May update: My Year of Reading Australian Women Writers

It was purely by accident that the first books I read in 2012 happened to be ALL female and Australian writers. On a whim I decided to continue along the theme and asked for recommendations on Twitter:

The response on Twitter really set in motion my intention to spend 2012 exploring our talented Australian women authors. The recommended authors were such lovely new discoveries I realised it was an interesting way to find writers and also to ensure I didn’t fall into a ‘reading rut’.

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

Someone recently asked me “Isn’t that a bit restrictive?”  To be honest, no. Thanks to the fact I’ve received so many recommendations as soon as I finish one book I know I can choose another author to explore. With the wonder of ebooks I can purchase and download my next book from the comfort of home. It’s fun to expand my knowledge of local writers and they are a talented bunch.

The May 2012 Reading Pile.

Last month it actually was a reading pile! Unusually for me 2/3 of the books I read were printed books. There was another book bridging the two months but that will be included in the June update.

The Mistake by Wendy James.

I wasn’t expecting to read more than one book by Wendy this year. After all, I have so many writers that have been recommended and a huge virtual backlist to work my way through. I’d read Where Have You Been in April and enjoyed it. However I was lucky enough to win a competition at Book’d Out  and had the excitement of receiving The Mistake. Is there anything more exciting to a booklover than a package like this?

I’ve never met Wendy but when I read her books I imagine her as an empathetic character. Someone who can read a story in the newspaper and put herself into the situation described. Does she immerse herself in feeling different situations? What may have happened? But what if? And are things what they seem? With a compelling sense of timing The Mistake brings to mind the recent court proceedings behind another missing baby and transpose the setting to suburban Arding where Jodie lives in comfort with her successful husband and two children. Jodie seems to live a ‘stepford-wife’ existence, but is hiding a deep secret that is wrenched to public notice and across the media.

Reminding us of the judgements we all have made when reading the paper over cereal or gossiping in the kitchen at work, The Mistake shows the impact as the not-terribly-perfect family starts to unravel. What did happen to baby Elsa Mary?  Does Jodie know more than she is saying?

I’ve read and enjoyed all of Wendy’s books and this was another gripping page-turner. With a number of unexpected twists, I couldn’t put this book down. Once started, I had to keep reading. What happened wasn’t what I was expecting, but that’s the pleasure in Wendy’s writing. Highly recommended.

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Clever Sian Campbell  had recommended this book to me on Twitter. The story had me enthralled as I found out about a bit of history I knew little of.  Beautifully written, achingly sad and with a feeling of dread for the outcome I read this book late at night hearing the heaving treads of  Gestapo boots when I closed my eyes. The story of Dora, Ernst, Ruth and Hans and their friends fighting to expose the truth of Nazism in their country was fascinating reading.  Reporting the truth and their Resistance work shone a dangerous beam into their lives and not everyone is strong enough live with the consequences. Although there were many talented writers on The Miles Franklin shortlist I thought Anna’s win was very well deserved and who wouldn’t love the way she mentioned her thoughts about the scrapping of the Queensland Literary Awards?

“A shocking move. I don’t really think they are the Premier’s to scrap. I mean, it’s the people’s money and the people want to have this recognition of the writers to reflect their world back to them,” Anna Funder interviewed on ABC Radio

She compare the cost  of putting on the awards with the $250,000 odd salary that would be paid to one IT consultant employed for a year by Campbell Newman’s government.I bought this book at the airport in May and read it in print.

Geography by Sophie Cunningham

I choose to read Geography after seeing Sophie twice at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. I was putting together the first blog post about the #ForestForTheTrees workshop about Sophie’s talk on the life of a writer and yet I hadn’t read any of her work. I’ve been aware of her work for a long time and before I’d finished the blog post I’d downloaded Geography and started reading it that night. I know I’ve said that I’m reading by recommendation this year, but I’ve also said I can change the rules!

This was the book that Sophie talked about having an internal deadline to have published by the time she was 40 – a deadline she achieved! The story is about Catherine recounting to her new travelling companion Ruby the tale behind the man who she was obsessed with for years. Hopefully not too many people have experienced the delirium of obsessive desire that can swallow you up and blind you to the sense of your own worth, but Catherine was unable to resist. Her relationship with Michael is shared through her journey with Ruby through India. The younger woman challenges her, yet also draws out the story of her damaging obsession.

