Born in Australia in 1949, author Nadia Wheatley grew up with a sense of the mystery of her parents’ marriage. Caught in the crossfire between an independent woman and a controlling man, the child became a player in the deadly game. Was she her mother’s daughter, or her father’s creature?
After her mother’s death, the 10-year-old began writing down the stories her mother had told her—of a Cinderella-like childhood, followed by an escape into a career as an army nurse in Palestine and Greece, and as an aid-worker in the refugee camps of post-war Germany.
Some 50 years later, the finished memoir is not only a loving tribute but an investigation of the bewildering processes of memory itself.
Over a career of 35 years, Nadia Wheatley has published a number of award-wining works of fiction, history and biography. In 2014 the University of Sydney awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Letters, in recognition of ‘her exceptional creative achievements in the field of children’s and adult literature, her work as an historian and her contribution to our understanding of Indigenous issues, cultural diversity, equity and social justice and the environment through story’.
The author’s acclaimed biography, The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift, was the Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2001, and is the only biography to have won the NSW Premier’s History Awards Australian History Prize. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Essays, the Griffith Review, Meanjin, Scripsi, Australian Book Review and the Monthly.
This memoir is an important addition to the history of Australian social life, and a vivid insight into how individual people can be controlled by repressive social attitudes. Wheatley reminds us of the difference between how family life is supposed to be, and how it is actually experienced. This is a real memory of our time,