WHILE the world has been distracted by a pressing pandemic, a small group of readers in the northern NSW New England region committed to reading and discussing a range of independently-published books, and now they’re getting ready to announce the pick of the crop.
This is the second year the High Country Book Club based in Glen Innes has awarded a literary prize. Across 2019 we read a broad range of titles published by readers in three continents and gave our first gong to Lady Bird & The Fox by Australian author Kim Kelly.
In 2020, our pool of choices was extended from indie authors to the publications produced by independent presses, those that don’t have huge marketing machines behind them and could do with a boost. Since we’re based at The Makers Shed, a destination for handmade, skill-sharing and artisanal products, our focus on indie titles is apt.
Our reading year kicked off with Jo-Ann Capp’s Four Hot Chips (published by Boogie Books). The true story of one family’s childhood cancer journey, this is a heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting short read, exploring relationship dynamics when loved ones are under pressure.
We continued with The Worst Country in the World by London-based Patsy Trench, which documents the author’s search for the reasons her ancestress Mary Pitt migrated from Dorset to New South Wales in 1801. Replete with fictionalised scenes where history remains undiscovered, this book is an eye-opener about colonial Australia.
In Hide (published by MidnightSun) we ventured into fiction. Penned by South Australian author S. J. Morgan, this thriller took us on a wild journey from Thatcher’s Britain to the Australian outback, via a chilling look into international bikie culture.
Staying with fiction, we read Kim Kelly’s Walking. Partly based on true events, this novel explores the world of orthopaedic surgery in the first half of the 20th century, through the eyes and experiences of patients, practitioners and their loves, lives and hopes.
You Had Me At Hola by Leigh Robshaw took us on a true-life South American odyssey, recreating the author’s 1990s adventures to find her heart’s desire in foreign lands. Scenes from this title are still regularly talked about in book club meetings months later!
We were visited by Yumna Kassab to kick off the second annual High Country Writers Festival with a discussion about her short fiction debut The House of Youssef (published by Giramondo). This acclaimed collection sheds light on lives in the Lebanese-Australian community.
Mary Garden’s Sundowner of the Skies (published by New Holland) was an external and internal adventure, documenting the 1920s England-to-Australia flight of Mary’s father Oscar Garden, and exploring what high achievers do when they give up their wings.
To complete the year, we read Hayley Katzen’s debut memoir Untethered (published by Ventura Press) and were delighted Hayley could join us for another writer’s festival session to chat about her search for a sense of belonging from academia to farm life in the Clarence Valley.
All High Country Book Club titles are available for purchase from The Makers Shed, and can be posted to readers within Australia. Browse our online bookshop.
Congratulations to all the finalists in 2020… we’ve been uplifted, challenged, thrilled, frightened, moved, angered, entertained and encouraged to keep reading by your engaging works of fiction and non-fiction.
The winner of the High Country Indie Book Award 2020 will be announced during the High Country Writers Retreat on Saturday October 24. Bookings essential! Join the High Country Book Club by attending The Makers Shed on the third Saturday of every month from 10am-12pm.