Jessica Anderson: Contribution as Australian Novelist

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      Jessica Anderson, (1916-2010) Australian novelist, born in Queensland and brought up in Brisbane. She has lived for much of her life in Sydney. After many years working in radio, her first novel, An Ordinary Lunacy, was published in 1963, followed by The Last Man’s Head (1970), a foray into detective fiction. Tirra Lirra by the River (1978) was the first of Anderson's novels to be published in Australia and is also her most famous and critically acclaimed work; it won the Miles Franklin Award and the Australian Natives' Association Literary Award.

      The Impersonators (1980) also won the Miles Franklin Award and the NSW Premier's Award. Her more recent novels are Taking Shelter (1989) and One of the Wattle Birds (1994). Anderson's best-known novels - The Commandant (1975), Tirra Lirra by the River and The Impersonators - have been referred to as novels of expatriation, and all involve journeys between Australia and Europe. In Tirra Lirra by the River in particular, the physical journey to London of the protagonist, Nora Porteous, is a metaphor for her personal and creative development. Anderson's vivid portrayal of location is most clear in her short-story collection Stories from the Warm Zone and Sydney Stories (1987).

      The first section of the collection, an autobiographical short-story cycle set in Queensland, is her most poignant evocation of her childhood home while the second section of the collection consists of three stories about Sydney - 'the only place’, Nora says in Tirra Lirra, 'where I ever felt at home'.

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