December, 1963: widowed café owner Stella Madigan, with her two young children Fran and Theo, and the free-spirited artist Mardi Rose, embark on a road trip to Byron Bay. But a night spent in the tiny outback town of Temperance will alter all their lives, and ignite a chain of events the children will struggle to both conceal and resolve, long into adulthood.
Temperance explores the discrepancies between what children see and what adults allow them to believe. Its mystery unravels against a background of early 1960s Australia, where religious wars are fought in suburban living rooms, and feminism has made so little headway that a relationship between two women can be seen as perverse, even dangerous.
This haunting novel vividly inhabits its suburban beachside setting, while sensitively exploring through its characters the corrosive effects of ambiguous loss, and of tightly held family secrets.
Praise for Temperance
'Lefevre explores the volatile nature of memory and the complexities of moving forward when pieces of the past are missing. She looks at grief, secrets and, importantly, the deep waters that rage beneath quiet women. Temperance is for readers trying to make sense of their past in order to understand themselves better.' - Danielle Magneto, Books+Publishing
I was thrilled when Temperance at last moved out of my laptop and into book shops. On it's cover is an oil painting, “Beach Scene” (c,1932) by Clarice Beckett, which I saw for the first time in 2021 when a collection of her work was beautifully curated into The Present Moment exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. For me, this small, vibrant canvas conveys the essence of all the long, hot summers of childhood, against which much of the novel is set.
'Award-winning writer Carol Lefevre has a deft touch for psychological drama and the intricacies of domestic relationships. Here she takes a tightly stretched working-class canvas and loosens it into an evolving mystery (and a deferred coming-of-age tale) spanning decades.' Cameron Woodhead, The Age
'With her signature elegance and compassionate insight into human frailty, Carol Lefevre's Temperance reaffirms her as one of Australia's most accomplished writers.'
'The cover of Temperance features the 1932 painting 'Beach Scene' by Clarice Beckett, and the image perfectly evokes the light and heat of 20th-century beachside summers in Adelaide. But the painting's impressionist shimmer does far more than evoke visceral recollections of summer heat, it also conjures the mutable nature of memory.' Rachael Mead, InReview
You can read Rachael Mead's full review here.
Novels draw on so many experiences, as well as on imagination and memory, and it is often tricky to explain exactly how they came into being. In this case though, the fictional settlement of Temperance originated in a road trip my husband and I took many moons ago as newlyweds.
We had set out from Sydney to drive to Adelaide in the days before mobile phones or GPS. After many hours on the road, we found ourselves in an empty part of the map with rather less petrol in the tank than we would have liked. With the map unfolded on my lap, and showing far greater confidence than I felt, I suggested we divert along a side road to a tiny dot that might have been a town, or might have been nothing, in which case we would have wasted more petrol. What we found there was a traditional outback pub, a small store with a petrol pump, and a memory of place that would surface years later in this novel.
The lovely thing about a novel is that there is room in it for a writer to explore their passing obsessions (mazes and labyrinths, in this case) and to record and keep safe things that once existed but have since disappeared. I am thinking here of the small kiosk on Brighton railway station in Adelaide, where as well as buying a train ticket, a newspaper, and a bar of chocolate, one inhaled the owner's freshly brewed coffee to the sound of Italian arias being blasted from his old cassette player. I'm thinking, too, of the family-run delis that were once so plentiful in our suburbs.
Temperance holds all these things, and more. My hope is that if you spot that beautiful Clarice Beckett cover in your local book shop and take it home, you will find something to enjoy!