A common approach when talking about women writers is to outline the scope of their work, preferably to demonstrate and affirm its versatility and, implicitly, its value. There’s no doubt that Helen Garner, for example, has suffered under critics’ and reviewers’ insistence that her work deals only with a small domestic canvas (see her interview with Candida Baker in Yacker and Gina Mercer’s article in the June 1986 issue of ABR). Elizabeth Jolley, on the other hand, seems to cover a much greater thematic and stylistic range. Compared to Garner (who was once presented to us as the enfant terrible of Australian fiction), Jolley’s pictures of domestic life are much wilder, more dramatic, and more violent. Murder, madness, sexual and psychological violence abound, and many Jolley narratives in their bare bones are quite alarming and bizarre. Even so, there’s something very reassuring about listing the themes Jolley examines frequently, in cataloguing the repeated motifs, character types, and narrative modes that distinguish her work. It’s another reassuring critical commonplace that her work transcends boundaries of fact, fiction, vision, reality, and illusion.

One of the most frequently remarked motifs in Jolley’s work is possession. The object of possession can be land, a person, a home, though wealth and property are never valued for their own sake: possessions are important as they mark out physical or psychological territory. What has been less well recognised is the manner in which Jolley has simultaneously staked her claim to territory of a different kind: her distinctive subject matter, and her own personality as a public figure. It’s no wonder that reviewers have spoken so freely of the ‘world’ of Elizabeth Jolley. This recognisable territory is partly a function of her consistent interest in certain themes and issues, and partly a function of the continuous method in which Jolley writes, as themes, characters, and motifs recur in several stories or novels until they are worked through. The border between one story or novel and another is never arbitrary, but it is sometimes possible to see Jolley ruling off, for the time being, her treatment of a particular thematic or idea. Similar material will then reappear under a different light several years later.

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  • Custom Article Title Stephanie Trigg reviews The Well by Elizabeth Jolley
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    A common approach when talking about women writers is to outline the scope of their work, preferably to demonstrate and affirm its versatility and, implicitly, its value. There’s no doubt that Helen Garner, for example, has suffered under critics’ and reviewers’ insistence that her work deals only with a ...

  • Book Title The Well
  • Book Author Elizabeth Jolley
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Viking, 176 pp, $19.95, 067081103 3

The 2016 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize ceremony was held at the Melbourne Writers Festival on 27 August. The event was compèred by ABR Deputy Editor, Amy Baillieu, with opening remarks from poet and author Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Ian Dickson announced that Josephine Rowe was this year's overall winner of the Jolley Prize for her story 'Glisk'.  Anthony Lawrence placed second for his story 'Ash' and Jonathan Tel came third for his story 'The Water Calligrapher's Women'. Subscribers can read all three shortlisted stories in the August 2016 Fiction issue. We would like to congratulate all three shortlisted entrants and thank all those who entered their stories.

ABR gratefully acknowledges the support of Mr Ian Dickson.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015 12:19

Elizabeth Jolley

Elizabeth Jolley photo Photo credit Tanya YoungElizabeth Jolley (photograph by Tanya Young)Elizabeth Jolley AO (4 June 1923–13 February 2007) was an English-born writer who moved to Western Australia in 1959 with her husband Leonard Jolley and their three children. She was fifty-three when her first book, Five Acre Virgin and Other Stories (1976), was published, and she went on to publish fifteen novels (including an autobiographical trilogy), four short story collections and three non-fiction books. She won The Age Book of the Year Award three times (for Mr Scobie's Riddle (1983), My Father's Moon (1989)and The Georges' Wife(1993)) and she won the Miles Franklin Award for The Well (1986). She was recognised in Australia with an AO for services to literature and was awarded Honorary Doctorates from Curtin University (1986); Macquarie (1995), Queensland (1997) and The University of New South Wales (2000).

Reading Australia

Delys Bird wrote about Miss Peabody's Inheritance (1980) as part of Copyright Agency's Reading Australia project. Click here to read her essay.

Further reading and Links

 Reading Australia teaching resources: Miss Peabody's Inheritance (1980)

Francesca Rendle-Short's review of The House of Fiction by Susan Swingler published in the May 2012 issue of ABR.

