‘It’s just some guy, not a monster’: Gendered violence in Emily Maguire’s recent novels

Sue Kossew, Anne Brewster

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Emily Maguire is a Sydney-based author who has written six novels, three non-fiction books and numerous articles on feminism, culture and literature. Her early novels Taming the Beast (2004) and The Gospel According to Luke (2006) were both awarded Special Commendations in the Kathleen Mitchell Awards. Smoke in the Room (2009) and Fishing for Tigers (2012) were followed by the two more recent novels that have had the most impact: An Isolated Incident (2016) – which was shortlisted for both the Stella Prize and the Miles Franklin Award – and Love Objects (2021). Her novels tackle uncomfortable topics such as abusive relationships, intimate partner violence and the ways in which young women are socially conditioned to be ashamed of their own sexuality. In these latter two novels, she deploys alternating perspectives to explore the multifaceted effects of often-traumatic events on her different characters. This in-depth analysis of characters’ motivations and emotional responses mitigates against any simplistic view of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

Like her fiction, her non-fiction addresses issues of feminism, sexuality and power. Princesses and Pornstars: Sex, Power, Identity (2008), for example, examines the restrictive roles that society has afforded young women. A revised edition of the book targeted at young adult readers, Your Skirt’s Too Short: Sex, Power, Choice, was published in 2010. Her most recent non-fiction book, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like: The Rise and Rise of Australian Feminism (2019), traces an Australian feminist history, showing how many of the earlier struggles for gender equality are still relevant and unresolved, as evidenced in the #MeToo movement.

Sue Kossew and Anne Brewster interviewed Emily Maguire about her two most recent novels, An Isolated Incident (2016) and Love Objects (2021). They discussed, in particular, the issue of violence against women and the representation of such violence in fiction. Part of the focus was on the implications of writing and reading about violence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Literary Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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