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UQP Critic's Corner: Nicole Abadee, Reviewer for Good Weekend and ABR
Posted 22.07.2021

UQP Critic's Corner: Nicole Abadee, Reviewer for Good Weekend and ABR

Nicole Abadee writes about books for Good Weekend and Australian Book Review and appears regularly as a moderator at writers’ festivals and other literary events. Nicole has a books podcast, Books, Books, Books in which she talks to international and Australian writers about their latest books, and is also a judge for the 2021 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.

What do you love (and loathe) about book reviewing?

I love the opportunity to read such a diverse array of books, fiction and non-fiction, by Australian and international writers. Many are sent to me by the publishers – others I request after reading overseas reviews and books pages.

What does an average day look like for you?

Ideally, a walk round the park with my dog, then a day of reading, researching and writing. Morning is generally the best time for writing for me, and then I will save my reading for later in the day. That said, if a big piece is due, I will spend the day on it. Similarly, if I have a lot of books to get through, I might devote 2-3 days at a stretch just to reading. It depends what I have coming up.

How do you choose what (and what not) to review?

I am very fortunate that publishers send me their latest books. Sadly, I can’t read or review everything I receive – I get about 30 books a week – so I have to make some difficult choices. I might know the author and that I like his/her/their work. I might be influenced by the blurb and the people who have endorsed the book. Or I might have read about the book in overseas books pages and requested a review copy. I receive Australian books early, before any reviews are out.

What are you aiming to achieve with your reviews?

I like to give readers an idea of the plot and the main themes, then my own analysis of how successful I think the writer has been in engaging me and holding my interest. I am well aware that reviewing can be deeply subjective – I do not like to write bad reviews, and will usually try to point out the strong features of a book as well as the weak. Where I have the choice of which books to review I will only select books I have really loved.

What is your advice for aspiring book reviewers?

Always remember the huge amount of work that has gone into any book, and be gentle in your criticism – try always to point out the book’s strengths as well as its weaknesses. Read lots of book reviews by reviewers whose work you admire. I always read a book I am reviewing twice – the first time with a pencil in my hand to make notes and underline, the second to pick up what I may have missed in the first reading.

Which reviewers do you like to read?

Too many to choose!

What makes a book great?

Again, this is highly subjective. I think what matters to me most is that I am moved by the book, and that I continue to think about it once I have finished. A strong engaging plot, authentic, sympathetic characters and beautiful writing – ideally all three.

Who are some of your favourite Australian authors?

Again too many to choose! We are very lucky here in Australia to have such a great depth of writing talent – both established and emerging writers.

What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

Right now I am preparing an article on books for people to buy for Father’s Day – so I have some strong Australian crime fiction, some history, and some books on current affairs.

I am especially looking forward to reading the new novels from Jonathan Franzen and Sally Rooney. I am also looking forward to reading Red Comet, Heather Clark’s biography of Sylvia Plath, but I think that will have to wait for my next holiday as it is quite long.

Do you have any favourite UQP titles or authors?

You are asking some tough questions! I loved Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain, Ali Alizadeh’s Transactions and Jacqueline Kent’s Beyond Words: A Year with Kevin Cook.

How can we follow you online and where can we read your reviews?

I write articles about books to buy for Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for Good Weekend magazine, out in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. I also write reviews for Australian Book Review.

I post all of my reviews on my website https://www.nicoleabadee.com.au/what-i-do