Drylands by Thea Astley


Audiobook.  Drylands is a shrinking village well inland from the coast in the Brisbane area that has been suffering a drought for some years.  Perhaps it is the lack of water that makes the men so hateful toward women and the women so inclined to inertia until they have no choice but to act. 

The village is revealed to us through individual stories of inhabitants who appear in each others' stories.  There's Janet, a widow who keeps the newspaper shop and hopes someday someone will buy one of the books she has stocked.  She spends her free time trying to write.  And there's Lannie who, having calculated the number of lunches she has fixed for her husband and 6 sons, drives off and finds she can rebuild her life.  The pub is the Legless Lizard, owned by an American man from New Orleans and his wife who grew up in Brisbane.  Two thugs take an interest in the wife so that she must flee to a nearby town where they eventually find her.  The violence or oppression is sometimes focused on the women or Aborigines and sometimes is nearly random. 

A more pitiless landscape could hardly be imagined, but Drylands is a compelling and beautifully written read.  The kind acts of the sympathetic characters alleviates the grim and lonely life.



  • Glad you “liked” it Charlotte. I read this quite a while before I started blogging but would love one day to write up a review of it. One of my favourite lines from it describes Janet (I think): “… she had never been harried by the glamour of any possessions but books.”
    As I recollect, this book was Astley’s fourth time she won the Miles Franklin Award. Only one other writer has equalled her.

  • Astley is masterful at painting a grim world with enough hope to keep you going. One day I’ll try another of hers. Any recommendations?


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