Winner of the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award
Erica Marsden’s son, an artist, has been imprisoned for homicidal negligence. In a state of grief, Erica cuts off all ties to family and friends, and retreats to a quiet hamlet on the south-east coast near the prison where he is serving his sentence.
There, in a rundown shack, she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. To build it—to find a way out of her quandary—Erica will need the help of strangers. And that will require her to trust, and to reckon with her past.
The Labyrinth is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial, of the fraught relationship between parents and children, that is also a meditation on how art can both be ruthlessly destructive and restore sanity. It shows Amanda Lohrey to be at the peak of her powers.
Amanda Lohrey lives in Tasmania and writes fiction and non-fiction. She has taught at the University of Tasmania, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Queensland. Amanda is a regular contributor to the Monthly magazine and a former senior fellow of the Australia Council’s Literature Board. She received the 2012 Patrick White Award. In 2021 The Labyrinth, her eighth work of fiction, won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, a Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the Voss Literary Prize, and was shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year and a Queensland Literary Award.
‘Amanda Lohrey might be described as a writer’s writer: proficient in short and long form fiction and a veteran of the essay. Her writing is the literature of ideas. Her new novel, The Labyrinth, uses the idea of the labyrinth as its key organising principle, containing echoes and repetitions throughout to weave together a haunting narrative about loss and self-understanding…Lohrey’s descriptions are elegant and transfixing…There is something dreamlike about the novel.’ Australian
‘The Labyrinth is an impressive addition to Lohrey’s body of fiction, which always has philosophical foundations for its warmly human stories. Here the characters and ideas are deftly integrated into a short novel of deep wisdom about nature and art, men and women, motherhood and home…Elegant sentences move with the mindful pace of footsteps on a pathway.’ Age
‘A deeply meditative book…[Amanda Lohrey’s] writing here is beautifully layered, rich in imagery and meaning, without ever being laboured…The Labyrinth offers a pull towards the unknown and a comfort in solitude. It is a sharply tuned novel, a sprawling narrative that resists rigid expectations, instead allowing those who inhabit the pages to surrender themselves to the mode of “reversible destiny” that it is constructed around.‘ Guardian
‘My novel of the year, full stop…A story told without a syllable of excess sentiment or false feeling, yet which sails full square into the mystic.’ Geordie Williamson, Australian
‘Lohrey brings all her skill to this compelling and contemplative novel, which will linger in your mind long after you read the final page.’
Claire Nichols, ABC RN
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Moving to an isolated seaside property to be near her imprisoned son, Erica Marsden starts to rebuild a beloved labyrinth from her fraught childhood as a way to restore family ties. She winds up encouraging an accidental kind of community as the project expands, all while bringing up ripe mythological and Biblical parallels for her. Exploring fractured families and embedded trauma in dreamy, compelling prose, veteran Australian novelist and essayist Amanda Lohrey won the nation’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin, for The Labyrinth. This layered novel balances Erica’s profound reflections on her son’s grievous crime with wider questions about the obsessive and nurturing aspects of creating art. Full of vibrant sensory descriptions, the book transports us to pivotal points in Erica’s life, from growing up on the periphery of a mental asylum to her restorative relocation to the coast.
Readable, interesting, emotionally balanced, good characters.
A slow build