Kerryn Goldsworthy on 'Tirra Lirra by the River' by Jessica Anderson for Reading Australia

by
March 2015, no. 369

Kerryn Goldsworthy on 'Tirra Lirra by the River' by Jessica Anderson for Reading Australia

by
March 2015, no. 369

In 1978, Australia’s two most coveted national literary prizes of the time were both won by women: Helen Garner’s first novel Monkey Grip (1977) won the National Book Council Award for fiction, and the Miles Franklin Literary Award was won by Tirra Lirra by the River (1978), Jessica Anderson’s fourth novel. Both of these books have since become classics of Australian literature, rarely out of print and regularly rediscovered by new generations of readers.

Australian fiction, both in its production and in its critical reception, had been dominated by male writers since the end of World War II. There were isolated exceptions, most notably Christina Stead, Elizabeth Harrower, and Thea Astley, all now regarded as major Australian novelists. But the two big awards to Anderson and Garner in 1978 marked a shift in readerly tastes and the beginning of something more like equality in the writing, publishing, and reading of fiction in Australia. It may or may not be a coincidence that the narrator–heroines of Monkey Grip and Tirra Lirra by the River are both called Nora; it’s the name of the main character in Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House (1879), which, like these novels, explores the theme of women’s emancipation and selfhood in modern society.

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in 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 ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.