Determining connections between books sent as a review bundle is not mandatory, but there is an irresistible tendency to find some common theme. In the case of these three novels, the theme of women’s pain, and hidden pain at that, does not need to be teased out – it leaps out. Since it is unlikely that three different authors would have colluded, the prevalence of this is worth deeper reflection, especially considering recent titles such as Kylie Maslen’s essays on illness, Show Me Where It Hurts, or Kate Middleton’s extraordinary memoir essay ‘The Dolorimeter’, placed second in the 2020 Calibre Prize.
Other hitherto silenced female narratives, such as those of domestic or sexual abuse, are now being heard. But while authors like Hilary Mantel have already provided insight into the hidden suffering of the female body – and in particular that most insidious and invisible condition, endometriosis – the narratives of female health and physical and mental suffering are still only emerging. Even ordinary health: when the recent Young Australian of the Year Award was given to a menstrual health advocate, Isobel Marshall, public discussions were a reminder that this normal bodily function of fifty per cent of the world population is still largely taboo.