'The Jolley Deception' by Susan Wyndham, published in The Age 28

'Fiction and lies: what we learn from Elizabeth Jolley’s love letters' by Elizabeth Webby, published in The Conversation 29 October 2013

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Elizabeth Jolley’s personal and publishing history is well known. She migrated from the United Kingdom to Western Australia with her husband, Leonard, and their three children in 1959, when Leonard was appointed Librarian at the University of Western Australia. Although she had been writing from a young age and had brought a great deal of manuscript material with her, it was not until the late 1960s that she had stories published. Fremantle Press published her first book, Five Acre Virgin and Other Stories (1976). More publications followed in rapid succession, and Miss Peabody’s Inheritance and Mr Scobie’s Riddle, Jolley’s third and fourth novels, both appeared in 1983.

Miss Peabody’s Inheritance begins abruptly with a mysterious statement, ‘The nights belonged to the novelist’, one which is repeated periodically and becomes a kind of leitmotif in the novel. This reference to the dark realm of the night suggests something hidden, something outside the ordinariness of daytime, a time of dreams, of imaginative licence, ‘a world of magic and enchantment’. It is followed by what seem to be notes for a story: ‘I have a Headmistress in mind, you know, a tremendously responsible sort of woman, the novelist’s large handwriting was black on large sheets of paper’, and Peabody’s doubled narrative mode – its metafictional structure – is established. A novel-in-progress is recounted in part in a series of letters from an Australian romance novelist, Diana Hopewell, to Miss Peabody. This narrative is embedded within the main story, concerning the unlikely but intimate relationship that develops, through their correspondence, between the novelist and Dorothy Peabody, an insignificant, middle-aged woman who lives with her invalid mother in London and works as a stenographer.

Miss Peabody's Inheritance (UQP, 1984)Miss Peabody's Inheritance (UQP, 1984)

Jolley was herself an inveterate note-taker and letter writer; she valued epistolary friendships in her own life. Her correspondence with her father, for example, extended throughout his life from her schooldays. Jolley described her grief at his death as being in part a loss of that deep association, ‘a bereavement of not writing letters’. Putting the story of the headmistress, Arabella Thorne, into the letters of the imagined novelist, Diana Hopewell, gave Jolley the form she needed to develop a character like Miss Thorne in all of what she called her ‘awkwardness’. She discusses this in her essay, ‘A Scattered Catalogue of Consolation’, where she says: ‘Writing in letters allows a great deal of freedom – repetitions, poor but vivid phrases, purple passages of description, these are all excused in this rapid and personal method of communication.’

The energy of the novelist’s letters, their personal directness and the often ludicrous, sometimes outrageous, events and relationships they record contrast with the timid conventionality of Peabody’s life, mirrored in her letters. Peabody had written to Hopewell after reading her novel, Angels on Horseback. The story of ‘beautiful young schoolgirls and their strange and wild riding lessons’ brought ‘something exciting into my life’, she writes, while ‘the loneliness and the harshness of the Australian countryside fitted so exactly with my own feelings ...’ The novelist’s unexpected reply, asking about Peabody’s life, and beginning to tell the story of her new novel, excites Peabody. She imagines the novelist’s life, using the clichés of romance fiction that drew her to Angels on Horseback: ‘While reading the novelist’s first letter Dorothy seemed to see her, Diana, dismounting from her horse at sunset to open the gates leading to her property. The dry grass would be pink in the light of the setting sun, Dorothy thought, like in the novel ...’ Hopewell is linked in Peabody’s mind with ‘Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt [who] would be a tall woman graceful and shapely about the neck and breast’. At the same time, the novelist’s questions, ‘Are you in love? … What sort of dresses do you wear? Please tell me all about yourself!’ both startle Peabody and prompt her to re-imagine her own life, whose ‘routine[s] never varied’. She develops her own fictions: for example, a young lover killed in the war. Peabody’s life is gradually transformed by the letters, which she saves to read, re-read, and answer, always at night, while her responses, limited though they seem, encourage Hopewell to continue with her novel. Peabody, too, experiences a ‘sudden and strange bereavement’ when she learns that Hopewell has died, ‘one of not being able to think about and compose and write the letters’. Because of them, ‘Miss Peabody had known happiness’.

