Gillian Dooley

Gillian Dooley is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in English at Flinders University, and a Visiting Fellow in the Music Department at Southampton University. Her publications include an edited book of interviews with Iris Murdoch (2003), V.S. Naipaul, Man and Writer (2006), J.M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative (2010), and journal articles on a range of literary topics including music in the life and work of Jane Austen. In 2005 she co-edited Matthew Flinders’ Private Journal and in 2014 she published an edition of the correspondence between Iris Murdoch and the Australian radical philosopher Brian Medlin. She has been a regular reviewer for ABR since 2002. She is founding editor of the online journals Transnational Literature and Writers in Conversation.

Gillian Dooley reviews 'J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing' by J.C. Kannemeyer, translated by Michiel Heyns

February 2013, no. 348 01 February 2013
Gillian Dooley reviews 'J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing' by J.C. Kannemeyer, translated by Michiel Heyns
When I heard that someone was writing Coetzee’s biography, I thought he must be either brave or foolish. After all, Coetzee’s own approach to autobiography is slippery, to say the least. J.C. Kannemeyer was (he died suddenly on Christmas Day 2011) a South African professor of Afrikaans and Dutch, a veteran biographer, and a literary historian. Coetzee co-operated fully, granting extensive inte ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Honestly: Notes on Life' by Nikki Gemmell

February 2013, no. 348 30 January 2013
Gillian Dooley reviews 'Honestly: Notes on Life' by Nikki Gemmell
The skills involved in writing successful novels are rather different from those needed for a weekly newspaper column. In a column, a thousand words must engage the reader, week in week out, whether or not the writer has anything urgent to say. A short deadline is less forgiving, allowing scant time for polishing and self-editing. On the other hand, stylistic idiosyncrasies that might become tires ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer' by Edwina Preston

December 2012–January 2013, no. 347 28 November 2012
Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer' by Edwina Preston
The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer is a novel that manages to be absolutely itself, with a wholly idiosyncratic voice, while at the same time acting as a veritable echo chamber of earlier writers. The first page, with its lofty insistence about what ‘should not surprise the world’ in the behaviour of a young woman with the surname Ward, immediately calls to mind Mansfield Park, and the Austen ec ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Burial' by Courtney Collins

October 2012, no. 345 25 September 2012
Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Burial' by Courtney Collins
 In the cheeky biographical note on the press release for her first novel, The Burial, Courtney Collins expresses a wish that she might one day be ‘a “lady” poet’. If I had read that before reading the novel, I would have been slightly alarmed: with many notable exceptions, poets tend not to make good novelists. It is true that The Burial is finely written, with a lovely ear for the c ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Mountain' by Drusilla Modjeska

May 2012, no. 341 24 April 2012
Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Mountain' by Drusilla Modjeska
Papua New Guinea doesn’t loom large in Australian literature. As Nicholas Jose says, our ‘writers have not much looked in that direction for material or inspiration’. Drusilla Modjeska is thus entering relatively new territory for Australian fiction with an ambitious epic set in PNG. It is also a new venture for her: Poppy (1990), her only previous ‘novel’, won two non-fiction awards. Sh ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Not Drowning, Reading' by Andrew Relph

March 2012, no. 339 01 March 2012
Gillian Dooley reviews 'Not Drowning, Reading' by Andrew Relph
‘Perhaps,’ Andrew Relph muses, ‘some people love reading but don’t require it.’ Relph is a psychotherapist who grew up in a dysfunctional family in South Africa, with an undiagnosed reading disorder – which he hasn’t exactly overcome. Reading, though vital, is still slow and intense: ‘I read nothing I don’t want to read. I’m like a person with a breathing problem, restricting t ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Softly, As I Leave You' by Chandani Lokugé

February 2012, no. 338 20 January 2012
Gillian Dooley reviews 'Softly, As I Leave You' by Chandani Lokugé
A treacherous beauty pervades Chandani Lokugé’s third novel, a tragic story of loss and squandered love. Chris Foscari, owner of a rarefied specialist bookshop in Melbourne and son of an Italian father and an Australian mother, is married to the outrageously beautiful Sri Lankan Uma, whom he met when she was studying in Melbourne. They have a teenage son, Arjuna, who is also blessed with unusua ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Coming of the Whirlpool' by Andrew McGahan

December 2011–January 2012, no. 337 24 November 2011
Any novel by Andrew McGahan is likely to be a surprise, if you know his previous work, but if you were to approach this book knowing nothing about the author, there would be little about it to disturb your expectations. The cover, with its heraldic design against a marine backdrop, immediately signals its genre, and the maps on the endpapers, showing McGahan’s imagined geography of a place calle ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Foal's Bread' by Gillian Mears

November 2011, no. 336 25 October 2011
Gillian Dooley reviews 'Foal's Bread' by Gillian Mears
Gillian Mears has been to death’s door and back. Her wonderful essay ‘Alive in Ant and Bee’ (2007) recounts the journey and the exquisite pleasures of her life as a survivor. Writing has taken a back seat, understandably, over the past decade or so. There has been a short story collection, A Map of the Gardens (2002), but a novel from Mears is quite an event, sixteen years after her last, Th ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews ' A Waltz for Matilda' by Jackie French

February 2011, no. 328 04 May 2011
Gillian Dooley reviews ' A Waltz for Matilda' by Jackie French
Jackie French, a prolific author, is best known for her children’s books, with variations on historical themes clearly something of a specialty. A Waltz for Matilda, which seems to be aimed at a broader market, builds on the premise that the Jolly Swagman of Banjo Paterson’s song is not alone. His twelve-year-old daughter, Matilda, is with him and witnesses the whole upsetting scene. (When, ye ... (read more)
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