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 Australia's favour, although the
wild landscapes of childhood continue to influence my writing. Or if not the
landscapes, then the light, for that was what I
missed most fiercely when I lived away. That and family, and the
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.
WRITER IN RESIDENCE
"Young Woman Writing", Pierre Bonnard, 1908
It is an exceptional honour to have been awarded a Copyright Agency fellowship
to become the second Writer in Residence at the J.M. Coetzee Centre for
Creative Practice at the University of Adelaide. Generously funded by the
Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, I will be based at the Centre for the six
months of my residency. This is a wonderful opportunity to concentrate
exclusively on my work-in-progress, and I am grateful beyond measure for this
affirmation and support.
Towards the end of my residency I will be giving a masterclass at the Centre,
with further details to follow.
A thoughtful review of
written by Nicolette Stasko, appears in the
current issue of
on pages 211-217. Here are some excerpts.
‘Part personal reflection, part speculative fiction,
is also history
and biography, made up of many short sections and lyrical observations.
Fortunately for readers, small publishers like Wakefield Press continue to
publish these weird and wonderful hybrids. Similar to W.G. Sebald’s
as a 'strange and moving work') Carol
Lefevre’s narrative is also built on spatial elements -- in this case the
‘This is an incredibly rich book and it is difficult to give an account of all
that it contains. It is to Lefevre’s credit that she has imbued it with respect
and gravity. More so that it is entertaining and in spite of the subject
matter, generally a pleasure to 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
My work-in-progress is a novel set in Australia in the 1890s, and I have
spent much time these last months reading
Australian classics, from Miles Franklin’s
My Brilliant Career
the much-loved memoir
A Fortunate Life
by Albert Facey, and the savage
of Barbara Baynton.
NOTES FROM THE GARDEN
But the book that continues to intrigue me, as it has intrigued many other
readers since it was published in 1967 is Joan Lindsay’s
Picnic at Hanging
Its plot centres on a group of young women boarders at the exclusive
Appleyard College, who in the year 1900 inexplicably vanish while on a
Valentine’s Day picnic. Lindsay is said to have written the
novel in a feverish four-week period at her home, Mulberry Hill.
It is surprising that more has not been made of Joan Lindsay’s foreword to the
book, which seems bent on creating the impression that the events at Hanging
Rock might actually have happened: "Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or
fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took
place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this
book are long since dead, it hardly seems important."
Australian historians must have been otherwise engaged when
Picnic at Hanging
was published, for in 2005, when Kate Grenville published
Australian academic Mark McKenna published an article in which he
criticized novelists, in particular Grenville, for meddling with history.
Historian Inga Clendinnen
published an even stronger criticism in the Quarterly Essay (Issue 23) and Kate
Grenville, under attack from all sides, in particular for having transposed
facts from one setting to another, felt compelled to justify her
position at length on her website.
But there is much more to
Picnic at Hanging Rock
than the possibility of the kind of academic
squabbles that erupted over
The Secret River.
For a start there is the famous
‘Chapter Eighteen’ to be puzzled over: firmly removed by Lindsay’s editor
before the novel was published, the missing final chapter
offers a solution, if a peculiar one, to the mystery of the vanished
schoolgirls, although the novel is unquestionably more haunting without it.
I suppose that one way of persuading
readers to accept the lack of a solution was to hint that the girls'
disappearance might have been based on true events --
for as we know, life does contain baffling mysteries whereas fiction tends to
resolve them. I would love to know whether that ambiguous foreword
was inserted before or after the final chapter was cut. The answer may well lie
in Joan Lindsay's papers.
There is more that I want to explore around this novel, from the 1875 painting
"At the Hanging Rock" by William Ford, to the
book’s persistent image of the missing Miranda as a swan. I do not have the
space here to elaborate, but if you haven’t read
Picnic at Hanging Rock
while, it is certainly a mesmerising read.
In the ferocious mid-summer heat, only the sunflowers ceaselessly follow the
sun’s daily passage. Even on the hottest days, when both plants and humans wilt,
their benign faces tilt skywards. Their stalks are thicker than my thumb; their
heart-shaped leaves are arranged as if by a fan-dancer.
Resting on the verandah at dusk, I notice the heart shape made by two parrots
sitting close together in the jacaranda tree. A blackbird wings in and perches
above, unleashing wild trills in the failing light. Around me the garden
thickens with shadow; edges blur and corners deepen, but the Queen Anne’s lace,
six feet high this summer, shimmers in the space between the two quince trees.
Although this garden has been cultivated for more than a century, it has too
often been made new and therefore lacks that element of beauty that old gardens
accumulate over generations. I often wonder what it must be like to be the
custodian of a place that remembers within its blossomy borders season after
season of endeavour, and all the quiet joy that tending it has bestowed upon a
succession of gardeners.
Old fruit trees, especially, wear their age with grace, and those with knobbly
boughs so laden with fruit that they must be propped up are lovely almost
beyond imagining. And yet these quince trees of mine grow sturdier each year
and in this, their seventh summer, surge skywards with the boundless energy of
sleek young dogs or prancing ponies.
I am proud to have been the one who planted those quinces. I will not see them
when they are half a century old and much less supple. By then their stately
trunks and limbs - so carefully tended in these important early years by the
tree pruner - will be even more beautifully patinated.
The ripe fruit, so sharp and fragrant, when fresh from the tree can be cut into
fine slices and eaten raw with cheese. April and May are the months when I make
lamb and quince tagine, and when every cake is a quince cake. Baked in a slow
oven for eight hours, quarted quinces turn the colour of rubies. Already,
I am looking forward.
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.