Elizabeth Harrower is one of Australia’s most important postwar writers, very nearly forgotten by the literary world.
She grew up in Sydney in the shadow of the Depression, raised by her mother and grandmother after her father abandoned the family. A bookish, intensely curious child, she always felt somehow different. In 1951, aged 23, she escaped the stultifying heat of Sydney for grey, damp post-war London.
It was here that she found her voice. She experienced a political awakening, converting to the British Labour Party, marching at Aldermaston and following Bertrand Russell and Linus Pauling. She began to write – spare, elegant novels and stories centred on the timeless themes of gender, power and class, often featuring women and girls living in the shadow of controlling and psychologically damaged men.
In 1959, Harrower returned to Sydney. She worked as a book reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, for the ABC and in publishing and began to mix in celebrated Australian literary circles with writers such as Patrick White, Kylie Tennant and Christina Stead.
She enjoyed steady success as a novelist until she abruptly withdrew from public life in 1977.
She stopped writing and her silence lasted four decades; her books went out of print and many of her writing contemporaries died.
However, thanks to a curious publisher, her work was rediscovered in 2012 and she is now enjoying a second wave of success both in Australia and internationally.
This is a literary biography which examines Harrower’s life and fiction against a strong backdrop of social history. It will be of interest to many readers in the UK, US and Australia, engaging the new generation exploring her work as well as those who remember her first time around.
Amy Ripley is an experienced London-based journalist, with strong research, interviewing and writing skills. She trained as a journalist at the University of Technology Sydney and also holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Philosophy.
She has worked mostly as a freelance feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and is currently one of the Herald’s contributing obituary writers; researching, interviewing and writing obituaries of Australian public figures from the fields of science, medicine, publishing, law, business, the military and the arts.
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