I’d like to make it seem like there was more drama. But the point of my story is how quietly you can lose years. How gently they can slip away from you. You can spend so much time waiting for something to happen, and then . . . well, it simply doesn’t.  Catherine in Geography by Sophie Cunningham.

The sex is passionate and raw and so is Catherine. Vulnerable, flawed and a woman who was convinced it was destiny.

June Update

The end of June is just a book or so away so I will be posting the update soon.

Authors I have read in June: Tara Moss and Lisa Heidke.

Currently Reading

Favel ParrettPast the Shallows recommended by @sarahhazelton.

Monthly postings, Australian Women Writers and The Stella Prize

I attempted to keep track of the lists on one post as I did with my April update. I found the formatting was getting a bit tricky and from now on I’ll just do a single post for each month of 2012 and link back to previous ones. I’d rather spend the time on telling you about the writers than fiddling with code!

Reading only women authors from Australia is my way of supporting Australian Women Writers and their Reading and Reviewing Challenge. I’m also keen to promote The Stella Prize – a new annual literary prize for Australian women’s writing. I really enjoyed attending The Stella Prize lunch at The Sydney Writers’ Festival hosted by The Hoopla.  Wonderfully hosted by Wendy Harmer we heard from Anita HeissTara MossDi MorrisseyAnne Summers, and Sophie Cunningham and Jessica Adams.

Keep the recommendations coming, I’ve loved some of the books I’ve discovered!

You may also like to read these posts:

Where to Buy Ebooks by Australian Women Writers

April Update for My Year of Reading Australian Women Writers

13 thoughts on “May update: My Year of Reading Australian Women Writers

      • It’s hard to say why I enjoyed Carpentaria. It was really funny. Although Wright reveals empathy and compassion for the plight, ignorance, and poverty of many of the Aborigines in society, she has such a great sense of humour the book never gets depressing. She develops her characters so well, even if comical. Also, underlying her wit, she has a desire to communicate some of the ancient beliefs and traditions of the Aborigines. She uses subtlety to compliment them on being a spiritually driven people.
        But now that you have got me thinking about why I liked the book, I have realized the two main reasons. Alexis Wright is an entertaining story teller, and she has a great sense of humour.

        • Wow, beautifully said jdgarner68. After that I will definitely have this book on my virtual reading pile. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. It is nice to know why people recommend a book or author. Anna

  1. Another great post and this one is tempting me to read another grown up book. Next year you must read Punchlines by Oliver Phommavahn. I finished it today and it passed the “laughing in public hilarity test”. Now off to start Brotherband: Invaders. I can highly recommed “Forgotten Pearl” by Australian female writer Belinda Murrell.

    • Thanks so much Jessica! Belinda Murrell is definitely going to be on my reading list this year! Can’t wait to hear how you enjoy Brotherband: Invaders. Anna

      • Loving the “dad humuor”. There is definately something to be said for the familiar voice of a favourite author. It’s a very “boy book” and I wish I knew something about sailing. I’ve now read 13 or 14 chapters and the last one was a bit gruesome (pirates are mean!) but it’s such a page turner and Flanagan has a real talent for planting important information so it stands out just enough, but not so much that it distracts from the flow. I saw you in a pic with Anita Heiss. Will you be at her NAIDOC conversation with Anne Summers?

        • Hi Jessica. John Flanagan is a great writer and I look forward to exploring this series – when I’m over my self-imposed ban of reading only women authors who are Australian! No, I am sad to say I won’t be able to see Anita Heiss and Anne Summers next week. Shame as I missed them at SWF due to my own session and wanting to say up at the Library. I would love to be there but will have Miss 4 that day and she would not still silent & still! I will have to listen to it on radio as I gather ABC Radio will be running it later.

          • I had to miss out today too as I am moving to Moree on short notice, have been sick and my daycare mum is on holiday. It’s a shame I am so busy before we leave or I would suggest we get our Miss 4s together for a playdate. So proud of myself for NOT using an apostrophe then. Wednesday, 8pm ABC radio

          • Short notice moving does not sounds like much fun Jessica! Best of luck with that…. I’d say keep in touch, but our contact is not dependent on physical location!

          • It sounds like there is fairly good internet connection in Moree so I should be able to keep in contact and keep reading and writing blogs, as time allows.

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