As has become tradition, I’m devoting my last Monday Musings of the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge* – but, this year it coincides with New Year’s Eve. When this post goes live, who knows what revelry I’ll be up to! Hmm … I can but hope! Seriously, though, I wish all you wonderful Whispering Gums followers an excellent 2019 in whatever form you would like that to take. I also want to thank you for supporting my blog with your visits and comments. You make this blog such an enjoyable experience for me.
Now, the challenge … it has continued to go very well. In my area of Literary and Classics, we consolidated 2017’s impressive increase in the number of reviews posted, with roughly the same number posted again this year. Theresa Smith (of Theresa Smith writes), continued to oversee the day-to-day management of the blog, enabling Challenge founder Elizabeth Lhuede to be less hands-on. Elizabeth is, however, still an active presence, particularly when it comes to resolving technical issues, reviewing our policies (such as “do we need to update our definition of historical fiction”?), and so on. The database now contains reviews for nearly 5,200 books across all forms and genres, from all periods, of Australian women’s writing. This means that the number of books reviewed on our database increased by 800 books – a 17% increase. Most of these were new releases but older books were also added, making the database particularly rich for readers interested in the long tail!
Most years, I’ve shared some highlights from the Challenge, but this year was more one of consolidation than of many new happenings, so, in the interests of keeping this post short and to the point, I’ll move straight on to reporting on the reviews I contributed for the year.
My personal round-up for the year
Let’s start with the facts, followed by some commentary. I posted 34 reviews for the challenge, four more than I did in 2016 and 2017, but one, admittedly, was a guest post. Here they are, with links to my reviews:
- Jenny Ackland, Little gods (general fiction)
- Jenny Ackland, The secret son (historical fiction)
- Charlie Archbold, Mallee boys (YA)
- Diana Blackwood, Chaconne (historical fiction)
- Robyn Cadwallader, Book of colours (historical fiction)
- Claire G. Coleman, Terra nullius (genre-bender fiction)
- Michelle de Kretser, The life to come (general fiction)
- Jan Wallace Dickinson, The sweet hills of Florence (historical fiction)
- HC Gildfind, The worry front (general fiction)
- Glenda Guest, A week in the life of Cassandra Aberline (general fiction)
- Elizabeth Jolley, The orchard thieves (general fiction)
- Sofie Laguna, The choke (general fiction)
- Eleanor Limprecht, The passengers (historical fiction)
- Margaret Merrilees, Big rough stones (general fiction)
- Emily O’Grady, The yellow house (general fiction)
- Mirandi Riwoe, The fish girl (general fiction)
- Wendy Scarfe, The day they shot Edward (historical fiction)
- Tasma (Jessie Couvreur), Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill (classic)
- Sue Williams, Live and let fry (crime fiction)
CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS
- Tania McCartney and Christina Book, The Gum Family finds home (picture book)
- Carmel Bird, The dead aviatrix: Eight short stories (short story collection)
- Elizabeth Jolley, “Poppy seed and sesame rings” (short story)
- Katharine Susannah Prichard, “The bridge” (classic short story)
- Katharine Susannah Prichard, “Christmas tree” (classic short story)
- M.L. (Mollie) Skinner, “The hand” (classic short story)
- Lynette Washington, Plane Tree Drive (short story collection)
- Helen Garner, The last days of Chez Nous and Two friends
- Amanda Duthie (ed.), Margaret and David: 5 stars (tribute essays)
- Sarah Krasnostein, The trauma cleaner (biography)
- Marie Munkara, Of ashes and rivers that run to the sea (memoir)
- Michelle Scott Tucker, Elizabeth Macarthur: A life at the edge of the world (biography)
- Maria Tumarkin, Axiomatic (Guest Post by Amanda) (essays)
- Nadia Wheatley, Her mother’s daughter: a memoir (hybrid biography-memoir)
- Clare Wright, You daughters of freedom (history)
This year I reversed the trend of previous years which saw me reading fewer and fewer novels for the Challenge – 48% in 2015, 40% in 2016, and only 34% in 2017 – compared with other forms of writing. This year, however, novels comprised over 55% of my AWW challenge reading, which proportion more closely reflects my reading preferences.
I read no poetry or verse novels this year, but I did read two plays by Garner. I also read fewer short story collections or anthologies, but I did read more Classics, including individual short stories. I’d love to read more of those. My non-fiction reading was more diverse – that is, significantly fewer memoirs than last year.
I’m disappointed that I only read two books this year by Indigenous Australian women – Claire G. Coleman’s novel and Marie Munkara’s memoir. I’d like to improve this next year – and have two right now on the “definitely-will-be-read pile”, so that’s a start.
Finally, a big thanks again to Theresa, Elizabeth and the rest of the team. I love being part of this challenge, partly because I believe in its goals but also because the people involved are so willing and cooperative. They are a pleasure to work with. See you in 2019.
And so, on to 2019
The 2019 sign up form is ready, so this is also my Sign Up post for next year. As always, I’m nominating myself for the Franklin level, which is to read 10 books by Australian women and post reviews for at least 6 of those. I expect, of course, to exceed this.
* This challenge was instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in 2012 in response to concerns in Australian literary circles about the lack of recognition for women writers. I have been one of the challenge’s volunteers since 2013, being responsible for the Literary and Classics areas.