‘Jolley was herself an inveterate note-taker and letter writer’

The rapid movement among the narratives and the narrators of Miss Peabody’s Inheritance requires constant alertness from the reader. Much of the pleasure of this novel comes from following their intricate interweaving, as well as recognising and revelling in their differences, of tone and style, tense, and narrative perspective. Not only are we as readers active interpreters of the shifting narrative of Miss Peabody’s Inheritance, we participate in the relationship established between the novelist and Miss Peabody, between writer and reader within the novel. It shifts as Peabody moves from being a naïve reader, bewildered by the gap between the events and relationships described in Hopewell’s novel and her own dreary life, which ‘not from her own fault at all, had become a series of clichés and platitudes’, to her final position as Hopewell’s successor. By the end, Peabody understands that there is indeed a ‘thin line between truth and fiction’. In the meantime, she blunders around London trying to find a pattern in the London sky to match the one that, according to Hopewell, marks the entrance to her Australian property. Later, she tries to find out where An Ideal Husband is playing; believing the fiction that Miss Thorne and her travelling companions will be there. However, we recognise that Peabody’s idea of the physical freedom and power of the Diana figure is far from the reality of the novelist’s actual situation, when an uncharacteristically typed page, relating a series of botched operations and their result, mysteriously appears in one of her letters.

Miss Peabody's Inheritance ({Penguin, 1985)Miss Peabody's Inheritance (Penguin, 1985)

Hopewell’s most important role, though, is as Peabody’s guide. When Peabody struggles to make sense of the letters, with their plunging black writing criss-crossed with other colours, Hopewell explains: ‘The structure of my story, … is so complicated that, in my notes, I have to use different colours, you know, green ink to remind me of what Edgely is doing, red for Thorne and blue for Snowdon.’ Peabody adjusts to the lack of order: ‘Sometimes the letters were disjointed and the novelist sent only a fragment which Dorothy guessed would slip into place sooner or later, unless, of course, it was discarded. Writers did not always use everything they wrote, the novelist explained.’ And she is instructed on the correct response to the writing and her role as reader:

You will notice … that I am writing the story of Miss Thorne in the present tense. This makes it all very immediate ... If you feel disturbed and strange this is all perfectly natural … If you feel emotionally involved that is natural too. The writing is packed, it is dense writing, emotions on several levels packed in. It is, I hope, a novel of existence and feeling. A reader can be as involved as he wishes and some readers will fight off this involvement. Don’t worry. Read on.

Not only does Peabody read on: she writes, and Hopewell responds enthusiastically to her often stilted and clumsy letters: ‘And do you know I love your handwriting. It excites me.’ An emphasis on the physical presence and power of writing – later Peabody declares that she loves the novelist’s writing – suggests that through their correspondence Peabody and Hopewell experience an emotion as urgent and thrilling as any more conventional erotic adventure.

‘Not only are we as readers active interpreters of the shifting narrative of Miss Peabody’s Inheritance, we participate in the relationship established between the novelist and Miss Peabody, between writer and reader within the novel’

This process of the education of the reader is part of the comedy of Miss Peabody’s Inheritance. It is one that finally enables Peabody’s physical migration from London to Western Australia, and her initiation into the novelist’s inheritance. Her journey, and others in the novel, both reflect and parody Jolley’s own migration to Australia. Peabody travels to meet her epistolary friend, only to find that Hopewell has died, and that far from being the active horsewoman, the mythic Diana of Peabody’s imagination, she has been an invalid in a nursing home. However, Peabody realises not only that, ‘There were enormous possibilities. She had only to look at her bulging handbag’ in which she has carried all the novelist’s letters, but also that she no longer needs to go to see Diana’s farm. She has been initiated into her inheritance.

Within the internal narrative, the idea of the initiation, particularly of innocence, is a major theme whose consequences are often unexpected. Thorne thinks of herself as creating a cultural centre at Pine Heights, initiating the schoolgirls into aspects of European culture. She plays the cello, reads Othello, and reveres Richard Wagner. She initiates Gwendaline Manners, one of her students, into travel and culture as Gwenda accompanies Thorne, her great friend Matron Snowdon, and her assistant, Miss Edgely, on their annual pilgrimage to Europe. Gwenda’s education becomes a sexual one when Thorne spends a night, one that is ‘idyllic, tender, hilarious and ludicrous’ with the girl. Yet none of this is straightforward. Thorne’s greatest interest in Othello is in planning the costumes for the school production; she is aware that Mr Minsk, the music teacher at Pine Heights, listens to her cello playing with barely concealed horror; the high point of the European tour is not the Wagner Festival in Munich but the annual Wine Festival at Grinzing. And while Thorne thinks of Gwenda in relation to the innocent girl in a poem by Goethe, she also realises that Gwenda’s ambition to marry and have four children is an understandable one.

