Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Fiction of Thea Astley' by Susan Sheridan

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Fiction of Thea Astley' by Susan Sheridan

The Fiction of Thea Astley

by Susan Sheridan

Cambria Press $109.99 hb, 182 pp, 9781604979329

The record for the largest number of Miles Franklin Literary Awards ever won is jointly held by Tim Winton and Thea Astley, with four wins each. It may seem odd that with three of those already behind her, Astley should also have won the Patrick White Award in 1989 for ‘a writer who has been highly creative over a long period but has not necessarily received adequate recognition’. But, as David Carter wrote in an essay for ABR (December 2012–January 2013), the terms of the award are more complex than that: ‘The terms do state that the Award is for “an author who has already made a contribution to Australian literature by the writing ... of published novels, short stories, poetry and/or plays”, with the purpose of encouraging the author “to continue to write such works for publication”.’

Susan Sheridan argues in her new book that Astley’s fiction steadily increased in both depth and complexity over her long career, and that her last six novels – those published from 1986 onwards – were her best. If this is the case, then that Patrick White Award did exactly what it was designed to do – despite the fact that on winning it, Astley herself, with a characteristic mix of self-deprecation, sharpness of tongue, and an Eeyore-like world view, dismissed it as the prize ‘for people who fail’.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in December 2016, no. 387
Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy won the 2013 Pascall Prize for cultural criticism, and the 2017 Horne Prize for her essay ‘The Limit of the World’. A former Editor of ABR (1986–87), she is one of Australia’s most prolific and respected literary critics. Her publications include several anthologies, a critical study of Helen Garner, and her book Adelaide, which was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. In November 2012 she was named as the inaugural ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellow. Her Fellowship article on reviewing, ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, appeared in the May 2013 issue of ABR.

Social Profiles

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.