NewSouth Publishing has acquired world rights, via Jane Novak Literary Agency, to Charmian Clift’s autobiographical novel The End of the Morning. Although this was unfinished when the author died in July 1969, the typescript left among her papers was fully revised, and can stand alone as a novella. This is the first time it will be published. The work will be edited and introduced by Clift’s biographer, Nadia Wheatley, and published together with a selection of the author’s essays.
Throughout her writing life, Charmian Clift kept returning to an autobiographical novel about a young woman growing up the New South Wales south coast. As Clift herself described it:
The End of the Morning is about a girl called Cressida Morley, who has appeared already in My Brother Jack but I invented her first, and her eccentric family who live in a weatherboard cottage on the edge of a beach. It is a book about young dreams and young longings, and filled with sand and sea and sun and wind and seaweed draped on the front picket fence after a storm.’
Ending with Cressida’s elder sister going to art school in the city, which costs every last penny their parents have, the teenage Cressida is left wondering how they will ever afford to support her when it is her time to leave. ‘I was going somewhere, I was going to be someone,’ she thinks. ‘But where I was going and what I was going to be remained very misty.’
‘The End of the Morning represents the author writing at the height of her powers,’ says Nadia Wheatley. ‘As a historical document, it gives a window into a small working class industrial community in the period between the two world wars. From a biographical viewpoint, it sheds light on the author’s other work – particularly the essays. And for readers who know the character of Cressida Morley through the novels of Clift’s husband, George Johnston, this book will be an opportunity to meet “the girl with sand between her toes” on her own terms, and in her own territory.’
‘Charmian Clift’s writing is mesmerising; lyrical, sharp and full of heart. Long overlooked, it is thrilling to see her work receive the attention it deserves in recent years’, says publisher Harriet McInerney.
Charmian Clift was born in the coastal town of Kiama, New South Wales, on 30 August 1923. After serving as a lieutenant in the Australian Army, she joined the staff of the Melbourne Argus newspaper, and in 1947 married fellow journalist George Johnston. The next year, the couple’s collaborative novel High Valley won the Sydney Morning Herald prize. Fleeing the political claustrophobia of Australia under the Menzies government, in 1951 Charmian and George headed to London. Two years later, they escaped even further, to the Greek islands, where over the next decade they raised three children and created a legend. During this period, Clift wrote the memoirs Mermaid Singing and Peel Me A Lotus, and her two novels, Honour’s Mimic and Walk to the Paradise Gardens. After the family returned to Australia in 1964, Charmian Clift began writing a weekly column that appeared in the Melbourne Herald and the Sydney Morning Herald. Charmian Clift died in 1969.
Nadia Wheatley is the author of The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift. Described by critic Peter Craven as ‘one of the greatest Australian biographies’, this was the Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year, 2001, and won the NSW Premier’s Australian History Prize (2002). After twenty years it remains the classic account of the life and work of this transformational Australian writer. Nadia Wheatley’s recent books include the award-winning memoir Her Mother’s Daughter, and Radicals – Remembering the Sixties, written in partnership with Meredith Burgmann. She is the editor Sneaky Little Revolutions: Selected essays of Charmian Clift, an anthology of Clift’s lyrical and fearless essays.
The End of the Morning will be published by NewSouth Publishing in May 2024.