Miss Peabody's Inheritance (UQP, 2014)Miss Peabody's Inheritance (UQP, 2014)

Frequent references to cultural texts are not simply part of the farcical level of the novel. Peabody has read the opening of Great Expectations to her mother, and Peabody’s life is turned upside down, as Pip’s is there, by her friendship with the novelist. Edgely’s jealousy of Thorne’s interest in Gwenda is amplified by several quotations from Othello. And the promise of romance fiction to fulfil unrealistic expectations is also radically reduced. Thorne realises she has mistaken Mr Frome’s interest in her and that she must give Gwenda up to him. After a long night of self-reflection, she is ready to return to the sanctuary of Pine Heights, recognising that though Edgely is completely incompetent in her work and intensely irritating to Thorne, they are essential to one another. Not only does Edgely have nowhere else to go, Thorne is also, without Edgely, alone. At the end of Hopewell’s final letter, she muses: ‘A great writer … once wrote something about continuing life at a lower level of expectation’, of which, she thinks, ‘something … will be apparent by the end of the book’, and indeed it is.

Miss Peabody’s Inheritance is a comedy of women’s lives and friendships, with its potentially serious recognition that sexuality is not confined to the young and that women share homoerotic lives and its comical treatment of aspects of those lives; the water fight between Snowdon and Thorne, the trail of broken beds the travellers leave across Europe, Peabody’s confused arousal as she reads of these things. Names of characters are both amusingly apt and often linked to more serious referents while characters and locations are connected across the narratives. Thorne and Hopewell are each goddesses to Edgely and Peabody, who are both small, incompetent, and stupid. Peabody works at Fortress Enterprises, and Pine Heights is a kind of protected pastoral for Thorne, while Flowermead, the small private hospital where Diana Hopewell has been confined, shares these qualities. Some scenes are pure slapstick; Thorne knocking a paper cup of hot tea into Edgely’s lap during their trip with Snowdon to the wheatbelt; Peabody feeling cheeky drinking brandy with the Fortress Enterprises staff at the local bar on a Friday afternoon. But as well as the often farcical comedy, and the word play Jolley delights in, there is also a level of understanding of both the courage and the pathos of these small lives.

The novel’s concerns – with the dynamic interaction between writing and reading, with the social constriction and limitations of women’s lives and the contrasting potential growth and freedom of their imaginative lives, with the pleasures and dangers of initiation, with the expression of female sexuality, and with issues to do with migration and loss – are complicated by its self-conscious level of what Paul Salzman calls ‘narrative entangling’. Notes Jolley made for a public reading from Miss Peabody’s Inheritance include the remarks: ‘The 1st short piece is from the novelist’s letter … The second passage relates to Miss Peabody’s actions. I am not well enough up in literary theory to say who has written this.’ This demonstrates her awareness of the novel’s potential to attract complicating theoretical readings, treated as another comic area in the novel, and her own amusement at the innocent writerly position she constructs for herself here. An arch dissembler, a wise and witty and always surprising writer, Elizabeth Jolley is also a great entertainer, and Miss Peabody’s Inheritance offers multiple pleasures for its readers.


Bird, Delys, ‘Now for the Real Thing: Elizabeth Jolley’s Manuscripts’, in Elizabeth Jolley: New Critical Essays, eds Delys Bird and Brenda Walker, Collins Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1991, 168-179.
Dibble, Brian. Doing Life: A Biography of Elizabeth Jolley. UWA Press, 2008.
Jolley, Elizabeth. Miss Peabody’s Inheritance. UQP, 1983.
Jolley, Elizabeth, ‘A Scattered Catalogue of Consolation’, in Learning to Dance: Elizabeth Jolley : Her Life and Work, ed. Caroline Lurie, Viking/Penguin, 2006.
Milech, Barbara H, ‘Becoming “Elizabeth Jolley”: The First Twenty Years in Australia’, in Australian Literature and the Public Sphere, eds Alison Bartlett, Robert Dixon and Christopher Lee, Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 1998.
Salzman, Paul. Helplessly Tangled in Female Arms and Legs: Elizabeth Jolley’s Fictions. UQP, 1993.

