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?
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