And now for something completely different for Monday Musings, a post about books I read a long time ago! It was inspired by the Canadian-based Debbie of ExUrbanis who has a series of posts on her blog on what she read in the past. I figured 1998 would be a good place to start – because it’s long enough ago to reflect reading of a different time, and I have reasonable, though not perfect, records of what I read back then. However, I’m just going to share my Aussie reads.
So, a few comments, before I tell you what I read. In 1998, I had two children in school, was job-sharing, was on the primary school board – and my bookgroup had been going for 10 years. Life was busy. These facts affected not only how many books I read, but also what I read:
- Five of the eight Aussie books I read were read for my reading group. We have always aimed to include a good representation of Australian authors in our reading diet.
- The gender split was 50:50, reflecting my ongoing interest in reading women’s writing. (The overall gender split in my reading for that year was just over 50% women writers, but in my reading group component of that, nearly two-thirds were by women, reflecting our ongoing interest in women writers.)
- Two of the Aussie books I recorded as having read were Young Adult books, which I read as part of my involvement in my children’s reading. I say “recorded” because I would have read more Aussie young adult and children’s books, but didn’t record them in my diary.
So, what Aussie books did I read in 1998?
- Thea Astley’s The multiple effects of rain shadow (1996, novel) (my review): Read with my reading group, this is the only book of the set that I’ve re-read – and that I’ve re-read since blogging, hence a review link for it. I love Astley as regular readers among you know, and this book’s study of the 1930 Palm Island tragedy, is a great example of her writing and of her concerns for outsiders and underdogs.
- Gillian Bouras’ A stranger here (1996, novel): Also read with my reading group, this novel is an autobiographical story of Bouras’ experience as the wife of a Greek husband, living in Greece. As I recollect, we all enjoyed the exotic nature of her experience within another culture, but we could also relate to the more universal challenges of being mother and wife.
- Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs (1997, novel): My reading group has read several books by Carey over the years, but this work of historical fiction which explored Charles Dickens’ character of Magwitch (from Great expectations) is among the more popular of his that we’ve done. It won the Miles Franklin Award.
- Robert Dessaix’s A mother’s disgrace (1994, autobiography/memoir): And this, I read on my own! I’m not sure how well-known Dessaix is known outside of Australia, but this was his first book. He has gone on to write other memoirs, as well as novels and other works of non-fiction. A mother’s disgrace tells the story of his childhood as an adopted person, and, as Wikipedia describes it, “his journey to an alternative sexuality”. Many of us Aussies have enjoyed his contributions on such ABC radio programs as Books and writing and Lingua Franca.
- Delia Falconer’s The service of clouds (1997, novel): Another reading group read, this was Falconer’s debut novel. It’s an historical novel set in the Blue Mountains. As I recollect, we had mixed reactions to it, but I do remember its gorgeous descriptions of a part of Australia I love. (I’m a mountains person!)
- James Maloney’s A bridge to Wiseman’s Cove (1996, young adult novel): The first of the two Aussie young adult novels I recorded for this year, it’s about a 15-year-old boy, and his travails after his mother disappears. I remember enjoying its description of small beach-town life and the characters there, but can’t say much else about it. I also read, around this time, two books by Maloney in his Gracey trilogy (1993, 1994 and 1998). Set in southwest Queensland, the protagonists have indigenous Australian backgrounds. A non-indigenous Australian is unlikely to write such books now, but I remember finding these moving. We had little else to read on the topic then.
- David Malouf’s An imaginary life (1978, novel): Now this is where I must admit something shameful! I’ve read six of Malouf’s nine novels to date, and have loved them all – well, all except this one. It was another reading group book, and I can still remember the meeting! It tells the story of the Roman poet Ovid, and it won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. Most of my reading group liked it. I can’t explain why I didn’t, given my love of Malouf’s work in general, but I think it was one of those timing things. I was just too tired to put the necessary energy into it.
- Christobel Mattingley’s No gun for Asmir (1993, children’s-young adult biography): Publisher Penguin’s website says “War has come to Asmir’s home in Sarajevo. He is torn from his father, his home and everything he has known. He becomes a refugee. This is a story of courage you will never forget.” While I forget the details now, I haven’t forgotten its power, nor the fact that such a book was written for young people.
Do you keep records of your reading? Do you remember your highlights of 1998?