Home > AWW Challenge, Personal Posts > Australian Women Writers 2020: Challenge completed!

Australian Women Writers 2020: Challenge completed!

December 27, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

In 2020 I signed up for the Australian Women Writers (AWW) challenge. The rules are simple: read as many books as possible by Australian Women Writers and link your review to the AWW page.

There are four levels in this challenge:

  • Stella: read four, review at least three
  • Miles: read six, review at least four
  • Franklin: read ten, review at least six.
  • Create your own challenge: nominate your goal

I reached the Miles level this year. I read six books by Australian Women Writers and wrote a billet for each. Here are the books I read, sorted according to their year of publishing:

1865: Mr Hogarth’s Will by Catherine Helen Spence. I loved this book with its Austenian plot, its feminist and progressist vibe. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Jane and Alice Melville are looking for respectable work and a living wage. Although well qualified – they have been given a ‘boy’s education’ by their uncle Mr Hogarth – neither can find a suitable position. They are disinherited by their uncle who believes that this will make them into independent women. But a knowledge of accountancy, minerology and agricultural chemistry counts for nothing in a woman (even a woman like Jane Melville) in nineteenth century Scotland.
Driven to desperation in their struggle to support themselves, eventually they look to Australia for new opportunities. But life in the new world has its own problems.

1896: A Humble Enterprise by Ada Cambridge. I imagine that Ada Cambridge had read Mr Hogarth’s Will as it also has a feminist side. A Humble Enterprise is the tale of daughters who open a teashop in Melbourne after their father dies abruptly, leaving them without an income. It’s like The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy. (1888)

1904: Sisters by Ada Cambridge. Sisters is a very bleak and cynical vision of marriage and it’s hard to imagine that it was written by the same author as A Humble Enterprise.

1910: An Autobiography by Catherine Helen Spence. After reading Mr Hogarth’s Will, I wanted to know more about its author and started CH Spence’s Autobiography. Also some passages are a bit long and obscure for non-Australians or for the modern reader, it was a fascinating read about an exceptional woman. Recommended to remember that not all the pioneers were men.

1960: The Catherine Wheel by Elizabeth Harrower. Only the excellence of Harrower’s writing pushed me to finish The Catherine Wheel. It’s the story of a toxic relationship that slowly tortures and destroy a young woman, Clemency James.

2016: Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan. I needed an entertaining read and Toni Jordan wrote an excellent Australian vaudeville. I had a lot of fun reading Our Tiny, Useless Hearts and I found the fun I was looking for.

When I look at my selection of books, if we put aside CH Spencer’s Autobiography, all books are about marriage, relationships and the fact that women often draw the short straw in the marriage game. Even the 19th century novels are quite feminist, showing women in positions where they have their lives in their hands and try to be independant. All these books are worth reading, for different reasons but if I have to pick one, it’ll be Mr Hogarth’s Will. 

Many thanks to the team in charge of AWW. I don’t know yet if I’ll participate in 2021 but I might. If you want to hop on the AWW train, check out the 2021 subscription page.

  1. December 27, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    Well done! I admire anyone who can stick to a challenge over a whole year! 😀


    • December 28, 2020 at 11:02 pm

      Thanks! It’s an easy challenge as you do as you please and read at your own rythm.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. December 27, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Congrats and many thanks for your support of the challenge in 2020!


    • December 28, 2020 at 11:03 pm

      Thank you. I think that Australian lit is what I read most after French, American and British lit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. December 28, 2020 at 2:16 am

    C19th Australian women’s writing was sidelined for up to 100 years and only began to be republished in the 1980s. A lot of it is excellent, and a lot is anti-marriage, which didn’t suit the Australian ethos of men conquering the Bush while their women stayed at home and cooked. Perhaps you might try Rosa Praed next.


    • December 28, 2020 at 11:48 am

      I’ve never heard of Rosa Praed, I’ll look her up.
      Btw, do you have a list of books for AWW Gen 3 Week? I need help.