Further Reading

Jolley, Elizabeth, ed. Caroline Lurie. Central Mischief: Elizabeth Jolley on Writing, Her Past and Herself. Viking Penguin, 1992.

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Susan Sheridan’s Nine Lives, a ‘group biography’, analyses the life stories and literary achievements of nine Australian women writers. The purpose, according to Sheridan, is not only to rediscover the life story of each, but also, by exploring their publishing and aesthetic context, to create a ‘fresh configuration’ of our literary history.

Nine Lives reminds us of an earlier generation of women writers too often overlooked in the flurry of the contemporary literary scene. Now there appears to be unlimited encouragement for writers, with a proliferation of writers’ groups, mentoring programs and residential seminars, with encouraging publishers in attendance. Academic degrees in Creative Writing exist alongside traditional university courses in Australian Literature. This is certainly a good time to be a serious and ambitious writer.

For Sheridan’s nine, it was quite different. Most of them wrote in isolation, without the encouragement of their peers or an established literary context for women. To write at all required tenacity, dedication, and an amazing self-belief. To be published required patience to deal with the many setbacks and a thick skin to cope with patronising male publishers. These nine women were all different in their social and financial circumstances, but all were obsessed with their craft and determined to pursue it at all costs. Each is chosen, according to Sheridan, ‘because she did, finally, make her mark as a serious writer, however long it took’.

On first sight, the choice of authors – Judith Wright, Thea Astley, Dorothy Hewett, Rosemary Dobson, Dorothy Auchterlonie Green, Gwen Harwood, Jessica Anderson, Amy Witting (Joan Levick), and Elizabeth Jolley – seems odd. Wright and Dobson, because they began publishing in the early 1940s, seem to belong to a completely different era from Witting and Jolley, who came into their own in the 1970s or 1980s. Sheridan chose them, however, as members of the one generation, those born between 1915 and 1930. They lived through the Depression and the war and either profited from the postwar literary renaissance or had to wait for conditions that better suited their literary style, or for a time when they were more viable financially.

The individual life stories are enthralling. Wright, Hewett, and Auchterlonie Green followed their hearts with the same enthusiasm that they invested in their literary careers. Wright offended the squattocracy from whence she came by living outside marriage (‘in sin’, according to contemporary mores) with Jack McKinney. Hewett was the ‘wild card’, pursuing her communist ideology to the outrage of her family and to the detriment, for quite some time, of her writing career. Both came from wealthy backgrounds and their families – Wright’s father, in particular – stepped in to help in times of financial or emotional distress. Others – Astley, Dobson, Harwood, and Witting – appear to have lived contented lives with supportive spouses. Anderson lived alone after two divorces, and Jolley looked after her husband in old age.

All had children, and Wright and Green were the sole support of their families. Wright and Hewett were both committed activists – Wright for conservation and Aboriginal rights, Hewett for communism – and both considered their social commitment to be as important as their writing. Anderson, Harwood, Wright, and Auchterlonie Green were feisty negotiators. I well recall a stinging rebuke from Green when I attempted to edit her contribution to a volume of essays I was compiling. One always thought twice about crossing Wright; and Harwood certainly knew how to chasten arrogant editors.

All nine were versatile and few confined themselves to the one genre. Hewett was a poet, playwright, novelist, and her Wild Card (1990) is a superb autobiography. Wright valued her historical writing almost as highly as her poetry, and was an eminent literary critic and editor. As well as poetry, Auchterlonie Green published major literary criticism. She completely revised her husband H.M. Green’s History of Australian Literature (1962), wrote the definitive study of Henry Handel Richardson, and valued her position as an academic teacher. Jessica Anderson and Elizabeth Jolley wrote scripts and short stories for radio, simply to survive. The title, Nine Lives, based on the legendary ability of a cat to always land on its feet, reflects their tenacity and determination.

Given that all nine were highly talented and ambitious writers, why did some flourish and others languish for decades? There are two obvious determinants: contemporary literary taste and the availability of publishing outlets. It was not, for instance, just the brilliance of Wright’s early poetry – this was obvious – but the fact that an enthusiastic postwar readership demanded sophisticated as well as moving poetry. The proliferation of small literary magazines in the period 1945–65, beginning with Clem Christesen’s Meanjin Papers (later Meanjin)provided an outlet for quality poetry, for articles about poetry, and for literary patronage. In the 1940s and 1950s Christesen published poems by Wright, Dobson, Harwood, and Hewett, as well as Wright’s first collection, The Moving Image,in 1946. His patronage, however, was always problematic, as Wright soon discovered.



