April update of my Year of Reading Australian Women Writers (#aww2012)

My quest: I’m hoping to spend the year expanding my knowledge of our vast array of female writers who are Australian.

In my post ‘In Praise of Australian Women Writers (#aww2012)‘ I wrote about how and why I’d decided to spend 2012 reading as many Australian Women Writers as possible.  This post is an update on My Year of Reading Australian Women Writers to ensure I keep up with my reading and recommendations throughout the year. I am very impressed that Australian Women Writers has galvanised readers and reviews with their Reading and Reviewing Challenge.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival has The Stella Prize lunch – happily I bought my ticket early because it has now sold out.  The Stella Prize is joining forces with The Hoopla to celebrate Australian women’s writing. It’s hosted by Wendy Harmer and will include Anita HeissTara Moss, Di Morrissey, Anne Summers, Anna Krien, Sophie Cunningham. What a line up.

In my previous post about the books I’m reading this year I mentioned I’m Reading by Recommendation (so keep the suggestions coming) and trying to read across a variety of reading platforms (Kobo, Amazon, iBookstore, Google but also supporting local retailers using Read Cloud, BookU and Booki.sh. Yes I know Booki.sh has been bought by Overdrive, but I still want to support them.

Recommendations received for my year of reading Australian Women Writers

These are the recommendations I’ve received either through the Digireado Facebook PageLinkedIn, blog comments, Google+ or Twitter. Sometimes I detour and just read a book because I want to. This is my experiment, I can change the rules when I feel like it! At this bottom of the post I’m trying to keep track of recommendations. Clearly I’m not a book reviewer, I leave that to the experts. This is just my attempt to keep track of my quest this year.

I purchased Am I Black Enough For You  by Anita Heiss as soon as it was released in April 2012. I had already read all of her Chick Lit and had the pleasure of spending some time with Anita at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in 2011. Unless you’ve been hiding under a bushell you will be aware of the court case with Andrew Bolt. Anita and others have already explained why it was so important, how it inspired this memoir and how certain people have responded.  I’d recommend you also read this review . I wish I could say it so well. For me this book gave me greater understanding and respect for Anita, with her determined positivity, even in the face of personal attacks. For someone to be SO determined to help Aboriginal communities, to work to improve Indigenous literacy and to be a role model to women everywhere (no matter the colour of their skin) I can only have the utmost admiration. She’s also a National Ambassador for the 2012 National Year of Reading. As a ‘whitefella’ did I squirm at times? Yes I did. And so I should. Frankly Anita has helped me gain knowledge that makes me better informed . Thanks Anita  taking a stand.   (April 2012 read)

Madeleine St JohnMark Tanner from Google recommended on Twitter I read Madeleine and Text Publishing recommended I start with  The Women in Black.  I was on a road trip with a girl friend for a week in April and I read this book during that time. Although this was written in 1993, it is set in Sydney in the 1950’s – a very different place to the world I inhabit here in 2012. But this world WAS somehow familiar from stories that my mother told of this time and earlier. Although not born then I remember a different way of life in my childhood, the faint touch of glamour still clinging to my mother with her memories. At first I had to get over my own difficulties in reading of a time in the past when attitudes were SO different, but I relaxed into enjoying living in the 50’s through my reading. Set in what is assumed to be a thinly disguised version of David Jones, it follows the lives of the women working in the Ladies Cocktail Frocks section of the store. I loved the sizzling Magda and the way she took young Lisa under her wing. I’m glad I’ve discovered this Australian author.

Due to a lot of late nights working I didn’t keep up my usual reading pace in April. Let’s see how May goes!

Currently Reading

Surely I’m not the only one to read more than one book at a time? I try not to do it too often, but sometimes can’t help myself.

I was lucky enough to win The Mistake by Wendy James  through a competition run on  Book’d Out and I’ve just started reading this. (Reading May 2012)

At Sydney airport last month I indulged my routine of purchasing a book before boarding the plane.  All That I Am by Anna Funder was recommended to me on Twitter by Sian Campbell and  is next on my ‘to read’ pile. (Reading May 2012)

As previously mentioned, the other books I’ve read in 2012 so far

Claire Corbett: Sean the Bookonaut (who introduced me to the delights of reading Margo Lanagan  )suggested via my blog that that When We Have Wings is a  brilliant lit/sci-fi release. Ok Sean, I’ve just finished this and I loved it. The first few pages I wasn’t sure, but then I was hooked. An amazing, immersive read. I didn’t just read this book, I saw the book. If I see movie based on a book I am rarely satisfied. The rich detail of a novel can be lost in translation to the view of the director. But still, it would be crazy if this book wasn’t made into a movie at some stage. And I’d be keen to buy a ticket. Claire is an amazing writer, and this book had twists, turns and loops. Taking ten years to write, this book was worth the wait. (March 2012)

