Challenge Complete – sort of

I signed up to do the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge as usual, aimed for the Franklin level (read 10 books, review 6) but only managed to get as far as Stella (read 4, review 3). The main thing that got in the way was the creative writing course I started through Tabor Adelaide, which ate time and led me to read differently. Getting an iPad for my birthday also contributed.

The three books I reviewed were:

Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung

Tasting Life Twice by Ramona Koval

The Messenger Bird by Rosanne Hawke


I read more than four, have read 9 and counting, these were mainly nonfiction:

A Fig at the Gate by Kate Llewellyn (again)

First Things First – Selected Letters by Kate Llewellyn (read it twice) Editors were Ruth Bacchus and Barbara Hill

Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy (again)

The Floral Mother by Kate Llewellyn (again)

The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

Kerenza by Rosanne Hawke.

the shifting fog

I have borrowed a stack of Rosanne Hawke books and some Kate Morton, who I’ve not read before, to read over the summer. Then I must read them, instead of playing Pocket Trains!





AWW 2014 – Challenge Complete

Hurrah, the day I have been waiting for, as the year is almost up and I had to get on with completing what I set out to do, which was the Franklin level – read 10 and review at least 6.

The books I read and reviewed were:

The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny

All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss

Me of the Never Never by Fiona O’Loughlin

The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement by Virginia Lloyd.

The books I read but didn’t review were:

Playing With Water by Kate Llewellyn (yet again!)

Hannah and the Tomorrow Room by Libby Gleeson (and Hannah the Famous)

A Fig at the Gate by Kate Llewellyn

Tiddas by Anita Heiss


Writing and reading is so often a one-way street, author writes the book and you the reader reads it, and never the twain shall meet – especially if the author is late. But this year I was blessed with some form of contact with almost all the AWWs on the list (with the exception of Cato (deceased), Gleeson and Kent). This was in the form of emails or twitter conversations, and one face to face meeting when Fiona O came to Quorn last Thursday.

heiss twitter

But the most surreal moment of the year was turning up in A Fig at the Gate by Kate Llewellyn!


The Waterlily by Kate Llewellyn

First published 1987 by Hudson Publishing in association with Angus & Robertson.

One of my all time favourite books

One of my all time favourite books

Of all of Kate Llewellyn’s writing; poetry, essays, memoir, travelogue, what I like best is her journals. Husband dying, dead? Stepson in jail for murder? Out they come.

I read The Waterlily about once a year, mainly when life is really tough. The book begins three months after Llewellyn has moved to the Blue Mountains, and tracks a year of her life. In all of her journals, the big events of life are kept well in the background where, if you ask me, they belong, when it comes to any really good writing. The emphasis is on small joys, and the prose is as poetic as a good poet can get away with.

Her opening lines have way of racketing around in my brain. “When I came to live in the mountains I was determined to be happy. Sparrows were pecking the pale green and white shoots from the tree outside the kitchen as I made the first cup of tea for the day.” Each journal entry contains little observations such as, “The first tulip is out today. It is red with a black heart like a Norse helmsman. If it were a person it would be called Eric.”  An unhappy affair is also woven into the story of her garden.

The Waterlily is the first book of the Blue Mountains Trilogy, written the 1980s. It is not a true trilogy, and The Waterlily is better regarded as a stand-alone book.  While the second and third books do follow on a little after the previous book has ended, these are both books of letters, Dear You to a lover, and The Mountain to her daughter. I find I enjoy the journal writing better because it is more personal, written for you the reader, instead of someone else.

Despite the book’s many merits, Kate Llewellyn remains fairly unknown, even in her home state of South Australia which is a pity, but her writing is not for everyone. You will not get any enjoyment out of it if you are not a passionate gardener or lover of nature. And even if you are, it still may not gel with you. I lent one of her more recent books to a friend who has similar tastes in books, but after six months she still hadn’t finished it. Even though she said she liked it. So there you go.

But for me the writing is so soothing that the comfort that it gives  is second only to that of the Good Book. It is literary Valium. [Please do not confuse this with literary sleeping tablets!]