Well, it ‘s almost the end of 2012 and of the Australian Women Writers Reading & Reviewing Challenge.
Here at Nowra Library we displayed and promoted books written by Aussie women for most of 2012, with great success. Loans and circulation of these books increased noticeably throughout the year and it was great to see a wide range of borrowers walk out the door with newly discovered Australian reads.
Similarly, members of library staff who read and contributed reviews for the challenge also made new literary discoveries. Here is a list of the reviews published here at The Readers’ Haven throughout 2012:
Good Oil by Laura Buzo – Jessica
Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan- Kelly
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth- Kelly
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton- Gail
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough – Marie
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton- Nicole
The Precipice by Virginia Duigan- Sarah
Tiger Men by Judy Nunn- Marie
Along with Kate Forsyth, Margo Lanagan takes the cake as my 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge ‘discovery’ of the year. It is just so exciting to find two new authors, both female and both Australian, who rock my world.
Sea Hearts is one of my favourite reads for 2012. It is based on the Celtic selkie legend, of seals who shed their coats and become beautiful women (and, on occasion, men). A series of characters with intertwining lives and stories tell the tale of the witch Misskaella, who uses magic and the sea to pour revenge upon the inhabitants of Rollrock Island.
Sea Hearts is salty and bewitching, and I absolutely loved it. Lanagan’s writing is so beautiful that I found myself re-reading particular sentences and paragraphs over and over again, wondering how she could evoke such vivid images and feelings with such simplicity. In a few words Lanagan can paint a character or a setting so clearly that every detail is sharp as a freshly pressed Polaroid. I swear that at times during the reading of this book, I could smell the sea.
Bitter Greens is a beautiful mish-mash of history, fiction and fairytale. Based on the fairy tale Rapunzel, it weaves together the stories of three characters related to the tale: Margharita, sold by her parents for a ‘handful of bitter greens’ and imprisoned in a faraway tower, the sorceress Selena Leonelli, whose tale takes the reader into sixteenth century Venice and the paintings of Titian, and Charlotte Rose de la Force, French courtier and relative of the Sun King Louis XIV, who first penned ‘Rapunzel’ in the late 1600’s.
I think Goodreads sums the novel up nicely: “Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.” Hear, hear.
I have been meaning to try something of Kate Forsyth’s for quite some time and am so glad I did! It’s truly a book to get lost in; I couldn’t put it down.
I was lucky enough to hear Kate Forsyth speak about both Bitter Greens and ‘Rapunzel’ at the recent Fairy Tales Re-Imagined symposium held at the University of Technology in Sydney. It was fantastic to hear how Kate first became interested in Rapunzel and how she used history to shape Bitter Greens. If you’re interested too, you can read more about Charlotte-Rose de la Force and the beginnings of Bitter Greens at Kate’s blog.
Kelly : )
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett takes up the story of the Bennet sisters some 20 years on from the events of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride & Prejudice. It centres on Mary, the sister destined to be a spinster and tend to their obnoxious mother.
However after Mrs. Bennet’s demise Mary craves independence and through the influences of editorial letters written by a mystery author, Argus, she embarks on an investigative adventure to discover the reasons for the social conditions of the age. While Mary is on this path certain developments lead her into danger when she meets Father Dominius and the Children of Jesus, with surprising revelations…
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is very easy reading with the customary theme of leaving and the continuation of the lives of the Bennet family with romance being found no matter how late in life. It’s funny, tragic and engaging at times with the ever present theme that every woman yearns to leave her mark upon the world.
For more information on the Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge click here
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
What a great book. I would never have picked it up if it wasn’t for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (you know the old judging a book by its cover thing!) I loved the fact it was modern yet old and the chapters moved through time. I really couldn’t put it down. I had sort of worked out the ending but needed to keep reading to find how it all got put together. I would recommend this to anyone who likes mysteries or historical novels. I have heard that Morton’s first novel ‘The Shifting Fog’ is also good and I’m looking forward to reading that too.
In true Nunn form this is a family saga set in the golden years of Tasmanian settlement and expansion. It follows the lives of three men, Silas Sandford, philanthropist and business man, Jefferson Powell, political idealist and ferryman and Mick O’Callaghan, Irish rogue from convict days, through the Federation period and The Great War. The novel showcases the contrast between the wealthy elite, with their grand sandstone mansions, to the exploited poor who live in the Wapping slum area of Hobart. Each main character’s ability to take advantage of the changing world of Hobart town caused their lives and families to prosper as they moved into the 20th century.
Tiger Men also explores the way the women in each of the main character’s lives showed courage, strength and endurance- thus the analogy to the Tasmanian tiger.
This is a great read if you enjoy a mix of Aussie history with your fiction as I do. You always learn something new.