Paperback review: Madeleine: a Life of Madeleine St John, by Helen Trinca


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The Independent Culture

Madeleine St John, who died in 2006, was best known for her debut novel, The Women in Black (1993), and the Booker shortlisted The Essence of the Thing (1997).

But she came late to fiction. She was born in Sydney in 1941, and her French mother committed suicide when she was 12. She moved to London in 1965 and spent years working on a book on theosophy before finding success as a novelist in her early fifties. Trinca’s biography might have explored how the generation of Australians who arrived in the UK in the 1960s – St John, Germaine Greer, Clive James – came to have so great an impact on our culture. But this is nevertheless a rich and moving account of a difficult life redeemed by art.