1. Flesh Wounds – Richard Glover
Richard Glover, renowned columnist, ABC radio host and all-round brilliant writer, published his memoir at the same time as me. Since then, we have been in an epic ‘troubled childhood memoir’ battle to the death, which has included covering each other’s books with our own in stores and taunting one another on social media.
But, because it’s Christmas, I will once and ONCE ONLY, admit that his book is far superior to mine. His ability to balance the horror and humour that comes with childhood trauma is out of this world. I am jealous of his skill, and hope to write like him one day.
2. Last Woman Hanged – Caroline Overington
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. A fascinating and in-depth look into the life and (many trials) of Louisa Collins, the last woman ever hanged in NSW in 1889. Caroline Overington is a brilliant Australian writer, and her unmatched skills in investigative journalism give this book the feel of a longform crime article, so those terrified of historical non-fiction needn’t be intimidated – this baby is a page-turner. Think Serial, but set in Old Sydney Town. Those familiar with the city will love the vivid descriptions of familiar locations as they were in the 1800s, and those who love a good crime story will be hooked on Louisa’s demise. I still can’t decide whether or not she was guilty. Hurry up and read this so I can debate with someone about it!
3. The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion – Megan Daum
This book took the wind out of me. Megan Daum writes with such brutal honesty that it often takes you a second to breathe in what she’s dared to put on the page (and then find yourself realising that you’ve often thought the same thing, but have just been too chicken shit to ever say so). A book of personal essays from everything about cooking to her mother’s death, Daum is hilarious, confronting, talented and unflinchingly honest. But most of all, she is so damn readable. I often find books of personal essays struggle to keep my attention; the lack of narrative means I can easily put them down. I could not put this book down. It is a page-turner, and any woman who reads it will see herself in one or more of the brilliant stories.
4. Living Mistakes – Kate Inglis
My mother was adopted, and this book was written by her birth mother (my birth grandmother) in 1984. It tells the heartbreaking stories of women who gave up their children for adoption during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. By the time my grandmother interviewed them for this book, the mothers had spent many years thinking about the lives they could have had. What’s most interesting though, is that although many women were tragically forced or coerced into giving up their children against their will, there are many who made the choice willingly, and still wrestled with the ramifications of that choice many years later. This book is hard to find, but can be picked up on eBay or Amazon. Even if your family hasn’t been affected by adoption, the stories in this collection will move you.