Drawing Sybylla is a wonderfully unusual book, narrated in parts by a modern-day Sybil – one of those ‘mad mouthpieces’ of prophesy and poetry from Ancient Greece. This Sybil springs to life from an elaborate doodle in a notebook, drawn by a Sydney Writers’ Festival panelist who is listening to another writer on her panel. This writer is describing to the audience a feminist short story from 1892, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, a work in which a woman, diagnosed by her physician husband as suffering ‘a slight hysterical tendency’, is confined to a single room to rest and recover, and slowly descends into madness, beginning to see other women moving behind – and trapped behind – the intricate patterns of the wallpaper. And it is this wallpaper, these figures, that come to form the central metaphor of Kelada’s book – as the suddenly animated ink figure, aptly named Sybylla, invites her creator to step behind the wallpaper and into its pattern, and examine the lives of other women writers, in Australia, across time.
Fiona Wright reviews 'Drawing Sybylla' by Odette Kelada
by Odette Kelada
UWA Publishing, $24.99 pb, 164 pp, 9781742589510
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.
Fiona Wright is a writer, editor and critic from Sydney. Her poetry collection, Knuckled, won the 2012 Dame Mary Gilmore Award, and her book of essays Small Acts of Disappearance was published by Giramondo in 2015. Her latest book is Domestic Interior (Giramondo, 2017). She has recently completed a PhD at Western Sydney University’s Writing & Society Research Centre.
By this contributor
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 email@example.com. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.