      • December 28, 2020 at 11:59 am

        Emma: Here are some suggestions for the second half of Gen 3 – the War years through to the end of the 1950s.

        Charmian Clift (1923-1969)
        Walk to the Paradise Gardens (1960)
        Honour’s Mimic (1964)*
        Mermaid Singing (1956)* memoir
        Peel Me a Lotus (1959)* memoir – all these relate to her time living on the Greek Islands

        Ruth Park (1917-2010)
        The Harp in the South (1948)
        Poor Man’s Orange (1949); also published as 12 1/2 Plymouth Street, (1951)
        The Witch’s Thorn (1951)
        Pink Flannel (1955); also published as “Dear Hearts and Gentle People”, (1981)
        The Drums Go Bang* (1956)

        Kylie Tennant (1912-1988)
        Tiburon (1935)
        The Battlers (1940)
        Ride on Stranger (1943)
        The Honey Flow* (1956)

        Catherine Edmonds (1900-1960)
        Caddie* (1953)

        Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969)
        Black Opal (1921)
        Working Bullocks (1926)
        Coonardoo (1929)
        Haxby’s Circus* (1930)

        Eleanor Dark (1901-1985)
        Prelude to Christopher (1934)
        Return to Coolami (1936)
        Lantana Lane* (1959)

        I’ve starred some as perhaps being easier to knock off in the time we have left. I have no idea what are available as e-books, let alone overseas. So good hunting.
        There are many more, including for these authors, on my AWW Gen 3 Page


        • December 28, 2020 at 1:27 pm

          Thanks for all the suggestions! I’ll see what I can find in ebooks.


        • December 28, 2020 at 3:13 pm

          So, I checked and here are the ones available for me in ebooks:

          Catherine Edmonds (1900-1960)
          Caddie* (1953)

          Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969)
          The Black Opal (1921)
          Coonardoo (1929)

          Eleanor Dark (1901-1985)
          Prelude to Christopher (1934)
          Return to Coolami (1936)
          Lantana Lane* (1959)

          I’m going to read Lantana Lane and if I have the time, Coonardoo.

          Many thanks for the long list of recommendations since in the end, only a few are available in France.


      • December 28, 2020 at 12:04 pm

        Rosa Praed was a prolific author who grew up on a cattle station in Queensland, married a rich English guy, moved back to England with him (after two disastrous years running their own cattle station. And wrote drawing room and bush dramas about women divorcing inconvenient husbands and moving on (Rosa moved on with a woman friend).
        Hearing Maud by Jessica White, which you may have seen around the last year or so, is partly the story of Rosa’s daughter. (Sorry for taking up so much room!)


        • December 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm

          Thanks. She seems to be an interesting writer. Which one should I read?


          • December 28, 2020 at 1:53 pm

            I think Sue (WG) and I both read The Bond of Wedlock first because that was maybe the only one re-published in the 1980s. It is short and is set entirely in London. Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land is the next I read and is semi autobiographical. It is problematic and you probably should read my review before you make a start on it.
            The Gen 1 page has a couple of Praed’s reviewed by Jess White (who is planning a biography) and a couple more with links to the ebook on Proj. Gutenberg


  4. December 28, 2020 at 2:37 am

    Delighted to see Mr Hogarth’s Will as your first choice, I thought that was an excellent book…


    • December 28, 2020 at 11:46 am

      I really enjoy this kind of book. Great plot, interesting questions raised, a good pace.


  5. December 28, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Well done on completing the challenge. How easy was it to find these books? I see many Australian authors highlighted by people like Lisa and Bill but when I go to buy them they are either not available yet in UK or the cost is extremely high. My library system doesn;t have any interest in stocking them


    • December 28, 2020 at 1:25 pm

      I download them from the kindle store. The 19th C writers are free and the others are available at normal price.
      Have you seen Bill’s comment and the list of AWW Gen 3? There’s a lot to explore.


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