Dorothy Hewett

Meanwhile, the gravitas of Wright’s poetry certainly suited the postwar cultural renaissance. Australian landscape, instead of being simply celebrated for its beauty and uniqueness, provided, in poems such as ‘South of my Days’, a symbolic reference for human emotions and, increasingly in Wright’s poetic, material for philosophical speculation. The highly charged feminine passion of the ‘Woman to Man’ series also suited a time of increasing sexual liberation. Wright’s far more sophisticated response, as well as the lyrical intensity of her poetry, ensured her place as one of the foremost poets of the time, internationally as well as in Australia.

Things were not quite as simple for novelists. Thea Astley was the exception, winning the Miles Franklin prize four times, the first for The Well Dressed Explorer in 1962. While most publishing was done in London until the late 1970s, and London editors and agents tended to patronise – on both counts – colonial women writers, Astley was taken up by Angus & Robertson, the only significant Australian publisher of quality fiction. At the same time, Beatrice Davis, Astley’s formidable editor, rejected novels by Jessica Anderson, Elizabeth Jolley, and Amy Witting.

The difference, according to Sheridan, was that Astley, along with Patrick White, Randolph Stow, Hal Porter, and others, was part of a self-consciously postmodernist movement in Australian fiction, their writing ‘loaded with poetic imagery and symbolism’ and, in Astley’s case at least, with a satiric twist which suited the self-scrutiny of Australians at that time.

Anderson, Jolley, and Witting had a much more chequered publishing history. Anderson’s first three books were published – and mishandled – by Macmillan in London: The Last Man’s Head (1970) mistakenly categorised as crime fiction, and The Commandant (1975) packaged as a Regency romance. Publication was consistently delayed and Anderson consistently patronised. It was not until Tirra Lirra by the River, published this time by Macmillan in Melbourne, won the Miles Franklin prize in 1978 that Anderson became well known to Australian readers.

Witting’s erratic publishing progress was, it seems, more the result of her own ‘self-criticism and diffidence’ than of external factors. She published virtually all her life’s work during her seventies, and, while she consistently published poetry and short stories, there were long gaps between her three novels: The Visit was published in 1977; I for Isobel won her widespread recognition in 1989; and the superb Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop did not appear until 2000.

Jolley had the longest ‘apprenticeship’ yet the greatest success, if volume of publication is any indication. She had been writing seriously for over twenty years, continuously submitting her work to publishers without success, until in 1974 she came to the attention of Ian Templeman, founder of Fremantle Arts Centre Press. The Press published Five Acre Virgin, her first volume of short stories, in 1976. Between 1976 and 2001 she published fifteen novels – The Well won the Miles Franklin Award in 1986 – as well as six volumes of short stories and plays and several non-fiction works.

This accords with the major argument of Nine Lives. Jolley’s particular and idiosyncratic fiction – a mixture of postmodernist techniques, humanitarian concern for the outsider, and ‘an interest in unconventional sexual and erotic encounters’ – perfectly suited the temper of that time. Moreover, as Sheridan points out, her successes were enabled by the growth of literary infrastructure: government-funded grants and prizes, literary awards, writers’ festivals, writers’ residencies, and Creative Writing programs in schools and universities. As well this was, and still is, the age of the writer as public figure. Jolley, as migrant outsider, ‘failed salesman’ and ‘flying domestic’ come in from the cold, physically gaunt and austerely clad, excited the public imagination and so ensured even greater success.

Nine Lives is an impressive work of scholarship, based as it is on an intensive study of archival records, personal correspondence, contemporary reviews, and interviews. At the same time, it is easily read and enjoyable. It should be greatly appreciated, not just as a scholarly reference but also as a record of heroic literary endeavour.

I too belong to Sheridan’s chosen generation. As a penniless student, I bought Rosemary Dobson’s In a Convex Mirror for two shillings and sixpence in the Armidale newsagency in 1944, and Judith Wright’s The Moving Image in 1946. I knew seven of these nine women personally, and wrote about their work with enthusiasm in the 1980s and 1990s. Accordingly, this book brings me great joy.

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