Paddy O’Reilly: via @kjmgardiner. Kelly recommended The Fine Colour of Rustand this quote alone was enough to get me to read it “She has fantasies about dumping her two kids in the orphanage and riding off on a Harley with her dream lover.” I loved this book and I loved Loretta. I felt I could be Loretta – if I was a single Mum and lived in Gunapan v’s Sydney. And if Loretta wasn’t another version of me, then we’d be friends. She’s quirky, doubts herself all the time and yet keeps her drive and passion focussed on making a difference in her small dusty town. I devoured this book and I’d love to read more of Loretta at some stage in the future! (Read March 2012)

One of my favourite Australian writers Anita Heiss  mentioned on Facebook she was re-reading Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung and that it inspired Anita’s latest book – Am I Black Enough For You? Anita’s comments and those from some of her friends have encouraged me to put this one to the top of my virtual reading pile and I am engrossed in the story of her upbringing and life. A child between two cultures, Alice shares the wonders and confusion of trying to bridge both worlds. This is my first memoir in… well, put it this way I can’t ever remember reading a memoir! But through reading Unpolished Gems has taught me so much already I’m planning to do more. (Reading March 2012)


Wendy James: Book reviewer Shelleyrae from Book’d Out is participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge and has been very supportive in helping them with social media. Her own personal challenge this year is to read and review 100 books by Australian Women Writers and you can read about this on her blog. Shelleyrae recommended since I had enjoyed reading Carline Overton that I should read The Mistake by Wendy James. Instead I chose to read Where Have You Been?  Wendy set the novel in a seemingly normal suburban family where their lives are turned upside down by the sudden reappearance of a long-missing sister. Is she who she says she is? What are her motives for reappearing and what will be the impact on the Middletons? We watch as Ed and Susan open their lives and home to Karen/Carly and when reading I was very keen to work out what is at the heart of this troubled woman. (February 2012)

Margo Lanaganvia @SeandBlogonautBook reviewer Sean recommended Sea Hearts, but as this released in February 2012 (this was in January) I couldn’t buy at the time I was creating my virtual bookshelf. Instead I purchased another one recommended which was Tender Morselsdescribed by SeandBlogonaut as “powerful”. I’m absolutely blown away by the worlds created by Margo in Tender Morsels. Haunting. They remind me of childhood fables – these days considered too “dark” for young children – that seared themselves into my imagination. I love Margo’s worlds that she created in Tender Morsels and will definitely put Sea Hearts on my reading list. (Read February 2012)

Cath CrowleyGraffiti Moon via @sarahhazelton. Loved it and I can guarantee you’ll see the art in more graffiti if you look. This book reminded me of the anguish and power of first love, and the beauty that can be found in words and art. (Read February 2012)

Kylie Ladd: via @BooktotheFuture. Michelle recommended anything by Kylie but I chose to read After the Fall. Written from different points of view of two couples who become friends and then what follows when two of them begin an affair. Hot, steamy, uncomfortable and real, this is engrossing and reveals the faults and frailties of all involved. Wonderful writing, I’m going back for more. (Read February 2012)

Charlotte Wood: via @BooktotheFuture. Leaving it up to me to chose my title I jumped into Animal People. Why have’t I read Charlotte before??? I’ve clearly been missing out and now need to read The Children as  it was Stephen from THAT book that forms the main character in Animal People. What will be the conclusion to the worst day of his life? I had to keep reading to find out. (Read January 2012)

Fiona Wood: via @CathCrowley. How cool is that? Due to asking for Twitter recommendations I hear about Cath Crowley who THEN recommends I read Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. Clearly since I loved Cath’s Graffiti Moon I was keen to try one of her recommendations. I should add that I read across all genres, with a fondness for young adult (this coming from a so-very-clearly-not-young-adult). Cath said “you have such a beautiful, funny read ahead of you. I love Dan and Estelle and Fred and Lou.” I REALLY MISS Dan and Estelle! This book touched me in so many ways. What a read! (Read February 2012)

Kelly Gardiner: I’m going to sneak one of my own recommendations here!  I loved Kelly’s book Act of Faith AND because she was kind enough to answer my questions on authors and social media in this blog post. She runs rings around the rest of us, I stand in awe. (Ok, I admit it. I actually read this in 2011.)

