Highly Commended – 2021 National Biography Awards
Shortlisted – 2020 NSW Premier’s History Awards
‘A rare gem. This is biography at its best: boldly conceived and brilliantly written. In spare, haunting prose Cathy Perkins rescues Zora Cross from oblivion, re-establishing her as one of Australia’s most remarkable literary figures. We see Zora’s life through the stories of her relationships with others. The person that emerges – possessed by an irrepressible hunger to write and to be published – is impossible to pin down. In Perkins’s hands, Zora Cross dances vividly before our eyes.’ Mark McKenna
‘I must confess I had never heard of Zora Cross, but this meticulously researched biography captures the spirited actress turned erotic poet with fresh insight, revealing a woman who not only defied convention to write with uninhibited passion but also had a horse race named after her! The pages teem with vividly drawn portraits of the luminaries of Australian literature, in all their flawed and messy humanity. Perkins brings Cross out of the shadows into the light she deserves. Here is yet another free-thinking woman for a new generation to add to the feminist pantheon.’ Caroline Baum
‘This finely written biography fills a significant gap in the history of Australian women writers. Zora Cross is hardly a household name these days, but a century ago at the peak of her fame she very likely was, since Songs of Love and Life was that rare thing: a popular poetic sensation. The Shelf Life of Zora Cross now spells out her life story.’ Peter Kirkpatrick
Australian poet and journalist Zora Cross caused a sensation in 1917 with her book Songs of Love and Life. Here was a young woman who looked like a Sunday school teacher, celebrating sexual passion in a provocative series of sonnets. She was hailed as a genius, and many expected her to endure as a household name alongside Shakespeare and Rossetti. While Cross’s fame didn’t last, she kept writing through financial hardship, personal tragedies and two world wars, producing an impressive body of work. Her verse, prose and correspondence with the likes of Ethel Turner, George Robertson (of Angus & Robertson) and Mary Gilmore place Zora Cross among the key personalities of Australia’s literary world in the early twentieth century. The Shelf Life of Zora Cross reveals the life of a neglected writer and intriguing person.