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Autumn Laing Paperback – 1 May 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (1 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1742378838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1742378831
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,193,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Alex Miller has twice won the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia's premier literary prize; the first occasion in 1993 for The Ancestor Game, and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. He is also an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, for The Ancestor Game, in 1993. British by birth, he now lives in Victoria.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Dean on 5 May 2012
Format: Paperback
'Autumn Laing' is loosely based on the relationship between Sidney Nolan and Sunday Reed, and revolves around the eponymous Autumn and her circle of artist and poet friends in late 1930s Melbourne, and the affair she has with the artist Pat Donlon. It takes the form of a memoir written by an 85-year old Autumn looking back on her life after she has seen Pat's ex-wife Edith on the street after more than 50 years. Many of the chapters are written in the first person and are about Autumn now and her struggles with age and infirmity, whilst others are in the third person in which "Autumn" herself appears as a character. This might seem unusual, but Autumn is partly fictionalising her history to get to what she sees as the "truth" of things. She starts by saying that she will attempt to paint "a realist portrait" of Edith, noting that Realism is "that most difficult of styles, filled as it is with intricacy and contradiction". When we first see Edith she herself is an artist, though in the safe and established style of her forbears, overshadowed by Pat who has given up art college not wanting to be tainted by tradition and convention. Edith paints a small landscape showing the house where she and Pat live and this picture has much in common with the way the novel is written. Autumn describes the painting (looking back on it from her old age) as "a period piece, a fine tonal study in the conservative manner" and this novel could be described likewise.Read more ›
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Feb. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Autumn Laing is the thinly veiled story of Australian artist Sidney Nolan (here called Pat Donlon) and his sponsor, Sunday Reed (Autumn Laing). Alex Miller explains at the end that he had intended to write a fictionalised biography of Nolan but felt that the voice he had created in Autumn Laing was so strong that it took over the story.

Ho hum.

The thing with real people is that they are seldom as interesting as fictional people. Real life events feel exciting because they are real - but played out on the page they can quickly feel mundane. Or slowly feel mundane.

In this case, the basic story - forgive the spoilers but it is obvious from the end of Chapter One, Autumn Laing had an affair with Donlon, causing Donlon's wife to leave him. I am sure this was scandalous at the time, but today it seems rather small beer - and stretching it out over 440 pages is painful. But this is interwoven with Autumn Laing in her old age, wittering on about boiled cabbage and getting irritated by her nurse-carers and Adeli, an American academic researching Pat Donlon's life.

The actual writing can be quite compelling. Donlon seeking sponsorship, pitching up like Bud Fox at Gordon Gecko's office in Wall Street, is priceless. Some of the actual flirting is quite good fun. And at the sentence level, it is immaculate. Pick a page, any page, and the writing is flawless. It's just that when it is combined into a whole, it is really dull. At one point, we have many pages dedicated to climbing a ladder. Similar passages crop up with regularity - with the action creeping on at the pace of a snail.

There is some confusion over narrative perspective. Some sections are written in forst person - Autumn narrating her own story.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 24 reviews
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A Novel of Passion, Beauty and the Human Spirit 18 Oct. 2011
By Dr. Christine Maingard - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Alex Miller is one of Australia's most distinguished writers and Autumn Laing is another masterpiece.

"They are all dead, and I am old and skeleton-gaunt." is the opening line of this beautifully crafted novel. The old and cranky narrator weaves her past and present into a beautifully told account of her passionate relationship with Patrick Donlon, her former lover and muse. The story is told with an incredible depth of human emotions - from selfishness, guilt, betrayal, jealousy, anger, tenderness and passion and an almost unbearable sense of grief that still lingers whilst the memories of half a century ago surface.

For me the experience was more than simply reading a novel. It felt as if I became absorbed in a beautifully crafted painting that reveals itself, layer by layer, as an intimate portrait of a woman who is self-absorbed and almost destructive but who finds a place of peace towards the end of her life.

Highly recommended.

Christine Maingard, Author of 'Think Less Be More:Mental Detox for Everyone'
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Lots of meat on this bone 29 Jan. 2013
By TheOtherYaniv - Published on
Format: Paperback
First, just to be clear: I am not a student of Australian art or art history, and I was not looking for the real Sidney Nolan between the covers of this book. Alex Miller makes it abundantly clear that this is a work of fiction, and as far as I'm concerned this gives him sufficient license to make whatever he likes of Pat Donlon (the Nolan character).

This is not a narrative-driven work. The central thrust of the plot comes down to this: Autumn Laing, a wealthy patroness of the arts, and Pat Donlon, a renegade young artist, engage in an intense affair. This affair is destructive, but maybe also creative -- Autumn Laing sees herself as Pat Donlon's muse. Donlon goes on to bigger things and abandons Laing to her damaged marriage. Laing gets old, uneventfully except for the turmoil inside her, which she attempts to calm by writing about those formative events in her life. Readers looking for lots of plot will be disappointed. This is a book of reflections on some of the bigger themes of what it means to be human.

Autumn Laing is not "about" just one thing. Of course, it raises many questions about art: What is art? How is it created? How ought the credit for a work of art be apportioned? Is there any value in studying and talking about art? What is destroyed when art is created? Does the creation justify the destruction? It is a testament to the quality of Alex Miller's writing that not only does he meditate on all these issues without ever being superficial or stuffy or insular, he also manages to meaningfully explore a number of other "big" themes. Youth and old age, love and lust, betrayal, regret, and the fine line between truth and fiction all get quite a look-in in Autumn Laing. Miller's clever riffing on this last theme -- the book is clearly a fiction, but is the fiction the result of the work of the author Alex Miller? or is it the inevitable fiction of a life looking back on itself? -- delighted me, and at the same time in my opinion quite clearly makes irrelevant any question of whether this is an accurate reflection on the lives of Sunday Reed and Sidney Nolan. I was astounded by the density of wisdom in this book.

This is really good literature, funny and playful and full of human feeling and understanding. I'd recommend it to anybody who enjoys teasing apart and reflecting on what they read -- a great book club novel.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A gifted writer - a work of art 28 Oct. 2011
By JDS - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book totally absorbing. Beautifully written - the writer is an artist with words making one feel so totally involved with the characters and their emotions. A genuine art historian with a clever, believable story to tell. I loved it.
It's mainly a passionate love story between two protagonists and two players in the ... 10 July 2015
By Judy Keating - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a stunning portrayal of an old woman coming to terms with her past and her imminent death. The story grows in the world of contemporary Australian art and explores those who long to put Australian art on the world stage and who want to leave behind the classical approach to art and say something fresh and original in a contemporary way. It's mainly a passionate love story between two protagonists and two players in the background who are the victims of this great passion. Everyone suffers in the long run. Miller's style is to explore the internal journey of his characters and to find the poetic in the prosaic. One of my favourites now. Will reread.
Well worth the effort 15 Nov. 2014
By Janelle Morgan - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a delightful read. The language is a bit difficult in the beginning but evens out over time, so well worth continuing with. It is a fictional account of the affair between Sunday Reed and Sidney Nolan, both instrumental in the birth of the Australian modern art movement. It moves between the present day and memories of past events quite smoothly and tells the story of the events of many years ago. The story of the affair is compelling and Autumn Laing is delightful in her old age.
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