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Jessica Anderson
Born 25 September 1916 (1916-09-25) (age 93)
Gayndah, Queensland, Australia
Occupation Novelist, short story writer
Nationality Australian

Jessica Margaret Queale Anderson (born 25 September 1916) is an Australian novelist and short story writer. She has won several awards and has been published in Britain and the United States.



Anderson was born in Gayndah, Queensland to an English mother and an Irish father[1] but brought up in Brisbane. She left school at 16 and attended the Brisbane Technical College Art School for a year, but moved to Sydney when she was 18 and was drawn into the bohemian life there.[2] She lived most of her life in Sydney, though she also lived in London for two and a half years.

In an interview with Ellison, Anderson said that she always wanted to be a writer or an artist and that as a child she always wrote - poetry and stories. She also said that she thought about being an architect but that this seemed impossible for a woman in the Brisbane of her youth.[3]

She came from a politically active family and joined the Australian Labor Party in 1976.[4]

Anderson has been twice divorced, her first husband being the artist Ross McGill. She has one daughter, the film and television script-writer, Laura Jones.

Writing career

She started writing novels in her early 40s, but had written stories and plays and adapted novels for radio prior to that. Most of these earlier works were published under pseudonyms.[5] In interviews with Ellison[6] and Baker[7] she said that she received more rejections as her writing got better and she moved away from "formula". She was first published in the early 1960s. Since then, she has had several novels published and her short stories have appeared in magazines including The Bulletin, Meanjin and Heat.

In an interview with Ellison, Anderson said "I was very much, and always have been, preoccupied with people who are strangers in their society."[8] She also said "I am interested in families... They are interesting - you know, the tangle".[9]

Awards and nominations




  • An Ordinary Lunacy (1963)
  • The Last Man's Head (1970)
  • The Commandant (1975)
  • Tirra Lirra By the River (1978)
  • The Impersonators (1980) (Published in the USA as The Only Daughter)
  • Taking Shelter (1989)
  • One of the Wattle Birds (1994)

Short story collections

  • Stories from the Warm Zone and Sydney Stories (1987)


  1. ^ Baker (1987) p. 22
  2. ^ Baker (1987) p. 15
  3. ^ Ellison (1986) p. 45
  4. ^ a b Adelaide (1986) p. 3
  5. ^ Ellison (1986) p. 30
  6. ^ Ellison (1986)
  7. ^ Baker (1987) p. 15, 20
  8. ^ Ellison (1986) p. 33
  9. ^ Ellison (1986) p. 38


  • Adelaide, Debra (1986) Australian Women Writers: A Bibliographic Guide, Sydney: Pandora
  • Baker, Candida (1987) Yacker 2: Australian Writers Talk About Their Work Sydney: Picador, pp. 14-27
  • Ellison, Jennifer (1986) Rooms of Their Own, Ringwood, Vic: Penguin, pp. 28-49

Further reading

  • Anderson, Jessica (2003) "Starting Too Late" in Meanjin Vol. 61 No. 2, pp. 209-216.
  • Barry, Elaine (1992) Fabricating the Self: The Fictions of Jessica Anderson, St Lucia: UQP.
  • Bird, Delys (1980) "Review of Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson" in Westerly No. 25, pp. 78-80.
  • Blair, Ruth (1987) "Jessica Anderson's Mysteries" in Island Magazine No. 31, pp. 10-15.
  • Haynes, Roslyn (1986) "Art as Reflection in Jessica Anderson's Tirra Lirra by the River" in Australian Literary Studies No. 12, pp. 316-23.
  • Quigley, Marion (1995) Homesick: Women's Entrapment within the Father's House: A Comparative Study of the fiction of Helen Garner, Beverley Farmer, Jessica Anderson and Elizabeth Harrower PhD Thesis. Monash University.
  • Sykes, Alrene (1986) "Jessica Anderson: Arrivals and Places" in Southerly Vol 46 No. 1 pp. 57-71.


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