On this website’s earliest iteration, the introduction noted that I had lived
more than half my life away from Australia, and that its dusty outback towns
crept into almost everything I wrote. Now, after a decade of living back in
Adelaide, the home-away balance has tipped in favour of Australia, although the
wild landscapes that were familiar to me as a child continue to both filter and
inhabit my writing. Or if not the land, then the light, for it was that
that I missed most fiercely when I lived away. That, and family, and the great
broad sweep of the sky, and the bluestone houses battened down against summer’s
heat – I guess I will be fascinated to the end of time by the idea of home,
what it means to me and to others.
Over the years, the website has accumulated an archive of short pieces, and
read in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea. Most deal with the art and
craft of writing, though some wander away up side paths. There are pages
devoted to my novels and occasional journalism, and even a few old photographs.
I update the home page as often as I can, and I hope you find something to
The archive can be accessed via the
tab above, or to the left. Sometimes I write a piece that doesn’t seem to fit
the website and these go to
Because my love of images is almost as great as my love of words, I
post whatever catches my eye to
I can be
direct or through my literary agent and if you have any
comments about the website or my writing, please
email, and I'll be happy to get back to you.
From mid-October through to the beginning of December I will be
Writer-in-Residence at the Adelaide City Library. I will
lead four workshops, "Time, Place, and Memory: adventures in life writing" on alternateTuesday mornings, beginning on 18th October. These
are free, but must be booked. Click
for the details.
In addition, there will be three Friday morning seminars based around my
released non-fiction book
Quiet City: walking in West Terrace Cemetry.
In these informal community sessions I will talk about the writing of the
book, and some of the extraordinary stories that feature in it. There will also
be time to share personal stories with a West Terrace Cemetery connection.
Perhaps you are descended from one of those pioneer families whose challenging
lives have not yet been written. If so, the
Quiet City - Untold Stories
sessions could be the first step towards fitting your fragments of family
history into the wider history of the city, or towards finding ways to record
their stories. I look forward to seeing some of you there!
THE NOVELIST AS ISLAND
This piece just published in
The Island Review
reflects on the essentially
island-like state of the novelist, and asks whether it is possible to survive
the demands and pressures of the digital present without either giving up or
dumbing down. It also indulges my love of the poetry of the Beaufort Scale.
The island in the photograph is West Island, off Rosetta Head in the Fleurieu
Peninsula, South Australia. The island was mined for granite to provide the
foundations for South Australia's parliament house.
The Novelist As Island
can be read
I write a lot, and often end up with more words than I know what to do with.
These blogs are the overspill.
THE QUIET HOUR
Follow my blogs at:
Longer posts on all things literary.
A month of mindfulness in the kitchen turned into this series of breakfast
Lately I’ve had a passion for ghost stories, in particular those written by
Susan Hill of
The Woman in Black
fame. The first thing about these books is
that they are satisfyingly compact and it is possible to read each of them in a
single sitting. The second is that they offer the novelist a masterclass in
NOTES FROM THE GARDEN
I loved the damp, foggy London street settings of Hill’s
The Mist in the
For the weather alone, I would read it all over again, though I found
its ending deeply unsatisfying.
The Man in the Picture
transported me to
Venice, and I shuddered, as I was meant to, at its painting of a street scene
with the power to entrap the viewer. In
The Small Hand,
a dealer in antiquarian
books becomes lost in a country lane at dusk and finds himself in a ruined
garden where he feels a child’s hand slide into his own. Thus, with no child to
be seen, the haunting of Adam Snow begins, and with each manifestation the
small hand grows increasingly sinister.
The atmosphere in all of these works is beautifully evoked by setting and of
course by the weather. Their isolated houses, or grand public schools emptied
for the holidays of all but a caretaker, their lonely paths across moorland, or
the deserted midnight streets around the River Thames become a kind of haunting
in themselves. Meanwhile, Hill’s spare, precise prose draws the reader
inexorably on and it is nearly impossible to put the book down.
Susan Hill is a wonderful storyteller; she pulls the reader in and keeps them
guessing. After reading four of these books in a row it seems that part of the
fascination of the ghost story is the way it renders horrific events so
lyrically and with unfailing attention to the dressing of the sets. Style is
all, and yet without an underlying sense of morality the ghost story would lose
much of its power to haunt.
The first blooms have appeared on the new hellebore I planted last year.
"Midnight" is a smoky black, beautiful to behold, but definitely toxic if
Poisonous plants have a unique allure, and there are more of them in suburban
gardens than gardeners might realise. In my own patch the witch’s corner
flourishes in the shadows under the quince tree where the unobtrusive,
grows in dappled shade.
Blue Periwinkle is its common
name, though I prefer the more evocative Sorcerer’s Violet. Close by is a clump
of white calla lilies, of which all parts are a dangerous poison. Even the
clematis ‘Fairy Queen’ is suspect, while the wisteria that winds along the side
of the house is another
toxic inhabitant. Euphorbia, of which I have two plants, contains a deadly
milky latex-like sap; its common name Spurge derives from espurge (to purge),
which hints at its effects if swallowed.
In her book
Vivian Russell tells how witches would concoct a
brew that included the long white angels’ trumpets (Datura stamonium),
belladonna, and henbane, mixed to a paste with goose grease. They rubbed their
hands with the juice of Euphorbia to induce blistering, then coated the handles
of their broomsticks and turned their minds to housework. Witches swept until
the blisters on their hands ruptured and the poisonous ‘flying ointment’
entered the bloodstream. Hallucination got their floors swept clean, and this
is how witches came to ‘fly’ on broomsticks.
I know of a stone fence where white trumpet flowers dangle invitingly; it is
not five minutes from where I sit -- does the house belong to a witch? There are
mornings when I consider my unswept floors and wonder: witches wouldn’t have
flown if it was unpleasant, surely. But an information sheet from the
Australian National Botanic Gardens warns that the trumpet flowers are
‘dangerously toxic’, while a website refers to post-mortem examinations of
people killed by Euphorbia latex: the milky poison it contains is euphorbon.
One of the most fascinating aspects of my recent research into the lives of
those buried in Adelaide’s beautiful old West Terrace Cemetery was an
investigation into early medical practices, including herbalism and homeopathy.
It started as a way to understand something of the panic and desperation of our
earliest settlers when faced with medical emergencies, and resulted in
wonderful snippets of information that related to my own garden. For example I
learned that in the Middle Ages physicians attempted to ward off the plague
with herb rue, the grey-green leaved plant with a modest yellow flower that
grows unobtrusively underneath my roses.
This gave me an excuse to delve into my copy of Nicholas Culpeper’s
first published in 1653, with its Shakespearean language and its
intricate descriptions and illustrations of medicinal plants.
I have always loved this book, and thought its recipes quaint and charming. But
this reading brought the realisation that cordials and decoctions and poultices
were all these people had as a defence against fearful injury and illness.
While I loved knowing that the herbs I grow would have been recognised
centuries ago by monks and nuns in their physic gardens, I ended with a sense
of relief and gratitude that medical knowledge has moved on.
www.carollefevre.com has been chosen for archiving by the National Library of
Australia and can be accessed through its digital collection. You can search
their database via the box above.