Bite Your Tongue reviews

Reviews of Bite Your Tongue:

“… the weather, the heat, the profuse tropical growth, the conservatism, the political corruption, the small mindedness, the strength of religiosity … an engaging, unsettling and at times darkly funny account of her childhood”

“Bite your tongue is by turns entertaining and challenging — a scene in which words are used as weapons in an act dangerously close to rape is particularly confronting. Perhaps most importantly, though, in its structural and figurative modes, Rendle-Short’s narrative lends its voice to a tradition of Queensland women’s writing in a growing cacophony of many tongues.

  • A review by Marcus Breen, ‘Memory in a Curiously Conservative Queensland’, Australian Womens Book review, Hecate, Volume 26:1/2, 2014

“…emotions are complicated by the fact that her mother is always her mother….

Francesca, having rejected Christian fundamentalism and become the liberal-minded secularist, could adopt hatred as the reactive position. However, the strength of this book is that it is a dedicated investigation of her filial attachment, of love, in its remembered messiness. As such it is not helpful to the civilising role of literary or critical work to make hatred a singular tool of analysis, unless it is accompanied by the realization that the process of analysis also drives us to love.”

[Bite Your Tongue]: “by turns entertaining and challenging”.

  • Charlotte Simpson, Belletrista, UK, issue 16, 2012, a not-for-profit, bimonthly web magazine celebrating women writers from around the world.

Bite Your Tongue is part memoir, part fictionalised memories of Australian writer Francesca Rendle-Short, who is trying to make sense of a childhood lived in the overpowering shadow of her mother Angel. Angel was a Christian moral crusader, fighting to protect the children of Australia from being corrupted by ‘sex saturated’ books such as The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall and JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

Rendle-Short writes, ‘some stories are hard to tell, they bite back’. I can only imagine how hard this one was to write and publish.

  • M D Brady’s writing for Australian Women Writers Challenge on the topic ‘When Women Write about Women’, cites Francesca Rendle-Short’s recent ‘nearly memoir’ book Bite Your Tongue as a favourite amongst those books about mother-daughter relationships (Marilyn Dell Brady is a retired women’s History professor now living in the desert mountains of West Texas. She blogs at Me, You and Books about books, especially ones about women in all their diversity.) –

‘unique in its inclusion of the physical nature of the relationship, another aspect of how women authors are changing how we think about women’.


Oh dear, I have so much to say on this book that I could easily turn this post into an essay, so I will finish here. I thoroughly enjoyed this book … on multiple levels. The writing is good, comprising many of the things that appeal to me – wordplay, lovely rhythm, effective imagery (such as the “tongue” motif). The story is easy to follow, despite changes in voice and chronology (as we flip backwards and forwards from childhood to MotherJoy/Angel’s old age). There are universals about love and forgiveness (real and wished for) between parents and children. And, there is love for books (in all their glory!).

  • Newtown Review of Books, Annette Hughes, ‘Wowsers and rebels’, review of Bite Your Tongue: the memoir of a fraught family and growing up in Brisbane.

“I think she has done it. Bite Your Tongue is all softness and breath, achieved by careful management of voice; finding it, demanding it, censoring it and best of all, controlling it … the mother’s final weeks, is beautiful. The few inches separating Angel’s self-righteous, judgemental cheek from her daughter’s last kiss may as well be the abyss. It takes the entire book for Rendle-Short to close the distance that has grown between them.”

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