The Stella Prize longlist has just been announced! Standing alongside some excellent novels by the top women authors of Australia are some gr favourites, like Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things, Hope Farm by Peggy Frew & The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop. Also up for the win is Debra Adelaide with The Women’s Pages, which scored a five-star review in our November issue. Read below.
The Women’s Pages by Debra Adelaide
It’s almost worth re-reading Emily Bronze’s Wuthering Heights before starting this new novel from one of Australia’s most interesting writers. Wuthering Heights, its characters and its author all play major background roles in this intricate novel that knits together the life of an almost accidental author and the novel she is writing. Debra Adelaide has fun with names, using Ellis as the name of the fictional character created by a woman called Dove. The observant reader will realise that Emily Bronte used the pen name of Ellis Bell; and Dove, or Doves, is a typeface referred to by Ellis, who becomes a successful magazine editor. This novel weaves together the stories of Ellis and Dove — or is it just the story of Dove, thinking about the fictional character she has created? Recurring themes such as being motherless, becoming a mother or losing a mother form a pattern through this intricate story. The male characters play only minor roles; it’s the females who make tough decisions for themselves and others in their families.
Dove has long been fascinated by Wuthering Heights, as was her adoptive mother, who asked for it to be read to her as she lay dying in hospital. Was Dove dreaming — or was it just her active imagination — that gave her a word picture of Emily Brontë striding over the cold moors near her parsonage home in England, climbing a mountain so she could bury … what? This is all part of the pattern created by Adelaide, who takes her plot backwards and forwards in Sydney between the 1960s and the present day, with occasional deviations into the 19th century and the world of the Brontës. It’s a meticulously planned story that provides the ultimate breathtaking surprise at the end of the final paragraph.
Five stars – Pan Macmillan
Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville