I was late joining the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013, not starting until May, but I signed on for the Franklin level anyway — to read ten books written by female Australian authors and review at least six of them — and managed to complete it. I thought that would allow me room to omit from review a book that I didn’t like. In fact, each one was delightful and I reviewed all ten.
How I read has changed over the past couple of years. Before I started writing my novel, I read for enjoyment and for the story. If I loved a book, I devoured it, skimming over the boring bits, reading it as quickly as possible so I could find out what happened. I knew what I liked, but I didn’t think much about why I liked it.
Now when I read, it takes me longer. I study a book, asking myself what it is about this book, or this writing, that I like. What is it about that character that I like? I look at the book’s structure, the tricks the author has used, I relish the prose. I scribble all through it, and sticky notes fly from its pages. I want to learn from it.
So it has been with the books I’ve read for this challenge. From them I’ve learned valuable writing lessons. Each of them have contained real characters, flawed people who could have been plucked from everyday life. Each of the books has had a subtext so the story was not spelled out for the reader, but the reader could work out for themselves what was really happening.
Here’s a list of the books I read and reviewed:
Contemporary fiction (click on the title to read the review):
Elsewhere in Success by Iris Lavell
Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith
Fractured by Dawn Barker
What is Left Over, After by Natasha Lester
I also covered a few in the historical fiction genre:
Elemental by Amanda Curtin
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Finding Jasper by Lynne Leonhardt
A couple of memoirs:
Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy
When We Remember They Call Us Liars by Suzanne Covich
And a short story collection:
An Unknown Sky by Susan Midalia
I read a few other books this year by writers other than Aussie females so, obviously, I can’t include them here! These included the short story collections, Kid on the Karaoke Stage (Fremantle Press 2011) and Knitting and Other Stories (Margaret River Press 2013), as well as Eyrie by Tim Winton.
I’ve just finished the quirky and touching Sea Dog Hotel by Marlish Glorie and plan to review that shortly. At the moment, I’m reading a short novel, Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett — so stay tuned!
I’ve signed up for the 2014 AWW Challenge at the same level — read ten and review six. I look forward to reading more beautiful works by this country’s fantastic female authors.
I’ve really enjoyed reading your reviews this year Louise. I’ve also signed up for the challenge at that level this year, and am looking for the day when yours will be on the list.
Good on you, Iris! It’s quite fun to do …
It goes without saying that I’m hoping to one day being on the Aussie Women Writers list, too!
I already have a backlog of novels to read and review, so I’m hoping that is acceptable to the rules. I figured I was doing some reading and reviewing anyway, so I might as well make it official. Fingers crossed yours features prominently on next year’s list!
That’s certainly within the rules, Iris! No need to worry.
And next year’s Challenge might be a bit of a pipe dream for my novel …
Wasn’t Piano Lessons great? I love Anna Goldsworthy; she’s an excellent writer. Her latest memoir was brilliant too.
I loved Piano Lessons and have the utmost respect for Anna Goldsworthy — not just for her writing but for her music and her intellect, too. I read her Quarterly Essay, ‘Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny’ She’s an amazing lady. I must read her latest — you found it quite a hoot, didn’t you?
Thanks Louise for your reviews – they have been spot on for those books that I have read and have prompted me to buy others which are sitting on my kindle awaiting my attention. It is very exciting to have so many lined up! I am sure I would not have heard of some of these and especially appreciate the introduction to less well known Australian women writers. Like Iris I can’t wait to read your novel…
Thanks, Jacquie. You should sign on for the 2014 Challenge! It’s not onerous if you’re reading the books anyway. It also made me pay more attention as I read, knowing I would have to write about it at the end — a bit like doing Lit at school but not anywhere near as bad!
Lit was one of my favourite subjects at school! I am nervously pondering whether I can find the time although I did read at least 5 books by Aussie Women Writers in 2013 and into my second for 2014 (so far my fifth Aussie writer for 2014 but the others were by men) so will seriously consider it… only would have to think of different things to say or find others as many lined up on my kindle reviewed by you!
It’s easier than you think, and there are more books than you think. And see, you’re already two down and we’re only 1/24th of the way through the year!
And my reviews are not really reviews — more ponderings. I call them reviews because that’s what AWW call them, but it doesn’t have to be a full-on Lit review.
Through reviewing their books, I’ve also met quite a few of the authors of the books — which is a bit of a thrill. Anyway, see what you think …
I’m back from holiday and although school’s not back for a couple more weeks, I’ll probably get back to some sort of condensed writing routine next week. Will get onto that blog post … xx
We are indeed very fortunate to have terrific bloggers and book reviewers like you, Louise. Just yesterday I was telling friends how bloggers were busy readdressing the imbalance in the number of women writers being reviewed.
p.s. I’ve signed up for the Franklin too!
That’s great news Marlish. I’m glad you’ve signed on. To be honest, I’m more than happy to do it again this year — I think I benefit from it, too. It forces me to think more about the book, and form and write a rational response. Besides, I’d do it anyway for the sisterhood! If it helps to get female authors’ names out there, I’m all for it!
Your book is next on my list, by the way …
‘I know,’ she replies in the tiniest of voices.
No need for a tiny voice, Marlish! I loved it — you’ve done an amazing job. The characters are drawn so well! And the story — so moving. Well done.
I hope to see your book on my list soon too, Louise! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing Fractured – it really does help to get the word out about our work…
Thanks, Dawn. I’m hope, hope, hoping for the day my book is published, too! I’m currently in a little cottage on my own, hard at my revisions — except when responding to blog comments, of courseam hoping for the day my book is published, too!
my Kindle is just bulging, I have most of what you have reviewed, Burial Rites had me shouting out loud at the end and I shed a tear or two, Fractured had me holding my breath, What is left over after kept me reading to the very end. xxx Rae
I know what you mean, Rae. My ‘to-read’ list is too long! Even if I live to 100, I’ll never get enough time to read all the books I want to. Nor write all the books I want to either … Such is life!