Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 18, 2020

2020 A Year in First Lines

First Lines woodcut by Kent Ambler

With thanks to Brona from Brona’s Books as the catalyst, here is my year in first lines.  The rules are that we should post the first line of the first post from each month, but as you will see, some months, I posted twice on the first day.


2019: ANZ LitLovers stats

I swore I wouldn’t do this again, I could read a whole book in the time it takes to do this analysis, but Annabookbel has done her Year in Review again and I have succumbed to her persuasion!


The Electric Hotel, by Dominic Smith

have read and liked Dominic Smith’s fiction before, but although readers interested in film may respond differently, and Smith’s writing is often very good indeed, I found The Electric Hotel only mildly interesting and vaguely disquieting.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Fleishman is in Trouble, to …

This month’s #6Degrees starts with another book I’ve never heard of:  Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner.


Small Mercies, by Richard Anderson

A fine-grained study of a marriage and a land in crisis.  A wonderful book. – Jock Serong

I couldn’t agree more, Jock! Small Mercies is wholly engaging—a character-driven novel where the unforgiving Australian climate is an unpredictable character as well.  (I’ve had to quote Serong’s blurb first, for context).

2020 ABIA Longlist

The 2020 Australian Book Industry Awards longlist was announced today.


Vale Bruce Dawe (1930-2020)

It is with sadness that I share the news that the Australian poet Bruce Dawe, OA, PhD has died aged 90.

Australian Shokoofeh Azar on the 2020 International Booker Prize shortlist!

(The first lines of this post were not mine, they were from the press release.  What follows is my first line.)
Please note that while the publisher in the longlist is named Europa Editions, it was in fact first published by Wild Dingo Press here in Australia, and I reviewed it in 2017.


The Octopus and I, by Erin Hortle

The Octopus and I is a most interesting debut from Tasmanian author Erin Hortle.


No Small Shame, by Christine Bell

It’s just a coincidence, but Theresa Smith has just published an author talk with Sandie Docker that discusses ‘the power of feel-good-fiction’, and today I finished reading a book that fits into that category.


Something to Answer For, by P.H. Newby, winner of the inaugural Booker Prize in 1969

Some readers may be aware that I have recently suffered a computer catastrophe, and lost many files because my automatic back-up external hard drive failed as well.


Six Degrees of Separation: from How to Do Nothing, to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with How to do Nothing, Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, a guest of the Melbourne Writers Festival month.

Karenlee Thompson Picture-Patrick Hamilton


Karenlee Thompson shortlisted in the Scottish Arts Club Short Story Awards 2020

Just a quick post because I have my French lesson in 90 minutes and I haven’t finished my homework, but I had to share the news: Karenlee Thompson has been shortlisted in the Scottish Arts Club Short Story Awards 2020, you can read all about it, and her short story here.


2020 Barbara Jefferis Award shortlist

Here’s the shortlist for one of my favourite awards: the 2020 Barbara Jefferis Award, named for one of the ASA’s founding members, Barbara Jefferis, and set up with a bequest by her husband John Hinde.

Nothing to See, by Pip Adam

The trouble with reading an exceptional book like Philip Salom’s new novel The Fifth Season is that one can’t help but expect whatever comes next to be a disappointment.   But not so… Pip Adam’s new novel Nothing to See is exceptional too…


Yournadiyn Woolagoodja, by Yornadaiyn Woolagoodja

The image on the front cover of this stunning book will be familiar to many people because it was featured in the Awakening segment of the opening ceremony at the Sydney Olympics.


The Tree of Man, by Patrick White, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1973

I am more comfortable about sharing my 2006 journal notes about Patrick White’s The Tree of Man than I have been for some of my other more mediocre ‘reviews from the archive’.

Against the Loveless World, by Susan Abulhawa

Against the Loveless World is exactly the kind of thought-provoking novel that I like…


What do these first lines reveal about my blog in 2020?

I think it shows that despite everything, I did pretty much what I have always done: I kept on reading, I kept on writing my reviews, I joined in memes and I shared whatever bookish news came my way.  Although it didn’t occur to me to think of it that way, in retrospect it seems that this blog offered a break from the melancholy of this most unusual year.

There are seven reviews of books I read in 2020, five of which are Australian (including one indigenous author), one’s from New Zealand, and the other is international.  That proportion is probably about right: if I succumb to the pressure to reveal my stats for 2020, I will be able to confirm it.  But… I’m still restoring my files, and as of right now, I don’t actually have a complete record of my reading…

You can see another impact of my computer disaster: In July I resurrected some old reviews from my journal and elsewhere and began my series called Reviews from the Archive. I started with old Booker Prize reviews, and went on to Nobel Prize winners.  (I’m currently working on how to turn 21 pages of ramblings about Patrick White’s The Vivisector into a coherent blog post.)

You can see #6 Degrees making an appearance: Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best has done a sterling job of maintaining the monthly meme in all its glorious diversity.

The news about prizes is more noteworthy than it appears at first glance: despite everything, prize judges read a mountain of books, ‘met’ to discuss them in some kind of digital way, and then announced their decisions, often via live-streaming.  That’s an amazing accomplishment, no matter how you look at it.  I salute these mostly unsung heroes!

What do your first lines say about you? 



  1. What a great meme as a way of reflecting back on the blogging year.


    • I like these EOY memes, and this one is quick and easy to do thanks to WP’s archive system.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those titles do demonstrate so well the variety of the topics you cover.


    • #NoPressure: will we see yours too?


      • I wanted to keep you in suspense :) But now you know the answer

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A very impressive list (you’ve done much better than I, in this difficult year!). I saw several interesting titles. I liked your review of Pip Adam’s Nothing to See (she’s a writer I’ve been meaning to check out) but it seems terribly difficult to acquire here in the U.S.


    • Pip Adam is ‘my great find’ though Kiwis have known about her for ages. However, like all NZ books, hers are expensive to acquire here in Australia, and probably equally so in the US. (If Amazon or your local bookseller doesn’t have her books available, try Fishpond, they are an Australian-New Zealand outfit so they have our books, see I use them all the time because they deliver free to our part of the world.
      But there is excellent news that Giramondo Publishing here in Australia have signed Pip Adam for their Southern Latitudes series, which is also available by subscription at a reduced price, see She deserves international attention… those Booker judges would have done better to shortlist Nothing to See than some of the very ordinary titles I’ve sent back to the library unread.


      • Lisa: thanks so much for all the information! I will certainly check the Southern Latitude series, as I have a big gap in reading ANZ writers. Time to get moving on this! (I have a copy of The New Animals on the way)
        P.S. Like you, I was less than overwhelmed by this year’s Booker list.


        • I should be fair: I think anyone on a prize jury who fulfilled their role deserves credit, but…
          Burnt Sugar (which I reviewed) was immature; and The New Wilderness (which was a DNF and therefore not reviewed) was lame.
          I’ve seen Shuggie Bain described today by Geordie Williamson (our leading literary critic) as a “Celtic misery memoir in fictional form”. I sincerely hope it’s not. Even though he goes on to say it’s “perfectly poised between squalor and redemption”… “As an act of filial love, it breaks the heart; as a literary performance, it demands an ovation” — I am heartily sick of misery in all its forms so Shuggie will have to wait until I’m not feeling too liverish to read it.


  4. […] would your first lines say about your blog? Brona from Brona’s Books and Lisa from ANZLitLovers have already done their reviews. Why not join this happy […]


  5. […] of my favourite book bloggers Brona and Lisa have led me into temptation with this meme that takes the first line of each month’s post over […]


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