Written with unerring skill and insight, The Dyehouse is a masterly portrait of postwar Australia, when industrial work was radically transformed by new technologies and society changed with it. Mena Calthorpe—who herself worked in a textile factory—takes us inside this world, vividly bringing to life the people of an inner-Sydney company in the mid-1950s: the bosses, middlemen and underlings; their dramatic struggles and their loves.
This powerful and affecting novel was first published in 1961, and is the hundredth book in the Text Classics series. The new edition comes with an introduction by Fiona McFarlane, acclaimed author of The Night Guest.
Mena Calthorpe was born in Goulburn, New South Wales, in 1905. There the editor of the Evening Penny Post, who had helped Miles Franklin early in her career, encouraged her to write. After marrying, Calthorpe moved to Sydney and lived for most of her life in the Sutherland Shire. Working in office jobs and writing in her spare time, she was active in literary groups and in the Labor Party—for some years she was a member of the Communist Party, and she opposed B. A. Santamaria’s attempts to stop communism in trade unions. The Dyehouse (1961) was followed by The Defectors (1969), which dramatised unions’ internal power struggles. Mena Calthorpe’s third and final novel was The Plain of Ala, an Irish migrant story, which was published in 1989. She died in 1996.
‘[The Dyehouse] is executed with a singular combination of charm, grace and tough-mindedness.’ Meanjin
‘The Dyehouse is an extraordinary book—a true ensemble novel, written with astonishing control and animated by compassionate intelligence. With its indelible Sydney setting, it deserves—more than deserves—to take its place among the great Australian novels about work, and to be celebrated as the 100th Text Classic.’ Fiona McFarlane