When I read Debra Adelaide’s novel, The Household Guide To Dying, I loved it so much that I emailed Adelaide to thank her for writing it. The Household Guide To Dying was a stellar novel in my mind it set Adelaide up to be one of the great Australian women’s voices of our era.
The Women’s Pages was strangely more ambitious than The Household Guide To Dying which deals with Delia Bennet’s foray into her own death. Bennet writes household guides to all sorts of things so when she discovers that she is indeed dying, she decides to write a guide to doing so. The book is so full that it’s hard to describe – I’ll settle with Nicola Walker’s description from the Sydney Morning Herald: “Bennet may have one foot in the grave but Debra Adelaide has created one of the most irrepressible and beguiling heroines to emerge in Australian fiction since Sybylla Melvyn made her appearance in My Brilliant Career.”
The Women’s Pages doesn’t have the same thematic weight of The Household Guide to Dying, but it makes up for this with the complexity of its structure which clearly heralds to readers that Adelaide is a writer of note. In this novel she weaves together a beautiful story with a stunning insight into a writer’s inability to escape the desire to tell a story. She combines these two elements through Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I can hardly do the novel justice with this description. At times I wasn’t entirely certain that Adelaide had pulled off this massive feat, but overwhelmingly there was a greatness tugging at my reader’s senses and it was not difficult to drown in the lives of two fascinating protagonists who so clearly represented women at different times in Australian history.
There is no doubt that Debra Adelaide has a wonderful sensitivity when it comes to writing. There are emotions that hover beneath her words that are almost tangible and it is this that makes reading her work so pleasurable.