Thursday 20 November 2014

A is for Thea Astley

Suzie @ Suz's Space recently put out the challenge for Australian book bloggers to follow her example with Authors by Alphabet.
Her focus is science fiction writers.
Susan @ Reading Upside Down has chosen Australian children's authors.

And I decided to do Australian (adult) authors.

However two weeks have now gone by & I have failed to get started.
Mostly because I got bogged down by what I wanted to do. But also in how I was going to fit another challenge into my AusReading Month schedule AND my State by State project (see tab above).

It took a visit to Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday meme (that I join in occasionally) to finally get me motivated.
I saw that she was, for the ninth time, coming to the end of the alphabet. And she has, despite ill health, decided to continue with Alpabe-Thursday for the tenth time.

I hope that Jenny and friends wont mind me hijacking their favourite meme with my own Aussie Author Challenge.

I plan to alternate between male & female authors & I will endeavour to choose authors that I have read so that I can add a personal touch to the bio's.

So let's begin at the very beginning...

Thea Astley

Born August 25th 1925 in Brisbane
Died 17th August 2002 Byron Bay

She studied arts at University of Queensland & also completed her teaching training.
In 1948 she married Jack Gregson & moved to Sydney.
She taught in various highschool & tutored at Macquarie Uni until 1980.
Astley then retired to Kuranda, North Queensland with her husband, to focus on writing full time.
She also lived near Nowra for a time & Byron Bay.


  • Girl with a Monkey (1958)
  • A Descant for Gossips (1960)
  • The Well Dressed Explorer (1962)                     Miles Franklin winner
  • The Slow Natives (1965)                                    Miles Franklin winner
  • A Boat Load of Home Folk (1968)
  • The Acolyte (1972)                                             Miles Franklin winner
  • A Kindness Cup (1974)
  • An Item from the Late News (1982)
  • Beachmasters (1985)
  • It's Raining in Mango (1987)
  • Reaching Tin River (1990) 
  • Vanishing Points (1992)
  • Coda (1994)
  • The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow (1996)        Miles Franklin long/shortlist
  • Drylands (1999)                                                   Miles Franklin winner

Short stories

  • Hunting the Wild Pineapple (1979)
  • Collected Stories (1997)

Susan Wyndham writes that
"in person and in print, the chain-smoking Astley was unsentimental, wickedly funny and yet had a deep kindness and a loathing of injustice towards Aborigines, underdogs and misfits."

Kerryn Goldsworthy:
"I love its densely woven grammar, its ingrained humour, its uncompromising politics, and its undimmed outrage at human folly, stupidity and greed.... Her body of work [over four decades] adds up to a protracted study in the way that full-scale violence and tragedy can flower extravagantly from the withered seeds of malice and resentment ... The perps in Drylands are all her usual suspects: racists, developers, hypocritical gung-ho civic go-gooders, and assorted unreconstructed male-supremacist swine."

Thea Astley by Michael Clayton-Jones
Helen Garner wrote
"Great story, great characters ... Stylistically, however, this book is like a very handsome, strong and fit woman with too much makeup on ... This kind of writing drives me berserk."

Delys Bird:
"Astley's novels and stories typically present a sceptical view of social relationships among ordinary people, one often coloured by her former Catholicism, and directed through the struggles of her self-conscious protagonists to find an expressive space within their uncongenial surroundings."

I've only read the one Astley novel, A Descant for Gossips. It was recommended to me by a friend who was an English Highschool teacher.

It was quite a while ago.

I remember loving the descriptions of Queensland & the sense of forboding that hung over the characters and the town. I was a teacher in a small country town myself & the difficulties and problems felt real enough & possible. I remember feeling rage at the manipulation & lies of the main character.

I also remember struggling with the flow of the language. It was not an easy read or a happy read.
I guess, the fact that I've never hunted out any more Astley novels, would suggest that I didn't love it enough to dig deeper.
But, neither, am I adverse to reading another one of her books.

Which is just as well, since one of my aims is to read my way through the Miles Franklin winners...eventually!

Have you read any of Astley's work? What did you think?


  1. Anonymous20/11/14

    I will enjoy following your Aussie A to Z !
    I have never heard of Thea Astley. I will keep count of how many authors I have heard of.....not many I think.
    Great I can plan for next year's AusReadingMonth!

    1. That's the idea!
      Thanks for your support Nancy - appreciated as always xo

  2. I love this meme. It is so neat and sees to open the door to some creative posts.

    I had not heard of Thea Astley before but she sounds good.

    1. Perhaps you can join in with you alphabet of favourite authors :-)

  3. Anonymous21/11/14

    I love how you bring attention to Australian authors. I went to high school in Queensland, but I haven't read or heard of very many Australian authors since then. I think I might try to read more of their work and will use your posts as a guideline.

    1. Astley's book certainly evoke the Queensland landscape & weather & character to a tee. So does Alex Miller & David Malouf if you're feeling homesick for a dose of northern literature :-)

  4. Love the post and great quote ~ so true!

    Happy Weekend to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  5. I have not heard of Thea Astley. What a great idea to write about individual authors...

  6. I am tinkering with the idea of doing this challenge. Sounds like fun and I would probably have the whole alphabet on my shelves somewhere. Hmmm. I have not read Thea Astley but she is one of those authors that hover around me and I know I should pull one of her books off a shelf and read it. Her genre sometimes puts me off. Instead of spending so much time wondering if I would like her....... I should just do it. ha ha Looking forward to following your challenge.

    1. It would be great to have another blogger friend doing this challenge Pam. Hopefully you can keep me motivated around the 'q' stage :-)

  7. I feel living in Australia I should be more knowledgeable on Aussie writers than I am, thank you for introducing me to Thea Astley and co. Your posts will be perfect for me in my new life with time on my hands - maybe, I should blog less read more!!
    Wren x

  8. I've read Hunting the Wild Pineapple - the language was beautiful and also difficult, and she manages to make the reader really feel how hot and horrid the tropics can be.

  9. How neat!

    And Aussie Authors are yet another thing I know nothing about.

    I'm going to download something of hers.

    It'll be fun to try something new!

    And it's fun to have you participating in Alphabe-Thursday!

    A+ for your letter A.


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