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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.

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Other People’s Words' by Hilary McPhee

May 2001, no. 230 01 May 2001
‘The characters which survive,’ wrote Hilary McPhee at seventeen in the copy of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native that she studied in her tiny matriculation class at Colac High in 1958, ‘are those who make some compromise with their surroundings.’ Twenty years later and five hundred miles away, I was given a book for my birthday. It was a hardback with a black-and-white photograph ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews three books on Charmaine Clift

July 2001, no. 232 01 July 2001
‘AT NIGHT,’ wrote Charmian Clift one summer in the late 1950s on the Greek island of Hydra where she lived with her husband and children, where the harbour village had been invaded by summer tourists, where teams of local Greek matrons invaded the kitchen in relays to monitor the foreign woman’s housework and mothering techniques, where the water supply was rapidly drying up, where she and h ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Drylands' by Thea Astley

September 1999, no. 214 06 August 2019
Do not attempt to judge this book by its amazingly beautiful but iconographically confusing cover. A close-up photograph of a single leaf shows its veins and pores in tiny detail. The colours are the most pastel and tender of creamy greens. Superimposed over this lush and suggestively fertile image is the book’s one-word title: Drylands. I love Thea Astley’s writing and always have. I love it ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Dreams of Speaking' by Gail Jones

February 2006, no. 278 01 February 2006
If you can say immediately what you think a novel is ‘about’, then the chances are that it may not be a very good novel. Fiction as a genre gives writers and readers imaginative room to move, to work on a vertical axis of layers of meaning as well as along the horizontal forward movement of narrative development. But when hesitating over the question ‘what is this novel about?’, one good ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Fled' by Meg Keneally

June–July 2019, no. 412 23 May 2019
In 1961 the great Australian poet Judith Wright published an influential essay called ‘The Upside-down Hut’ that would puzzle contemporary readers. The basis of its argument was that Australia felt shame about its convict origins, and that we needed to move on. And we have: since 1961 the representation of the convict era in fiction and on screen has undergone a shift. Having convict ancestry ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'A History of South Australia' by Paul Sendziuk and Robert Foster

April 2019, no. 410 25 March 2019
The first volume in this series, Beverley Kingston’s A History of New South Wales, was published in 2006. Since then another five have appeared, including a book on Tasmania by Henry Reynolds and another on Victoria by Geoffrey Blainey. Cambridge University Press may be proceeding with its ‘History of Australian States’ series at a leisurely pace, but it has secured some leading lights among ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Elizabeth Costello: Eight lessons' by J.M. Coetzee

October 2003, no. 255 01 October 2003
Something like a double helix of dialectical thinking winds its graceful way through these ‘eight lessons’. Ideas and theories about the nature of human (and other) life and how to live it, about the workings and the relative merits of logic, reason, belief, and faith, are sketched, rehearsed, debated, and set in opposition to each other throughout these eight episodes in the life of J.M. Coet ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

August 2005, no. 273 01 August 2005
Kate Grenville is a brave woman. For some years now, the representation of Aboriginal people by white writers has been hedged about by a thicket of post­colonial anxieties, profoundly problematic and important but too often manifested as hostile, holier-than-thou critique, indulging, at its most inept, in wilfully skewed readings of the fiction in order to fit the thesis. As if that were not e ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Year of The Beast' by Steven Carroll

March 2019, no. 409 22 February 2019
In his 2017 essay ‘Notes for a Novel’, illuminatingly added as a kind of afterword at the end of this book, Steven Carroll recalls a dream that he had twenty years ago. It was this dream, he says, that grew into a series of novels centred on the Melbourne suburb of Glenroy, a series of which this novel is the sixth and last. It was a vivid dream about my old street in Glenroy where I grew u ... (read more)

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Her Mother’s Daughter: A memoir' by Nadia Wheatley

September 2018, no. 404 23 August 2018
When John Norman Wheatley met Nina Watkin in Germany in 1946, he would have regarded her as a lesser being on all fronts: woman to his man, forty to his forty-eight, Australian to his English, nurse to his doctor. They met as fellow employees of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), working with wartime refugees from an assortment of European countries. In this heart ... (read more)