Autobiography or fiction? This question has shadowed the work of enigmatic Australian author Eve Langley since her death in 1974. Was her writing the truth, or false, or somewhere in between? What did it mean when she described her father as ‘evil’ and ‘perverted’ in her first published novel The Pea Pickers (1942) and a kindly figure in later, unpublished work? Did she really believe herself to be Oscar Wilde? Was she gender fluid? Eve and her sister (and co-conspirator) June held onto family secrets as if their very lives depended on it. Eve Langley has been in the news since the 1920s and reviewed on both sides of the globe. She was an author, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter and a long-term psychiatric inmate. But June, who traversed the Australian countryside dressed as a boy, a willing lifelong companion to her beloved sister, is a lonely anonymous figure. Drawing on contemporary evidence, Eve Langley and the Pea Pickers gives the key players in the author’s life a voice, and the result is a fascinating but ultimately poignant tale of love and loss.
Eve Langley’s editor, the famous Beatrice Davis, declared that ‘the personal side of Eve’s life was coloured with madly poetic aberrations that would make any biographer pale if he wanted to get to the facts’. For 20 years, Helen Vines has trawled the archives to establish what most have viewed as an impossible task: separating the facts from the fiction of Eve Langley’s life. Helen is a writer and editor who has been published in industry, education and union journals including Australian Educator and HR Monthly. Her first published creative essay was in Island Magazine and she co-authored Status and Reward: The History of Industrial Representation of Professional Engineers in Australia 1946–1996 with Brian Lloyd. Helen was raised on a farm in Drumborg, deep in the Western District of Victoria. She attended Heywood High School and Hamilton College, took an Honours Arts degree and Diploma of Education at the University of Melbourne, and an MA and PhD at the University of Tasmania. She has raised three wonderful children.