Susan Sheridan reviews 'Elizabeth Harrower: Critical essays' edited by Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas

The appearance in 2014 of In Certain Circles, a new novel from Elizabeth Harrower, was an important literary event. The author, who still lives in Sydney, had published nothing since 1966 and had repeatedly maintained that she had nothing more to say. In Certain Circles had been ready for publication in 1971, but Harrower withdrew it. In interviews over the intervening period, she gave a number of reasons for this decision but remained adamant that no one could read the manuscript. Fortunately, Michael Heyward at Text Publishing, who had recently reprinted her four earlier novels, persuaded her otherwise. Text published handsome hardback editions of In Certain Circles and A Few Days in the Country and other stories (2015), a collection of her short stories, more than half of which had appeared for the first time in that same year. With these two new books, and the republication of her small but powerful oeuvre, it is time to ask how we now understand Harrower’s achievement and, as a consequence, how we might reconfigure the picture of mid-century Australian fiction.

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Published in March 2018, no. 399