I have read several comments by different overseas authors that U.S. publishers advise them that they must sanitize their books to remove language and settings that make them uniquely different. Just recently, Sarah Mayberry in her interview here stated “Australian writers are constantly being told by the big mainstream publishers that U.S. and U.K. audiences don’t want to read about Australian heroes and heroines and settings.” Well, for me that is completely wrong. It is no secret that I love to do armchair traveling by reading books that incorporate the author’s native colloquialisms, dialect, or traditions. I read numerous Canadian, Australian and British authors.

Over the holidays, I ended up picking up two books by Australian authors. The first book, Sex, Lies and Bonsai is by Lisa Walker. Last year I read her first book, Liar Bird, and loved its quirkiness (sadly, Liar Bird is no longer showing as available on Amazon US, though it’s in the Amazon UK catalog). While Sex, Lies, and Bonsai didn’t work as well for me, it has some great Australian and surf atmosphere.

Edie always knew that her boyfriend would dump her. It was impossible to keep up her pretense of being a self-confident and assured woman 24/7. And of course once she and Daniel started living together he saw through her façade. She was just waiting for the other shoe to fall. Now that it has, she is back home, living with her surf champion father and his girlfriend Rochelle. Determine to be the woman that Daniel wants, she embarks on a self- improvement program with the dubious help of Sally, her best friend and self-proclaimed life coach.

Along the way, she takes a job drawing crab larvae and develops a crush on her married boss, leading to the discovery of her talent for writing erotica. Still when Rochelle’s brother, Jay, comes to visit, she feels a connection to him that she never felt before. He truly sees her and accepts her as she is. But he has his own issues.

Individually the erotica, and Sally’s attempt to have Edie break out of her shell are very humorous. But together they lose impact. Edie’s low self-esteem and negative self-talk became monotonous and I just wanted to tell her to snap out of it. But then I am not much into heroines with low self-esteem. One of my favorite parts is the surf aspect of the book, especially Edie’s interaction with a young surfer. Even though there’s a definite plus on setting, the story wasn’t truly engaging. My overall grade is C+.

The second book is by a new to me author, Loretta Hill, and the book is The Girl in the Hard Hat. Wendy Hopkins by happenstance discovers that her father is not her biological father when she requests a copy of her birth certificate. Now the reason she was sent away to a boarding school at age six is crystal clear. Her parents refuse to give her the name of her father, and even claim that since it happened so long ago, they have forgotten the details. Finally after badgering her mother, she gives Wendy a general description and discloses that her father lost a couple of toes on his right foot while working as a welder. Narrowing her search down to Western Australia, Wendy comes to Pilbara and runs into her father’s brother. Her uncle is the black sheep of the family but surprisingly he offers to help her find work. However, when she arrives on the job site she is appalled to discover her uncle used blackmail to get her a job as a safety manager. Still things do work out when she is hired on by a subcontractor.

Safety Managers are not the most popular people to begin with, and once Wendy rats out her drunken boss, and gets him fired, she earns herself unfavorable reputation. Wendy plans to keep to herself. She is unwilling to share her true motives for being in this part of the country. However, Gavin Jones, one of the engineers with a reputation as a womanizer takes an interest in her and if she is honest, she finds him very appealing too. The romance is not front and center. It shares the spotlight with Wendy’s search for her father, Gavin’s secret, and the challenges of a woman working in a predominantly male field. And speaking of predominantly male field, the attitudes, actions and dialogue seem authentic. The language and setting are a big plus because they set that book apart for this American reader. I did like the characters and the plot, but my grade still wavered between a B- and C+, as that almost $26.00 price tag seems very expensive for an unique setting.

Neither of the Australian books I’ve tried recently have been DIKs but I still really enjoyed doing some virtual traveling and I’m sure that I’ll keep trying it. Despite what some authors have reported hearing from American publishers, I enjoy reading the things that make cultures unique and different.

What Australian, Canadian, United Kingdom , or other non-American authors do you read? Are publishers in the U.S. right – is there little appeal for books with a foreign flavor or do you seek them out? Have you read any of these books or authors that I tried? If so what did you think?

– Leigh Davis