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.
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.
It is rare that I read a general fiction novel set in rural Australia. I thought I better spread my wings a little, so here’s my review of Return to Tamarlin by K. M. Steele.
“When Tamara Slender disappears from an isolated property in Western NSW in 1975, gossip runs wild with rumours she has run off with a local man, Roger Bryte.
Months later, Tamara’s teenage daughters, Nancy and Mary, realise they encountered Bryte in caves on their property the day before their mother disappeared. Despite their suspicions, their father refuses to involve the police, and the girl’s grief, fuelled by the town gossips and their father’s inaction, drives them apart.
In 2007 a stranger arrives at the farm seeking information about Roger Bryte. His questions give Nancy a reason to contact her estranged sister. The sisters are reunited, and their mother’s disappearance is finally solved when Mary returns to Tamarlin.”
K. M. Steele has penned an intriguing novel of two sisters and the dark mystery that separates them. Return to Tamarlin is well-written, slow-paced and rich in sense of place. Steele’s rendering of a sheep farm in crisis as its owners battle drought and plague, along with the prejudices and gossip of a small country town are spot on. This social realism provides the perfect back drop for a story involving the disappearance of Nancy and Mary’s mother on the very day they decide to try to re-enact the disappearance of the schoolgirls in Picnic at Hanging Rock, at some caves on their property called the Limeholes. Two weeks earlier, another local disappears, a local the girls encounter when they visit the caves. Are the two disappearances connected? What is it about their mother and her past that troubles both her daughters, and causes one to fiercely defend their father, and the other to flee the farm for larger horizons?
Good characterisation and a well-crafted plot hold the story together and the various tensions within the family and in the local community are convincingly portrayed. Tragedy, loss, grief and belonging are the emotional themes underpinning Return to Tamarlin, themes many a reader will relate to. This novel will appeal to those who want to lose themselves in an Australian rural setting and re-visit Australia in the 1970s, with all of its social prejudices intact.
You can buy a copy here.