Shortlisted for the Walter McRae Russell Award 2023
‘Eve Langley’s strange story, its secrets and silences, has baffled many literary sleuths.’
‘Such skilful literary detective work into one of Australia’s most astonishing and misunderstood writers’
‘Her passion and creativity and genius leaps off the pages of her fiction, but so does her vulnerability and confusion. Vines captures all of this and more within the pages of this biography. A biography I did not want to end.’ This Reading Life blog
Autobiography or fiction? This question has shadowed the work of enigmatic Australian author Eve Langley since her first novel, The Pea Pickers, was published in 1942. Almost immediately after, Eve was committed to a mental asylum in Auckland where she remained for more than seven years, separated from her three young children. Hailed as a tour de force, The Pea Pickers was based on Eve’s real-life experiences in the 1920s and tells the story of two feisty sisters who wander the Australian countryside dressed as men seeking work and adventure.
But woven subtly into this brilliant and funny coming-of-age story is the portrait of a complex family constellation: a masculine mother, an evil father, the narrator’s adoring sister, and a perplexing heroine who adopts the name of Steve Hart, one of the Ned Kelly gang who was known to masquerade as a woman. Drawing on contemporary evidence, Eve Langley and The Pea Pickers offers a biography that unravels the life and the fiction, and the result is a fascinating and ultimately poignant tale.