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Thea Astley Biography

(1925–2004), A Descant for Gossips, A Kindness Cup, The Well-Dressed Explorer, The Acolyte

queensland characters social stories

Australian novelist and short-story writer, born in Brisbane, educated at the University of Queensland. She worked as a school-teacher in Queensland and in New South Wales, then taught at Sydney's Macquarie University (196880). Her fiction shrewdly examines the vanities of social existence through a complex tension between perceptive and insensitive characters, and always with a wry humour and alertness to detail. Portraits of bigotry and destructive ill-will in small-town northern Queensland life are sobering in, for example, the novels A Descant for Gossips (1960) and A Kindness Cup (1974). In The Well-Dressed Explorer (1962) and The Acolyte (1972) she drew more generally on the all-consuming selfishness of the central characters. An Item from the Late News (1982), set in a dilapidated mining town, employed reference to myths ancient and modern in demonstrating Astley's talent for exploring situations in which individuals seek to preserve their identity in the face of collapsing social and religious values; Beachmasters (1985) charted the legacy of American presence in the Pacific during the Second World War. Hunting the Wild Pineapple (1979) is a collection of short stories; It's Raining in Mango: Pictures from a Family Album (1987) is a series of interlinked stories placing one family's development in the context of North Queensland's own. Reaching Tin River (1989), a new departure in her work, concentrating on the heroine's personal search for a mother, a father, and for herself, was followed by The Slow Natives (1990). The two novellas that form Vanishing Points (1992) are also linked by characters and theme; Coda (1994), a satirical view of old age, is a recent novel. The recipient of numerous awards, Astley was made a creative fellow of the Australia Council in 1993.

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