I was recently hinting that I hadn’t finished with my favourite books of 2017. Late last year, The Stella Prize approached me to be a part of The Stella Sparks campaign. My mission was to choose a favourite book written by an Australian woman read in 2017. I was definitely happy to accept that task – the hardest part was choosing which book!
I ended up choosing Hello, Goodbye by Emily Brewin which was also published in 2017. Why? This book has stuck with me since I read it back in July in so many ways. It captures beautifully the feelings of claustrophobia of an Aussie small town. The novel is also set in an era of change as people begin to question Australia’s role in the Vietnam War, traditional life paths and the need to conform to the rest of the society.
The female characters in Hello, Goodbye are also so strong. I believe that if May and her teacher Miss Berry were real people, they would wholeheartedly support The Stella Prize. The prize aims to both support and recognise Australian women writers and their contribution to literature. It also aims to raise the profile of women writers, bringing more readers and also teaching readers to question stereotypes. May is a character who, with the encouragement of Miss Berry, starts to question those stereotypes. She’s timid at first, but as the novel continues she finds her voice to question the lack of rights for young Australians, male and female.
In Hello, Goodbye, Emily Brewin gave me the opportunity to explore Australia’s past and marvel at how far we’re come. It also let me explore the darker side of history in the treatment of single mothers in the 1960s. The scenes at the hospital were shocking and I still remember them vividly. Yet I’m glad to have had insight on that part of history so that as a woman today, I can help to change attitudes so nobody has to feel like May did.
You can read my full review of Hello, Goodbye here and search the #StellaSpark hashtag on social media to find more wonderful books by Australian women authors.