Women Writers and Aussie Rural Fiction

International womens dayNext Tuesday is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is gender parity. Worldwide, women contribute more than their fair share to social, economic, cultural and political life. Yet progress towards gender parity is slow, including in the literary world. Australia’s Stella Prize and Britain’s  Baileys Prize are attempts to redress this inbalance. In one literary field however, I can proudly say the achievements of women authors far outstrip men – the hugely popular genre of Australian Rural Fiction

All The Rivers RunThe books in this genre are overwhelmingly written by women, most of us living and working on the land. (Head over to the Australian Rural Fiction website and see for yourself. You’ll find many current and upcoming releases) Publishers point to this as a new phenomenon, but of course, Australian rural literature written by women is not new. Quite the contrary, it’s steeped in tradition. From Henry Handel Richardson’s Fortunes Of Richard Mahoney, Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run through to Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds, the drama, difficulties and romance of the Australian bush has long been the stuff of great narrative tales.

JourneysEnd_coverFrom the earliest days of white settlement and before, the bush was central to how we became Australian, how we identified ourselves as Australian. Yet during the second half of the twentieth century, it fell out of literary favour. We weren’t a bush people any more. We lived around the urban coastal fringe, and saw ourselves as urbane, cosmopolitan and civilised. But thanks to a talented cohort of women authors, the bush once more looms large in the literary landscape.

Why the massive popularity of this genre, that regularly outsells all others? I believe readers are craving a relationship to country. They’re asking the age-old question – what is it that makes us Australian? And the simple answer is, that we come from this place. Our identity comes from the continent itself. And especially that aspect of Australia that is different to other places. That doesn’t mean our cities. That means regional Australia. That means the bush. That means the climate, landscape and geology that has shaped our culture.

JE Proofs 1I’m so very proud to be part of this immensely supportive group of Australian women writers. I’ve just finished proofreading the pages for my new book, Journey’s End, out with Penguin at the end of May. It’s set on the Great Eastern Escarpment, and pays homage to the men and women who strive to conserve and restore our natural environment. Thanks to the hard work of so many talented women, the story has a ready audience. So let’s hear it for the Aussie rural writers – a shining example of achievement on International Women’s Day!

Australian Rural Romance

3 thoughts on “Women Writers and Aussie Rural Fiction

  1. I’ve been a city girl most of my life, but as a four year old refugee from Hungary’s bloody revolution, Wagga Wagga was home for my first year here in Australia. We lived with an Aussie family on the outskirts of Wagga where the outdoor dunny had redbacks, the neighbours had chickens and the Murrumbidgee was just across the road.

    The local kids taught me English and we all played on what must have been some kind of rubbish dump. To us, though, it was magical. Everything was magical about that time and it’s stayed with me for almost 60 years.

    I think that one year made me an Aussie in a way living in Melbourne never could, and reading stories about the outback cemented that sense of belonging. In fact the first story I can remember reading for myself [age 8-ish] was about a girl living in a country town who saves herself and her little sister from a bushfire by lying between the train tracks. I still don’t know if that was realistic, but the image is lodged right there next to my memories of Wagga, part of me.

    We are Aust-ra-li-an. 🙂

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