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

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

Elizabeth Harrower: Critical essays

by Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas

Sydney University Press, $40 pb, 151 pp, 9781743325599

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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Susan Sheridan

Susan Sheridan

Susan Sheridan FAHA is Emeritus Professor in the School of Humanities at Flinders University in Adelaide. Her latest book is The Fiction of Thea Astley (2016). Earlier books include: Nine Lives: Postwar Women Writers Making Their Mark (2011), Christina Stead (1988), Along the Faultlines: Sex, Race and Nation in Australian Women’s Writing 1880s to 1930s (1995), and Who Was That Woman? The Australian Women’s Weekly in the Postwar Years (2002); as editor, Grafts: Feminist Cultural Criticism (1988), Debutante Nation: Feminism Contests the 1890s (1993) with Sue Rowley and Susan Magarey, and Thea Astley’s Fictional Worlds (2006), with Paul Genoni.

Published in March 2018, no. 399

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