Felicity Pulman: I’d met Felicity at the NSW Writers Centre in December and wanted to interview her for the blog. Before that I wanted to finish up the Janna Mysteries series with the last book published by Random House and the two books she had self-published (Sage for Sanctuary and Thyme for Trust). I’d started reading The Janna Mysteries at Random House Australia when I was heading up Production. Loved finishing up the series and read all three books back-to-back. Felicity is a great writer and I loved reading about medieval life, and finding out if Janna discovers who murdered her mother. (Read January 2012)

Caroline Overington: I was given a copy of Caroline’s latest book Matilda is Missing and enjoyed it as much as her previous novels.  Caroline really seems to capture the Australian voice and keeps me turning the pages to find out just what happens until the very end. The reality of children being in the middle of bitter break ups is surely a familiar one to us all. (Read January 2012)


Airlie Lawson: I stumbled across Airlie’s book Don’t Tell Eve when researching my fellow presenters at a training course. Finding out that Airlie works in publishing AND set this novel in a Publishing House, well, I was hooked! Anyone who works in publishing, wants to work in publishing or just likes a good funny read should get this book. Couldn’t put it down. (Read January 2012)

Kirsten TranterThe Legacy was high up on my favourite reads and I was waiting with anticipation for A Common Loss. We’re far from perfect beings, and this book highlights that somewhere, perhaps buried deep or just under the surface, a lot of us have got things we’d rather not be revealed. And loss? We all deal with loss in our own way.  (Read January 2012)

On The Virtual Book Pile

Author Felicity Pulman gave me a whole lot of recommendations via my last blog post:

“…a beautifully written and very moving autobiography from Maggie Mackellar: When it Rains, about coming to terms with loss and finding the courage to carry on. I loved this book. Jaye Ford had my heart thumping with her debut crime novel, Beyond Fear. Of course Kerry Greenwood’s fun Phryne Fisher novels are getting a terrific trot with the new TV series, and I also enjoy Kathryn Fox’s crime novels. I have the greatest regard for Helen Garner and the tough choices she made while writing the thought-provoking The First Stone and Joe Cinque’s Consolation. Australia is blessed with wonderful writers!”

Louise Sherwin-Stark asked on Google+ what I enjoyed reading and when I told her this was her response “oh, I just loved A Fine Colour of Rust. If you loved that, you should try Toni Jordan’s Addition. I’ve also really enjoyed The Light Between Oceans by ML Steadman which was fab. And not Australian, but I would absolutely recommend How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. For a feisty aussie try You’ll be Sorry When I am Dead by Marieke Hardy.” I’ve struck through Caitlin’s title as she isn’t Australian and therefore not on my list for this year.

Glenda Browne recommended via LinkedIn to read Helen Garner and ‘Those women who go to hotels’ by Lucy Frost and Marion Halligan.

Author Glenda Guest was kind enough to look at her bookshelves (much stripped down post various moves) and gave me an abundant list to follow up. These included:

Carmel Bird, Kate Grenville, Marion Halligan, Barbara Hanrahan, Eva Hornug – or Eva Sallis – published under both names, Elizabeth Jolley, Alexis Wright, Gabrielle Lord – crime, Drusilla Modjeska – writing and editor of anthologies, Janette Turner Hospital – definitely Australian, but now lives and teaches in the States, The marvellous Paddy O’Reilly – short stories – not very well known yet, but will be., Glenda Adams, Thea Astley, Helen Garner, Jillian Mears, Amy Witting. Funny, Glenda didn’t once mention that I should read her own Siddon Rock! But I will, and probably ahead of all her recommendations!

This year is NOT long enough for me to read all the recommendations, but I love them!   The following have been previously mentioned as being on my recommendations list.

Sara Foster was recommended by Shelleyrae of Book’d Out. I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed Come Back to Me and Beneath the ShadowsHer next book is not due out until the end of the year so I hope I have time to fit Shallow Breath in this year.

Other author suggestions from Book’d Out are Sulari Gentill and Katherine Howell so I’ll have to choose which of their titles I will read. If anyone has a favourite of theirs to recommend I’d love to hear from them!

Favel Parrett:Past the Shallows via @sarahhazeltonOn the virtual book pile.

As mentioned this post will be constantly updated as I continue to enjoy Australian Women Writers. 

You may also like to read: Where to Buy Ebooks by Australian Women Writers

6 thoughts on “April update of my Year of Reading Australian Women Writers (#aww2012)

  1. I am desperately envious you are going to the Stella Lunch, I am sure it will be amazing! I hope you are enjoying The Mistake!

  2. Thanks so much for including the link to my review, your comments on “Am I Black Enough” are really honest too. Let’s have more of it, Aussies. Can I also recommend a book for you – “Bitter Herbs” by Kate Forsyth

    • Pleasure. Your review said what I felt when I read it. As for my honesty, it’s important to find out what you DON’T know, admit it, and try and rectify the gaps. After reading ‘Am I Black Enough for You’ I found myself mulling over the contents for a long time. And thanks for the recommendation! Duly noted!

      • It’s true. I don’t think any of can really appreciate what an important book this is. Hopefully future generations will laugh at us for being so uninformed and clining to stereotypes.

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