About the book

In Second Half First Modjeska looks back on the past 30 years and how they have shaped her.

From a childhood in England to her time as a young newlywed in Papua New Guinea (PNG)—arriving as a single woman in Sydney in the 1970s and building close friendships, and the lovers who sometimes derailed her—to returning to PNG to found a literacy program, this is an intensely personal account of an examined life. In it Modjeska asks candid questions about love and independence, ageing, death, the bonds of friendship and family. The result is an intellectually provocative and deeply moving memoir.

Second half first—book—Australian history—PMLA 2016
Published by: 
Penguin Random House Australia

About the author


Drusilla Modjeska is one of Australia's most acclaimed writers. She was born in England but lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) before arriving in Australia in 1971. Her books include Exiles at Home, the NSW Premier's Award-winning Poppy, the book she co-edited Sisters, the Nita B. Kibble, NSW Premier's Award and Australian Bookseller's Book of the Year Award-winner The OrchardTimepieces, and Secrets with Robert Dessaix and Amanda Lohrey. She is also the author of the bestselling Stravinsky's Lunch. Her first novel, The Mountain, was shortlisted for the 2013 Miles Franklin Award, the Western Australia Premier's Award and the Barbara Jefferis Award.

Drusilla Modjeska—author—Australian history—PMLA 2016

Judges’ comments

Drusilla Modjeskas Second Half First is beautifully written. The authors recollections commence on the night before her 40th birthday when she breaks off a relationship with an unreliable man. The story goes back to her youth in England and arrival in Australia and on to life in Sydney and time spent in Papua New Guinea.

Second Half First contains compelling insights to the authors family (especially her parents) and feminist friends (including Helen Garner and late Hazel Rowley). Apart from an involvement with the Sustain Education Art Melanesia project, her life is very much that of the leftist inner-city intellectual. Drusilla Modjeska travels widely. In Sydney, however, she rarely moves outside a small geographical area and seemingly endless discussions about love and life with like-minded individuals. A significant memoir by an important writer.