Reading female Australian writers

About six weeks ago, I decided to make a commitment to reading more fiction by female Australian authors, because I shamefully realised that I had read so little of it.

I also decided that I would post on Facebook short reviews of the works I read.

With the creation of this blog, that is no longer necessary.

So I thought it might be a good idea to concatenate my previous Facebook posts, so as to provide a recap of the novels and short stories I have read so far and my responses to them. Some are slightly edited from their original form.

Monkey Grip by Helen Garner 18 June 2016

I’m making a commitment to read more female Australian writers over the next several weeks. This morning I finished “Monkey Grip”. I have memories of this book; a copy with a photo of Noni Hazlehurst on the cover sat in my parents’ bookcase. But this is the first time I’ve read it through. I loved it to pieces.

Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings 20 June 2016

Last night I finished “Moral Hazard” by Kate Jennings. Cath – a self-described “bedrock feminist, unreconstructed left-winger” – is forced to take a job as a speechwriter at a Wall Street investment firm when her husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Jennings’ prose is incisive, witty, and economical, and her depiction of a woman (a fictionalised version of herself) watching her partner’s mind and identity crumble is all the more haunting for being wholly unsentimental.

The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow by Thea Astley 13 July 2016

Last night I finally finished ‘The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow’ by Thea Astley. I found it a bit difficult to get into at first. The writing is richly textured, so much so that it took a while before I found a rhythm with it. This is a book that stings. It’s about collective guilt, imprisonment of many kinds, and the brutal and dehumanising treatment of indigenous people under the guise of benevolence.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood 15 July 2016

Amazing. An absolute gut-punch of a novel, an allegory of contemporary misogyny that is fierce and heartbreaking and brilliant. A book that urges you to thrust it into people’s hands and cry “Read this!”

The Delinquents by Criena Rohan 16 July 2016

The story of Brownie and Lola’s commitment to each other is beautifully told, but the other joy of this novel is Rohan’s ability to dissect adult hypocrisy and self-delusion with sardonic precision. There are also some darkly comic observations on the suffocating bigotry of 1950s Queensland!

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic 20 July 2016

I have mixed feelings about this novel. It’s well-plotted, features some vividly written scenes of violent action, and the emotional stakes resonate. But there are some details of characterisation and incident that feel contrived, and these had the effect of pulling me out of the narrative.

The Sugar Mother by Elizabeth Jolley 24 July 2016

A deeply compassionate portrait of a man longing for family, for emotional fulfilment, and for acceptance. Desires that leave him open to being exploited in a most unusual way… There is a certain formality to Jolley’s use of language, but it richly captures the inner life of her protagonist and his many vulnerabilities.

Forecast: Turbulence by Janette Turner Hospital  28 July 2016

Each of the short stories in this collection is a haunting jewel. The chaotic nature of weather, with its potential for purification as well as destruction, weaves through these stories as a metaphor for unintended consequences, for unendurable loss, for healing revelation.

Next time, two novels by Elizabeth Harrower: Down in the City and The Watch Tower. See you then!

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