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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 'Bright Planet' by Peter Mews

May 2004, no. 261 01 May 2004
Matthew Flinders, arriving in Sydney in 1803 after circumnavigating Australia, wrote to his wife bemoaning ‘the dreadful havock that death is making all around’. The sailors in Peter Mews’s Bright Planet have a more phlegmatic attitude. At least twelve of the ship’s complement of sixteen fail to survive the expedition. There may be more, but death becomes an everyday occurrence hardly wort ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Brother Fish' by Bryce Courtenay

February 2005, no. 268 01 February 2005
What a phenomenon Bryce Courtenay is. In a world where we are constantly being told that books are on the way out, he sells them by the barrow-load. They’re big books, too. This one weighs 1.2 kilograms and is seven centimetres thick. It’s the kind of book that makes a reviewer wish she was paid by the number of words read rather than written. Perhaps that is part of Courtenay’s secret: 842 ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Coves' by David Whish-Wilson

October 2018, no. 405 31 August 2018
A small bay is a cove, and so is a man, according to old-fashioned slang. The Coves takes advantage of this coincidence: it’s a story about a gang of men that rules ‘Sydney Cove’ in the mid-nineteenth century. But this is not the familiar Sydney Cove in New South Wales. There is another one across the Pacific in San Francisco, where arrivals from Australia, ‘pioneers in … viciousness and ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'A Sand Archive' by Gregory Day

May 2018, no. 401 26 April 2018
‘And so I patch it together … I take the liberty of seeking not only an explanation but a connection between what at first might appear to be disparate ingredients.’ The narrator of Gregory Day’s new novel, A Sand Archive, takes many liberties. Enigmatic in various ways, apparently solitary, nameless, and ungendered, this character is nevertheless full of fascinated admiration and affectio ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Mrs M: An imagined history' by Luke Slattery

March 2018, no. 399 22 February 2018
'Mrs M’ is the second wife of Lachlan Macquarie, governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Luke Slattery explains in his Author’s Note the impulse behind his novel – Elizabeth Macquarie’s voice coming to him, romantically, in a dream. It was not quite unprompted. He had been visiting her home territory in the Hebrides, having already written a short book about the Macquaries’ last y ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Pacific Room' by Michael Fitzgerald

December 2017, no. 397 24 November 2017
Simile haunts The Pacific Room. So many sentences begin ‘It’s as if ...’ that the phrase seems like an incantation. Michael Fitzgerald writes that he agrees with Robert Louis Stevenson that ‘every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his meaning.’ For the reviewer coming from outside the circle, this book does not so much ... (read more)

Eugene Onegin (Co-Opera) and Orpheus Underground (Various People Inc)

ABR Arts 15 May 2017
Co-Opera’s Eugene Onegin (★★★1/2) and Various People’s Orpheus Underground (★★★★★), both of which played in Adelaide in early May, provided a study in contrasts. Tchaikovsky’s great opera (first performed in 1879) has toured to the eastern states and country South Australia, an ambitious undertaking even with a relatively small chorus and orchestra. In Adelaide, the performan ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'After' by Nikki Gemmell

April 2017, no. 390 27 March 2017
In 2015, Nikki Gemmell’s mother, Elayn, took an overdose of painkillers. Gemmell’s new book, After, chronicles the difficult process of confronting her mother’s death and resolving the anguish it brought to her and her children. It is also an impassioned appeal for changes in Australia’s laws on the right to die. ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Australian Literary Studies' edited by Julieanne Lamond

April 2017, no. 390 27 March 2017
Until 2015, Australian Literary Studies was still a printed artefact. It appeared in the mildly erratic pattern endemic to Australian humanities journals, which depend on busy people finding time for the rewarding but often unrewarded task of editing. Nevertheless, despite rising production costs and increasing competition from the online world, it remained impressively extant, with a good number ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Only: A singular memoir' by Caroline Baum

March 2017, no. 389 24 February 2017
Some ‘only’ children have revelled in that status. Iris Murdoch called her family unit ‘a perfect trinity of love’. Caroline Baum sees her family less happily as a triangle: ‘There’s something uncomfortable about a triangle: it’s all elbows, suggesting awkward unease.’ We find out in the following 380-odd pages the whats and whys of this discomfort. Some of it is historical; perhap ... (read more)