This May, the L,BBG Rights team has chosen ‘Daisy and Woolf’ by Michelle Cahill as one of our Rights Fiction Books of the Month!
by Michelle Cahill
'This is where I begin. This blank page draws me nearer to you, the day sweltering, my courage quickens, the curtains billowing and the punkah swaying, the punkah rattling as I sit at my writing bureau ... it is a soothing sound.'
Mina, a writer, is navigating her place in the world, balancing creativity, academia, her sexuality and the expectation that a wife and mother abandons herself for others. For her, like so many women of mixed ancestry, it is too easy to be erased. But her fire and intellect refuse to bow. She discovers 'the dark, adorable' Eurasian woman Daisy Simmons, whom Peter Walsh plans to marry in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Daisy disappeared from Woolf's pages, her story unfinished - never given a voice in the novel, nor a footnote in any of the admiring Woolf scholarship that followed.
While dealing with the remains of another life, Mina decides to write Daisy's story. Travelling from Australia to England, India and China, freelancing and researching, she has to navigate cultural and race barriers, trying hard not to look back or flinch at the personal cost. Like Woolf, her writing both sustains and overwhelms her. But in releasing Daisy from her fictional destiny, Mina finds the stubbornness and strength to also break free.
'Cahill writes beautifully ... Daisy and Woolf is a novel about reclamation. Highlighting the inadvertent racism inherent in much of the classical literary canon, it reinforces the the importance of Own Voices writing, and shines a light on the lives of people of colour that cannot be understood or expressed without their input' The Age
'an impressive, ambitious postmodern novel that raises questions around race, class, feminism, Empire, the post-colonial voice and so much more ... a fascinating work, it's rare to see something of its kind in the Australian literary landscape' Readings
PRAISE FOR MICHELLE CAHILL:
'Her deftness and linguistic grace masks her purpose, till she reveals a shocking glimpse of the price that art can exact' - HILARY MANTEL
'Traverses centuries, cultures and continents to deftly explore how race, gender and class have the power to shape a narrative' - MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE
'A dauntless novel of empire, and its ever-replicating costs. There are echoes of Michael Ondaatje in this novel's lush and observant prose-craft. This is fiction at its most human and humane' - BEEJAY SILCOX
'In luminous prose, she has brought an old world back to life. Her background as a poet is clear in her evocative and detailed descriptions of colonial India. Daisy's voice is perfectly tuned and her story is compelling' - MELANIE CHENG
'At once critically acute and narratively rich, Daisy and Woolf shows us that there are always new ways to read the past in order to understand the present' - PATRICK FLANERY
'Michelle Cahill deploys poetry and history in the most powerful manner possible to write back to Virginia Woolf, and expose the colonial gaze that did not (does not) acknowledge the full humanity of others. This novel will be to Mrs Dalloway what Wide Sargasso Sea was to Jane Eyre' - MEENA KANDASAMY