The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey cover


Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Amanda Lohrey

Erica Marsden's son, an artist, has been imprisoned for homicidal negligence. In a state of grief, Erica cuts off all ties to family and friends, and retreats to a quiet hamlet on the south-east coast near the prison where he is serving his sentence.

There, in a rundown shack, she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. To build it—to find a way out of her quandary—Erica will need the help of strangers. And that will require her to trust, and to reckon with her past.

'The Labyrinth' is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial, of the fraught relationship between parents and children that is also a meditation on how art can both be ruthlessly destructive and restore sanity. It shows Amanda Lohrey to be at the peak of her powers.

About the author

 Amanda Lohrey

Amanda Lohrey

Amanda Lohrey lives in Tasmania and writes fiction and non-fiction. She has taught politics at the University of Tasmania and writing and textual studies at the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Queensland. Amanda is a regular contributor to the Monthly magazine and is a former Senior Fellow of the Literature Board of the Australia Council. In November 2012 she received the Patrick White Award for literature.

Judges’ comments

Amanda Lohrey has always been a writer of uncompromising artistic purpose who is never content for the novel to be mere entertainment. She has an instinctive, if understated, sense of form and an inimitable novelist's voice. 'The Labyrinth' is the story of a woman with a beloved son all but lost to her in jail. The way in which she seeks a catharsis, and a solace, by creating a labyrinth as a distraction is also an enactment, at once symbolic and literal, of her mood. This is a novel of unusual gravity with a deeply poignant background which is also a quest for some shape and pattern that might give meaning to a life with a diminished horizon. The protagonist's relationship with the eccentric East European stonemason who gives form to her dream is at once exotic and credible. 'The Labyrinth' is shadowed and haunted by strangeness. It is a novel in high realist mode that also has romance elements, if only in the way it encompasses a tragicomic mood and a certain formal audacity that brings to mind the moodiness and restless shifts of late Shakespeare. 'The Labyrinth' has a gravity that outstares everything that may seem grey or gaunt in a literary endeavour where autumn seems to sink to midwinter. It is a work of considerable literary artistry.