i would like to recommend these people's writing, reviews

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012 – Completed

Belatedly, I am happy to declare that I successfully completed the challenge that I set myself last year as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, to wit: to read at least 10 books written by Australian women and to review at least 4 of them.

Happy to say that I actually managed to review 9 of the books that I read, the only unreviewed book being Man Wolf Man by LK Holt, which I’d borrowed from a friend and had to give back before I could finish my second read-through, which I like to do when reviewing poetry especially. In place of a finished review of Ms. Holt’s book in the list below, allow me to say that I did like it quite a lot, and that I fully intend to review the bugger properly when I get my hands on a copy once again.

Anyway, here are links to the 9 that I DID review:

EDIT: Whoops. After it was announced that Amazon had bought Goodreads I deleted my GR account in a fit of moral righteousness so none of the below links work right now. I have a plan though – stay tuned.

There’s only one author in that list who got a mention when I posted at the end of 2011 about taking up the 2012 challenge, and that’s LK Holt, who I haven’t actually reviewed. No Gwen Harwood, no Joanne Burns, no Tracy Ryan (though I did start Scar Revision toward the end of the year, but I had to return it to the library before I’d finished it and I haven’t re-borrowed it yet)… I’m not sure a biography of Mary Gilmore counts, though some of her poems were quoted in that book…

As an experiment in expanding my experience of the words of Australian women poets, then, I guess I kind of failed, but as an experience in reading authors who were new to me, I did pretty well – prior to 2012 I’d only read Linda Jaivan’s work before.

Looking back on that list and my reviews, though, it strikes me that there aren’t many books on it that I really really enjoyed. Elmo Keep’s little freebie ebook collection of articles and essays was a cracker, and Dymphna Cusack (excellent name btw) hits it for six and a half with A Bough In Hell – so much so that I pretty much went straight out and bought a whole bunch more of her novels – and Fiona Wright’s Knuckled is a damn fine debut collection that any poet could be proud of, but the overweening emotion that I got from most of these books was disappointment, if not active dislike.

I guess that’s not the point though – you can’t expect to finish up an exercise like this all “all Australian women writers are fabulous“. That would be disingenuous. And even if you don’t like a book there are some good things to be taken from the experience.

I found the finer details of Anita Heiss’s family life and career dull, but the important argument her book makes is well serviced by that fact. I thought Anne Whitehead’s book exemplified the worst of memoir and travel writing, but it did give me an overview of Mary Gilmore’s character and point me in the direction of some other books to read about both Gilmore and the New Australia colony. I didn’t think Linda Jaivan’s novel quite held together under the competing tensions of humour and political allegory, but it was moving and thought-provoking nonetheless.

It may not have been as happy clappy a year of reading as I subconsciously expected, but the challenge was a good thing to do all the same, and I recommend that anyone who’s interested or even intrigued consider taking the 2013 challenge for themselves.

I won’t be joining you this year – I need to hold off on taking on another annual reading plan for now because I already have one reading project underway at the moment: Anna and I have signed up for The Year of Reading Proust and to be honest I’m about 80-120 pages behind where I need to be in order to get the entirety of In Search of Lost Time read by the end of the year. But more on that at a later date.

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