Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weatherer
University of Queensland Press, $34.95 pb, 384 pp, 9780702253560
‘If there are going to be any more of her novels, perhaps we should come right out and promote her as an utter bitch?’
So wrote Alec Bolton, the London manager of Angus & Robertson, to his senior editor John Abernethy in Sydney. The novelist in question was Thea Astley, and the book was A Boat Load of Home Folk (1968). Bolton had optimistically sent a copy of this bleak and savage novel to Christina Stead for comment; Stead, no pussycat herself, had some positive things to say but also referred to the novel’s ‘frenzied cruel pursuit … of old maids [and] the contempt for middle-aged married men’.