interesting things to do and see as well!

  3. ian darling permalink
    June 19, 2013 9:52 pm

    Congratulations on the Miles Franklin challenge. I must read Miles Franklin some day – My Brilliant Career is a book I have never quite got around to. I am a big fan of Henry Handel Richardson whose Fortunes Of Richard Mahoney ought to be much better known outside Australia.

    • June 19, 2013 10:37 pm

      Thanks Ian … I reckon you’d probably prefer HHR to Miles Franklin, for complexity, but My brilliant career is culturally important and a good read.

  4. June 20, 2013 1:29 am

    I enjoyed reading this post, and checking out some of your reviews, which I’ve been missing lately because I’ve been moving to a new country. It saddens me that I don’t know any of these writers. In fact there are so many great writers in so many countries that I’m unaware of. Even keeping up with all the British ones seems like a full-time job! It’s wonderful, of course, that there’s such a proliferation of talent and a variety of books to choose from. I suppose it’s just a personality quirk of mine that I always focus on the things left undone. Anyway, some good recommendations here for me to get started with.

    • June 20, 2013 8:43 am

      Thanks Andrew … I wouldn’t have done this post if the challenge hadn’t asked for a link to it, but from comments like yours, it sounds like it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

      But, do try not to focus on the negative space … Or, is that what writers do!

  5. June 24, 2013 7:16 am

    Ten books? I’ve been gradually making my way through all the out-of-copyright Australian women authors I can find online, so I think I’d have that challenge covered numerically, but not reviewishly, unless a mention here and there counts as a review, which I do not reckon it does. At the moment I’m concentrating on the poetry, which is extremely Victorian, with dead babies, scenery, lots of flowers, “o’er’ and ‘thou’, and the idea that we should not mourn our deceased mothers or friends or children too much because they have gone to heaven, and heaven is lovely.

    But I notice, too, that more than one person has taken this idea to an advanced logical fulfilment and said that if heaven is lovely and better than life and the babies are so happy there then why don’t I go too? A sixteen-year-old in one prose book wills herself into a fatal illness after her mother dies and the author’s point of view seems to be that this is not anything radically unusual, just a tad oversensitive, and even evidence of her especial femininity. (It’s possible that Catherine Martin is trying to write a critical commentary on the delicate-flower-woman trope but it comes across straight.) Then I discover this in a poem called Pale Oleander of the South by Caroline Leakey —

    “Woman! thy trials are deep—the half not known;
    Thy sufferings many and untold.
    Thine is the patient durance; thine the tone
    Of meek endure; the arms that fold
    In calm submission to the smiter’s will;
    Thy tears in secret silence flow;
    Thine are the lips that kiss the hand, which still
    Is raised to drop the last death-blow!

    […]

    Thou shalt not alway suffer—gathered in
    Unto the Eden of God’s love”

    — and I start to wonder how many women back then shrugged sadly at misfortune and offed themselves in the hope of a better time on the other side.

    • June 24, 2013 11:48 am

      Good question DKS … I can’t help thinking they found nothing but for many it’s possible that was better than the something they had? I must say I find that emotional (as against emotive) declarative style of poetry hard to read but sociologically, it is probably enlightening.

      Interesting that you wonder about Martin’s intention … it’s sometimes hard to tell, particularly reading across time, isn’t it, but I expect your reading is astute enough to have read it right.

      • June 26, 2013 6:17 am

        Leakey is your kryptonite then. She loves the emotional declarative. Her idea of a poem about a baby is to start off with something like, “O Babe!” and tell it to have a good time while it can; all too soon the cares of life will squash its hopes and dreams and eventually it will be relieved to die and go to the Lord, where at last the torment will cease. Her poem about an early-blossoming flower congratulates this flower on its willingness to perish. A different kind of baby poem reminds the mothers of all babies that they are responsible for the future piety of their sons. Whether he goes to heaven or hell is up to you. “Her tears are for a bud of present joy | Which some dark Future may at once destroy.” Later in life she wrote for the Girls Own Paper. How much of this submissive gumminess did she try to stuff down little girls’ throats, I wonder? Sociologically what can you say? Was she one element in a large body of similar poets? All swarming their way across the British Empire in the 1800s, sagging over their readers like a sack of morbid towels? You’d need some further research. (The fact that she was employed to write for the Girls Own Paper seems revealing. Are there any magazines for children today that would hunt down poets who dwelt on pious decease the way she does? Reading her biography at the ANU website I don’t get the impression that she ever gave up the death-and-heaven theme.)

        • June 26, 2013 8:16 am

          My kryptonite … Love it DKS. That sort of poetry is so much of its time isn’t it? I think it’s the combination of that sort of style with those ideas that I find hard to take. A plainer style and I could think, well, that’s of its time but look how it’s been said … it appears there are limits to what I can face reading and “O Babe” is probably it!

  6. June 27, 2013 2:29 am

    Way to go on the challenge! I haven’t been able to find any of the newer books locally yet so I look forward to you reading more classics so I have a better chance of getting them!

    • June 27, 2013 11:01 am

      Well, that’s a good reason for reading some classics, Stefanie … will do my best. My bookgroup has scheduled one so that’s a start!

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