I haven't signed up for this because I'm not a joiner. But other people, more conscientious than I, are doing it and more power to them, and it prompted me, just out of curiosity, to see just how many books by Australian women writers I have read this year. And it turns out it was more than I thought: enough to qualify me for the Franklin-fantastic (if I was energetic enough to write proper-length reviews).
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark: Glenda Millard
I put off reading this for ages because I'm a bit wary of post-apocalyptic, kids-in-a-war books; but this drew me in with the beauty and sweetness of Skip's narration and the warmth of the little displaced group that become his surrogate family. Not what I was expecting, but in a good way. (I should have known better, because I love Glenda Millard's beautiful writing.)
Act of Faith: Kelly Gardiner
It's 1640, and Isabella, the daughter of a radical scholar, is forced to flee to the Continent, where she falls in with the courageous printers who dare to spread books and ideas that the all-powerful Church doesn't necessarily approve of. I thoroughly enjoyed this window into a world that I don't know much about, and Kelly has obviously done heaps of research - the book wears it lightly, however, and Isabella is a brave and appealing heroine.
Stasiland: Anna Funder
Another one I put off reading because I thought it would be worthy but difficult. Man, was I wrong. This was supremely readable, an engaging and fascinating journey into the vanished world of East Germany -- disturbing but compulsive. When it's done well (like this, and Helen Garner) literary non-fiction might almost be my favourite genre. Now I have to read that novel that everyone's raving about...
Graffiti Moon: Cath Crowley
Part of me wanted to pick this book to pieces to find out how it worked, because this is bloody close to being a perfect YA novel. Gorgeous stuff, simple but poetic, set in a single night, not a word out of place. You could sing it. This gave me a severe case of writer's envy.
Pirate X: Sherryl Clark
Sherryl has packed in a lifetime's obsession with pirates into this children's novel. While some of the detail was really interesting, at times it felt a little over-stuffed with facts, to the detriment of the story's flow, and the time-slip mechanism that transported her contemporary protagonist back to the swashbucklers was slightly clunky. But anyone who loves pirates will find plenty to absorb them.
Listening to Country: Ros Moriarty
A moving account of a white Australian's journey through the physical and emotional landscape of her Aboriginal husband's family in the Tanami Desert in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Warm, generous, intimate, heart-breaking and ultimately inspiring.
Star Jumps: Lorraine Marwood
A slender volume of verse, telling the story of a rural family's struggle with drought, and the ties that bind them to the land and to each other, through the eyes of young daughter Ruby. Winner of the PM's Literary Award in 2009. Small but perfectly formed.
The Children of the King: Sonya Hartnett
This was a book I wished I'd written myself - it's wartime England, and city kids sent to the country discover two mysterious boys apparently hiding out on a ruined castle. But are the boys what they seem? Hartnett didn't handle the material the way I would have done myself -- so maybe I can still write my own version one day!
The FitzOsbornes at War: Michelle Cooper
Words cannot express the depth of pleasure that Michelle Cooper's Montmaray books have given me. Roll up the Mitford sisters with I Capture The Castle, and sprinkle some sparkles on top - consume in one bite. I've got my mum hooked on these as well. I cried reading this - not just because of what happens, but because it's all finished and there are no more.
Losing It: Julia Lawrinson
Four teenage girls vow to lose their virginity before Schoolies Week. This is a kind of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants where the pants come off rather than being put on... It was an easy read, covered lots of bases and talked matter-of-factly and with humour about the temptations and mortifications of adolescent sex, which is probably something we need more of.
The Lieutenant: Kate Grenville
Based on the true story of William Dawes and his tentative interactions with a young Aboriginal girl in the first days of the Sydney colony. A compact, beautifully written tale, though I was vaguely bothered by the fictionalisation of historical characters such as Arthur Philip and Bennelong. I guess Grenville had to protect herself, because she is writing fiction, not history; but the disguises were so transparent as to be practically invisible... Not sure what the answer is to this one.
The Barrumbi Kids: Leonie Norrington
A lively story about the adventures of a mixture of indigenous and white kids in an outback community. I really enjoyed this. Alice's class are reading this at school and she has found the beginning hard to get into, but I'm encouraging her to persist, because it's well worth it. A terrific introduction to Aboriginal Australia.
Love-Shy: Lili Wilkinson
A fun read. I'd never heard of love-shyness before, but after reading this, I suspect I have snagged myself a slightly love-shy man, which is no bad thing. I read bits out to him and he said, hmm! Which I'm taking as a yes. Lili does funny but meaningful YA so well... I dips me lid.
In fact I dips me lid to you all, women writers of Australia. And may there be many more of you!