1984 – the children’s bach ~ helen garner

What’s left to write about Helen Garner’s stunning The Children’s Bach that hasn’t already been written by writers infinitely more eloquent than myself?

Although I can’t imagine I have anything to contribute, the urge to write about this intricate little novel remains. Is it pure egotism that compels me to speak my piece, regardless? Or is it because that’s what critics are meant to do?

This is only my second review for the Australian Women Writers project. Yes, I know. I intended to write one AWW review per month. I have four books sitting on my desk right now, waiting my attention.

I’ll be writing a series of brief reviews to help me get my schedule back on track. It’s something new for me – let me know what you think.

Continue reading “1984 – the children’s bach ~ helen garner”

2011 – animal people ~ charlotte wood

Sometimes, dear reader, this whole book reviewing thing is more complicated than I could ever have imagined.

For me, reading Charlotte Wood’s Animal People was an incredibly personal experience. The task of writing about this novel has led to much soul-searching.

Every time I’ve sat down at my desk to review Animal People, I’ve found myself sliding out from behind the keyboard, distracted, uncomfortable, searching for something else to do.

I’ve been putting off writing this review, not because I didn’t like the novel, but because Animal People broke my heart. And, to be completely honest, I’m still trying to put all the pieces back together.

Continue reading “2011 – animal people ~ charlotte wood”

a few things i know for sure ~ an introduction to the australian women writers challenge

Fact number one: novels written by Australian women have long been an integral part of my reading life.

When I think of my childhood, I think of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series, and Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein, which I remember reading obsessively in a little cave under the sheets of my bed, so my parents couldn’t see the torchlight as they shuffled past my door to their bedroom.

I still have my copy of Obernewtyn!

Unlike many, I was fortunate enough to have an education that was studded with some of our greatest female writers. In my first few years at high school, I studied novels by Nadia Wheatley and Ruth Park (Playing Beattie Bow was one of the reasons I moved to Sydney!) and, of course, Robin Klein.

A few years later, in my late teens, a feminist English teacher introduced me to Kate Grenville’s Joan Makes History and Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River, and, in year twelve, I studied the poetry of Judith Wright.

At University, the focus centred more on the usual dead white guys, but I did have the fortune to encounter Thea Astley’s A Kindness Cup and Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach.

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Which leads me to another thing I know. Fact number two, if you like. At some point, you have to take charge of your own education. That’s one of the many reasons I started writing Book to the Future – I’d become frustrated by my own ignorance.

Along the way, I’ve encountered many amazing, life-changing novels written by Australian women. Like My Brilliant Career, which I’m still raving about, even though I read it nearly two years ago. I’m still haunted by Marie, from Fiona McGregor’s Indelible Ink. I adored The Harp in the South by Ruth Park. I’ll recommend Kylie Ladd’s Last Summer to anyone who’ll listen. And then, of course, there’s The Man Who Loved Children. Whenever I think about it, I feel a shiver of awe.

Some of the novels by Australian women writers I’ve read and reviewed so far

Something else I know – and this time, it’s not something I’m particularly proud of: I haven’t read anywhere near as many classic novels by Australian women as I should have. And I need to somehow try and squeeze more contemporary novels by Australian women into my reading schedule.

Why? Because I think Australian women have something important to say, and a distinctive voice that needs to be encouraged.

It’s been widely noted by writers much more eloquent than I that writing by Australian women is often ignored by the people who decide which books to review in newspapers, and by the people who hand out the big literary prizes.

Though, of course, not all gender bias is intentional. I’m guilty of it myself. Looking at the list of reviews I’ve posted since I started writing this blog, I’m a little staggered to find that, of the sixty-one novels I’ve reviewed to date, only twenty-one were written by women.

That’s why I’ve decided to take up blogger Elizabeth Lhuede’s 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s a simple challenge: read and review at least three novels by Australian women for the year. Easy. Although I hadn’t really considered doing a reading challenge before (after all, the nature of my blog is essentially one big reading challenge) when I found out about the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I knew I wanted to be involved.

Just a few of the books I’ll be reading this year…

So, this year, I’ll be reviewing as many novels written by Australian women that I can. While the concept of Book to the Future will remain the same, I’ll be taking a few little detours here and there.

There’s a host of other intrepid bloggers out there who have signed up for the challenge too; bloggers much more prolific and well-read than myself. Here’s the complete list – go and leave an encouraging comment or two.

There’s something else I know; one final thing.

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I honestly believe that the choices we readers make matter. As a reader, the books buy can help to shape the future of the Australian publishing industry.

I believe reading is power. Although I might be just a bookblogger, I have a voice, and I plan on using it.