Cold Light sees me moving into uncharted territory and the main reason why I have been rereading Grand Days and Dark Palace in the first place – to finally finish the Edith Trilogy – to find out how Edith’s story concludes. Where does she end up? What work does she move onto next? Does she marry Ambrose? How does Moorhouse allow Edith to age and mature?
This reread has been an interesting exercise.
My first read took place in 2000 when I fell for Edith hard. I recognised so much of myself in her and marvelled how a male writer could write such a convincing female character. Since then I have read that these books were considered by Frank (and his analyst) to be his ‘mother stories’.
I reread Grand Days in 2006 and in a lovely moment of bookish serendipity, when I was checking my old journals for something else, I found this entry –
13 Sept 2006
Rereading ‘Grand Days’ – Edith is colder & harder than I remember. I’ve grown up and she hasn’t. I feel more sympathy with Ambrose. This need for control over all aspects of our life does not make us happy people.
This reaction caused me to give these books away before I moved to Sydney. I didn’t bother to reread Dark Palace at this time as I remembered it as being sadder and full of discontentment. I didn’t feel like revisited those emotions.
In 2022 I am happy to report that Edith and I are back on the same page.
Rereading Grand Days felt like revisiting an old friend or reading old journal entries. They contained a sense of nostalgia, the idealism of youth and memories of times gone by. Dark Palace also got caught up in this fond memories mood this time around. The disillusionment felt more wistful.
Edith now sounds so young. It is a curious thing to grow older while your favourite characters never age.
But now it is time to see how Edith ages. How far does Moorhouse go? Do we follow Edith all the way to her deathbed? Or just to the end of her career?
For full details about the Edith Readalong, the master post is here.
It is 1950, the League of Nations has collapsed and the newly formed United Nations has rejected all those who worked and fought for the League. Edith Campbell Berry, who joined the League in Geneva before the war, is out of a job, her vision shattered. With her sexually unconventional husband, Ambrose, she comes back to Australia to live in Canberra.
Edith now has ambitions to become Australia’s first female ambassador, but while she waits for a Call from On High, she finds herself caught up in the planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be ‘a city like no other’. When her communist brother, Frederick, turns up out of the blue after many years of absence, she becomes concerned that he may jeopardise her chances of becoming a diplomat. It is not a safe time to be a communist in Australia or to be related to one, but she refuses to be cowed by the anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. It is also not a safe time or place to be ‘a wife with a lavender husband’.
After pursuing the Bloomsbury life for many years, Edith finds herself fearful of being exposed. Unexpectedly, in mid-life she also realises that she yearns for children. When she meets a man who could offer not only security but a ready-made family, she consults the Book of Crossroads and the answer changes the course of her life. Intelligent, poignant and absorbing, Cold Light is a remarkable stand-alone novel, which can also be read as a companion to the earlier Edith novels Grand Days and Dark Palace.Publisher blurb
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.