LADIES' REST AND WRITING ROOM by Kim Kelly
Australian novella tragics like me were gutted when Seizure’s annual Viva La Novella competition folded a couple of years back. Seizure had long been one of the few publishers that actively celebrated the shorter form, and Viva had unearthed some absolute doozies. Alas, pandemic, restructures, commercial reality. Blah blah. Enter Finlay Lloyd, another publisher with a solid track record for novellas, including A.S. Patric’s brilliant Bruno Kramzer. Last year they announced the new Twenty/Forty Prize. Now we have the first couple of winners.
If Kim Kelly’s charming Ladies’ Rest and Writing Room is anything to go by, we certainly have cause for optimism. While not as edgy as many Viva winners, Kelly’s book put me in mind almost immediately of Madeleine St John, with its tale of two former classmates, both wracked by tragedy, brought together in a clash of class and culture. Kelly’s evocation of 1920s Sydney is convincingly electric, and the undercurrent of sexual curiosity will appeal to those who like a splash of romance with their historical fiction. By no means my usual fare, but a delightful dalliance nonetheless.
Ladies’ Rest and Writing Room by Kim Kelly
Finlay Lloyd, 2023