Best Reads 1915


Everyone seems to have time on their hands in the past couple of weeks. Sue, Lisa you’re not aiming at the magic 366 posts for the year are you? I’m not sure I have that much reading time. But in the spirit of the new year, and with a review almost ready to post, I thought I’d nevertheless take advantage of an unexpected couple of days at home, and post my ‘Best Reads’ for books published in Australia 100 years ago, ie. over the course of 1915.

Hooton and Heseltine list 45 books for the year – and despite being a war year, that doesn’t appear to be many fewer than for the non-war years in that decade – of which 11 are novels.

Top of the list would have to be Katherine Sussanah Prichard’s The Pioneers, her first and the winner of the Hodder & Stoughton All Empire Literature Prize. (see reviews by Nathan Hobby and by Whispering Gums)

Other notables are –

CJ Dennis, The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (Verse)

? Henry, The Trade Union Woman (History)

Douglas Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard (Autobiography) (see review by Lisa at ANZLL)

Louise Mack , A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War (Autobiography)

Rosa Praed, Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land (Novel)

Ethel Turner, The Cub (Childrens)

Nettie Palmer and Vance Palmer both had books of verse published, as did Henry Lawson (My Army, O, My Army) and Norman Lindsay a book of verse and illustrations (NL’s Book No. 11)

Outhwaite and Rentoul had two books of fairy stories published, illustrated it says by AI Rentray – AI Rattray is Ida Rentoul’s mother’s maiden name – but more likely by Ida’s sister Annie Rattray Rentoul of whom I wrote earlier.

I was going to say there doesn’t seem to be anything else that made it through the subsequent ten years let alone 100 but Mills, The Colonization of Australia (History) is marked as having been reprinted in 1968, perhaps the Resident Judge or Historians are Past Caring have seen it.

In a big year for them, the Palmers had a daughter, Aileen, whose biography (by Sylvia Martin) is coming out this year. Other notable births included Bill Wannan, Judith Wright and Donald Friend; and Rolf Boldrewood died.

And finally, if you want to get the flavour of the times, why not try –

Littlejohn, Agnes, Patriotic Poems.


Reference: Joy Hooton and Harry Heseltine, Annals of Australian Literature, 2nd Ed., OUP, Melbourne, 1992

See also review by Whispering Gums of CJ Dennis biography


9 thoughts on “Best Reads 1915

  1. 366? heavens, no! I reckon I’d lose half my readers if I swamped them with a post every day, even if it were possible to read and review a book a day!
    But hey, I’m very pleased to see that I’ve actually read one of the books on your list: I read Home of The Blizzard in a great new edition published by Wakefield Press (See Mawson has been a hero of mine since childhood.


  2. Yes, Mawson is fascinating, I remember listening to a story or series about his later work as a geologist in SA on Radio National. And I see in the paper, yesterday I think, they’re presently excavating (or unsnowing) his hut in Antarctica.
    I’ve not read the Mawson but own and have read the Prichard and the CJ Dennis and I would particularly like to obtain and read the Louise Mack.


  3. Hmmm … I’ve read the Prichard (and reviewed it as you probably know) and books by Dennis, Praed,Turner and Vance Palmer. I have Mack on my TBR. We had such a vibrant literary life back then, and into the 1920s and 30s. Wonderful years for Australian literature.


    • In the rush to publish I left out the references to your and Nathan’s reviews. Done now. It was a difficult period, at least partly, because of paper shortages and short print runs, and books very quickly went out of circulation. Sometimes you get the impression the whole Australian literary scene was held together singlehandedly by the efforts of Nettie Palmer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Pioneers is better than KSP remembered (she was quite harsh on it later)! I think her friend Sumner Locke had a novel out in 1915, too, which makes me wonder what sort of writer she might have become. I’m looking forward to the Aileen Palmer biography. Deborah Jordan mentions that KSP held a reception for Aileen’s arrival in June 1915 in London. Would’ve been quite an expat gathering.


  5. I guess 1915 is more an area of speciality for you than it is for me, I had to use Google to catch up. Helena Sumner Locke (1881-1917) had the novel Skeeter Farm Takes a Spell published in 1915 – terrible title. Locke died giving birth to the actor and writer Sumner Locke Elliott.


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