Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Nikki Gemmell

After by Nikki Gemmell

April 2017, no. 390

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.


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 tiresomely repetitive in a longer format can be indulged, even encouraged – part of the charm.

... (read more)

One could be forgiven for thinking that after the succès de scandale of her previous novel, The Bride Stripped Bare (2005), Nikki Gemmell’s next novel would also address the permutations of sexual desire, particularly since the title of her latest novel is The Book of Rapture and the cover is a riot of fleshy red and purple. This time round, though, Gemmell is more interested in exploring religious, scientific and familial rapture. There is barely a skerrick of sex within the deckle-edged pages.

... (read more)

For there is always going on within us a process of formulation and interpretation whose subject matter is our own selves.

These words appear towards the end of Erich Auerbach’s study of representation in Western literature, Mimesis. First published in 1946, the book has become a classic of twentieth-century literary criticism, but is almost as famous for the circumstances under which it was composed as for its content. It was written between 1942 and 1945 in Istanbul, where Auerbach, a German Jew, was living in exile.

... (read more)

Nikki Gemmell’s third novel, Love Song, set in both Australia and England, is a striking and memorable work. The style is sharp, jagged even, but so energetic that it sucked me in. I had to read it twice to know more than the fact that I had thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is a story written to an unborn child by a mother who seems, at first, both old and young, something which proves to be the case. She is Lillie, a girl who has survived the eccentric, cult-like community that incarcerated her, and who has survived the loss of her lover, the child’s father. She has survived a short life dogged by false accusation. She is also a young woman who, at the point of writing that old person’s document, her memoirs, is scarcely into her adulthood and is still inexperienced in the ways of the world. Her voice is fresh, young and oddly wise.

... (read more)