Shortlist year: 2014

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: The Text publishing Company


Helen Trinca has captured the troubled life of Madeleine St John in this moving account of a remarkable writer. After the death of her mother when Madeleine was just twelve, she struggled to find her place in the world. Estranging herself from her family, and from Australia, she lived for a time in the US before moving to London where Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Barry Humphries and Clive James were making their mark. In 1993, when The Women in Black was published, it became clear what a marvellous writer Madeleine St John was.

About the author

Helen Trinca

Helen Trinca has co-written two previous books: Waterfront: The Battle that Changed Australia and Better than Sex: How a Whole Generation Got Hooked on Work. She has held senior reporting and editing roles in Australian journalism, including a stint as the Australian’s London correspondent, and is currently Managing Editor of the Australian.

Judges’ comments

Helen Trinca's Madeleine: The Life of Madeleine St John is a finely written account of the deeply troubled and highly talented expatriate Australian novelist, Madeleine St John.

Trinca examines how she fled Sydney, in part to escape her father, Edward St John QC, the independently-minded Liberal MP for Warringah. Madeleine St John's crucial time in London is told with the detailed assistance of her avid supporters, Clive James, Germaine Greer, Peter Porter and Barry Humphries.

That St John is a worthy subject for Trinca's moving biography is exemplified by the fact that in 1997 her third novel, The Essence of the Thing, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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