Shortlist year: 2014

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: University of Queensland Press


Two literary lives defined by storytelling and secrets

As her mother Joan lies dying, Gabrielle Carey writes a letter to Joan’s childhood friend, the reclusive novelist Randolph Stow. This letter sets in motion a literary pilgrimage that reveals long-buried family secrets. Like her mother, Stow had grown up in Western Australia. After early literary success and a Miles Franklin Award win in 1958 for his novel To the Islands, he left for England and a life of self-imposed exile.

Living most of her life on the east coast, Gabrielle was also estranged from her family’s west Australian roots, but never questioned why. A devoted fan of Stow’s writing, she becomes fascinated by his connection with her extended family, but before she can meet him he dies. With only a few pieces of correspondence to guide her, Gabrielle embarks on a journey from the red-dirt landscape of Western Australia to the English seaside town of Harwich in a quest to understand her family’s past and Stow’s place in it.

Moving Among Strangers is a celebration of one of Australia’s most enigmatic and visionary writers.

About the author

Gabrielle Carey

Gabrielle Carey is the author of novels, biography, autobiography, essays, articles and short stories. She teaches writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, where her infatuation with Randolph Stow is happily tolerated. Gabrielle’s memoir, The Waiting Room was published in 2009.

Judges’ comments

Gabrielle Carey's Moving Among Strangers is a beautifully written account of the relationship between the Geraldton-born writer and poet Randolph Stow and the author's family.

Part biography and part memoir, Carey's book gives fresh insights into her late parents Alex Carey and Joan Ferguson and traces the author's own intellectual development over the decades.

Moving Among Strangers also reveals the alienation of the expatriate Randolph Stow.