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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 'Personal Effects' by Carmel Macdonald Grahame

May 2014, no. 361 30 April 2014
A woman, married but alone, stands at a window in a high-rise apartment in Calgary watching the snow fall. Later she might unpack a carton, go out to eat, go to bed. That is about all that happens in the present time in Grahame’s Personal Effects. The rest is memory. This woman, Lilith, from a coastal town in Western Australia, ruminates on a life story filled perhaps with more loss than than mo ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'In So Many Words: Interviews with writers, scholars and intellectuals', by Cassandra Atherton

February 2014, no. 358 19 January 2014
I have often thought that a large part of achievement is just fronting up; having an idea and acting on it, however unlikely success might seem. What you need is a resolution (or the disposition) not to be discouraged by failure and to be pleasantly surprised by success. If it doesn’t work, you try something else. You make the most of any opportunity. You should also jettison a conventional sens ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Night Guest' by Fiona McFarlane

December 2013–January 2014, no. 357 01 December 2013
The depredations of time on the ageing human is an unusual topic for a young writer to confront, especially in a first novel, but why not, if the negative capability is not wanting? After all, it’s common enough for an older writer to inhabit young characters. The difference is, of course, that a young writer hasn’t yet been old. In Fiona McFarlane’s first novel, The Night Guest, the main ce ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Misogyny Factor' by Anne Summers

July–August 2013, no. 353 26 June 2013
Julia Gillard’s magnificent tirade against Tony Abbott in parliament last year has given Anne Summers her title for The Misogyny Factor, a polemic on the landscape of sexism and disadvantage in Australia based on two of her own recent speeches. Hillary Clinton’s distinction between progress (the signs of how far we have come) and success (enduring changes in attitudes and structures) provides ... (read more)

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Beloved' by Annah Faulkner

June 2013, no. 352 26 May 2013
‘God gave me polio?’ Taken aback by her grandmother’s bland insistence on unquestioning submission to divine will, the six-year-old child in Annah Faulkner’s novel The Beloved has already started questioning the articles of faith and the assumptions of the adults in her world, in that penetrating way some children have. Clearly she is not going to take to religion. Other early certitudes f ... (read more)

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
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
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
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
 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)