My #AWW2018 Round UP – Australian Women Writers Challenge

What a year 2018 has been! I signed up for a modest three titles with #AWW this year, because I didn’t think I would have the time for more. In the end I have totted up a whopping fifty-two reviews this year – not bad considering I have also had five novels of my own published! A healthy nine of those reviews were of novels written by Australian women writers. Here are my reflections of the Australian women writers I have read over the last twelve months.

Egyptian EnigmaMud and Glass by Laura E Goodin

My Australian Women Writers Round Up

I have travelled far and wide through this collection of novels, from Ancient Egypt with L.J.M. Owen to the Scottish highlands with Patricia Leslie. I have dwelt long in Queensland with Slatter and Saftich and western New South Wales with Bendon and Steele. With Nightingale I have entered the fantasy realm of Tarya reminiscent of Medieval Italy. Not quite sure where I landed with Goodin, but it was a thoroughly entertaining place to be.

I have journeyed through genres too, from Owen’s captivating cosy mystery to Slatter’s gripping dark urban fantasy; from Nightingale’s charming YA fantasy series to the very upbeat fantasy-comedy of Goodin. A heartrending historical memoir from Saftich and some intriguing contemporary fiction from Steele. A fascinating mystery laced with mysticism from Bendon and a gender-bending gem – part historical, part urban fantasy – from Leslie.

All of these novels are top reads and deserve the attention of readers. All these authors demonstrate great care with their prose, and with their plotting and characterisation. A reviewer’s dream!

Is there something that defines these women and holds these books together? I believe there is. Australian women writers seem to display a sensitivity and deep consideration of the world around them. These are warm-hearted stories, at times witty, always considered and considerate.

My only lament is that all authors need readers, so next time you are after reading something new, pause before you pick up another Rowling or King and take a punt on an author you have never heard of.

You can find my reviews of all of these titles by clicking this link

Book review: Wanderers No More by Michelle Saftich

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich, I am delighted to share my review of its sequel, Wanderers No More.

“The war may be over, but the fight to belong is just beginning.

Left homeless, starving, and almost killed by the Second World War, the Saforo family are refugees fleeing Italy for a better life. The shores of Australia are calling to them and they head off, packing dreams of jobs, a home and … soccer.

But from the moment they get off the boat, adapting to the Australian way of life is harder than

it seems. Their family doesn’t speak right, eat right or even look right. As they struggle to build a simple life against the backdrop of 1950s racism, they start to wonder if they will be outsiders forever.

A true family affair, Wanderers No More will make you laugh, remind you of your family, and warm your heart.”

My thoughts:

Stories of migrant refugees form an important part of the fabric of Australian, and indeed global society, as many many millions of us have been or are refugees, refugees of war, oppression, famine or environmental catastrophe. Port of No Return describes how a small group of families from northern Italy become refugees in World War II, and in Wanderers No More, Saftich portrays the everyday life for these families from the moment they set foot in Australia. The novels fall into the genre of family history memoir, as they are based on true events and real people.

Wanderers No More is an endearing coming of age story sure to put a smile on every reader’s face. Told mostly through the eyes of young Martino Saforo, who arrives with his family in Newcastle after spending four years in various refugee camps in Europe, the novel engages from the first page. The early part of the novel describes the harsh life for European migrants sent to government-run labour camps where they are bonded for two years, the men working on infrastructure projects, including the Snowy River hydro-electricity scheme, mining and roadbuilding. Or on farms slashing sugar cane and the lucky ones in factories. Accommodation was Nissan hut style.

Wanderers No More centres on the trials and tribulations of Martino, his brothers and their friends. The women in the story, the sisters and the mothers, have lesser roles which are not developed but provide texture nevertheless. The cameo role of Martino’s ever-present Nonna represents not only the female element, but Italy itself, with all of its traditions. Through Nonna and Martino, Saftich depicts the homesickness, the coping skills, the resilience and the determination to learn Australian ways and language with enormous sensitivity and insight. Simple acts of kindness are juxtaposed with relentless ethnocentric bullying, mostly in the schoolyard. For Martino, Australia seems a harsh and unforgiving land filled with harsh and unforgiving people. Yet hope is ever present, as is Martino’s passion for soccer, which consumes much of the narrative as the novel progresses. Tragedy is ever present, a ghost at first haunting between the lines, and when it finally manifests, it strikes hard.

Throughout the novel which spans two decades, Saftich deploys emotional restraint, the narrative voice commensurate with the heart and mind of a young boy finding his way, a boy who grows up lost, confused, alienated and hurting in so many ways. Anyone familiar with This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff will understand the narrative approach. With its easy, engaging style, and themes of migration, alienation and belonging, this novel belongs on the set text lists in Australian schools.

Buy this book

Catch up with the author here