Thea Astley

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::
Thea Beatrice May Astley
Born August 25, 1925
Flag of Australia Brisbane
Died August 17, 2004
Flag of Australia Byron Bay
Occupation Novelist and short story writer
Spouse Jack Gregson
Children Ed Gregson

Thea Astley (August 25, 1925 - August 17, 2004) was an Australian novelist and short story writer. At the time of her death, she had won more Miles Franklin Awards, Australia's major literary award, than any other writer. As well as being a writer, she taught at all levels of education - primary, secondary and tertiary.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Career and style
  • 3 Awards and Nominations
  • 4 Bibliography
    • 4.1 Novels
    • 4.2 Short stories
  • 5 Further reading
  • 6 External links
  • 7 References


Born in Brisbane and educated at All Hallows' School, Astley studied arts at the University of Queensland then trained to become a teacher.[1] After marrying Jack Gregson in 1948, she moved to Sydney where she taught at various high schools, as well as keep up with her writing. She tutored at Macquarie University from 1968 to 1980, before retiring to write full time, at which time she and her husband moved to Kuranda in North Queensland. In the late 1980s they moved to Nowra on the NSW South Coast, and, after her husband's death in 2003, she moved to Byron Bay to be near her son, Ed Gregson.

In addition to her passion for writing, she and her husband had a great love of music, particularly jazz and chamber music.[2] They had one son, a musician. Thea Astley died in Byron Bay in 2004.

Career and style

Her novels won four Miles Franklin Awards and in 1989 she won the Patrick White Award for services to Australian literature. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Queensland in 1989. Much of her writing is set in and influenced by her childhood in Queensland, which she has described as “the place where the tall yarn happens, where it is lived out by people who are the dramatis personae of the tall yarns.”[1]

According to AusLit Gateway News she was 'revered for her meticulous and controlled use of language and her portrayals of the Queensland landscape and character; she was renowned for her quick wit, raspy voice, and ever-present cigarettes.[3] Her reputation is one of being a 'metaphoric' writer, which resulted in a style which didn't suit all readers. In an interview with Candida Baker, Astley quotes Helen Garner as saying 'I simply hate her style'[4]and goes on to say 'I can't resist using imagistic language. I like it. I really don't do it to annoy reviewers'.[5]And there are many who love Astley's writing - for its style and for the subject matter - such as writer Kerryn Goldsworthy, who said 'I love its densely woven grammar, its ingrained humour, its uncompromising politics, and its undimmed outrage at human folly, stupidity and greed'.[6]Goldsworthy continues to say that 'her body of work [over four decades] adds up to a protracted study in the way that full-scale violence and tragedy can flower extravagantly from the withered seeds of malice and resentment. The perps [in Drylands] are all her usual suspects: racists, developers, hypocritical gung-ho civic go-gooders, and assorted unreconstructed male-supremacist swine'.[7]

Awards and Nominations

  • 1962: Miles Franklin Award for The Well-Dressed Explorer
  • 1965: Miles Franklin Award for The Slow Natives
  • 1965: Moomba Award for The Slow Natives
  • 1972: Miles Franklin Award for The Acolyte
  • 1975: The Age Book of the Year Fiction Award for The Kindness Cup
  • 1980: Australian Literature Studies Award for Hunting the Wild Pineapple
  • 1980: Member of the Order of Australia (OAM)[8]
  • 1989: Patrick White Award
  • 1990: New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Christina Stead Prize for fiction for Reaching Tin River
  • 1992: Officer of the Order of Australia (OA)[9]
  • 1996: The Age Book of the Year Fiction award for The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow
  • 1999: Miles Franklin Award for Drylands
  • 2000: Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, Fiction Book Award for Drylands
  • 2002: New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Special Award



  • Girl with a Monkey (1958)
  • A Descant for Gossips (1960)
  • The Well Dressed Explorer (1962)
  • The Slow Natives (1965)
  • A Boat Load of Home Folk (1968)
  • The Acolyte (1972)
  • A Kindness Cup (1974)
  • An Item from the Late News (1982)
  • Beachmasters (1985)
  • It's Raining in Mango (1987)
  • Reaching Tin River (1990) REVIEW
  • Vanishing Points (1992)
  • Coda (1994)
  • The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow (1996)
  • Drylands (1999)

Short stories

  • Hunting the Wild Pineapple (1979)
  • Collected Stories (1997)

Further reading

  • AusLit Gateway News September/October 2004
  • Baker, Candida (1986) Yacker: Australian writers talk about their work
  • Goldsworthy, Kerryn (1999) Undimmed outrage: Thea Astley 'Drylands'(Incomplete article available on website)
  • Sheridan, Susan and Genoni, Paul (Eds) (2006), Thea Astley’s Fictional Worlds, Cambridge Scholars ISBN 1-84718-015-9
  • 'Thea Astley + Steven Galloway' (2004) on Books and writing with Michael Shirrefs, Sunday 22/08/2004Accessed 25 August 2006
  • Literary World Mourns Thea Astley from Sydney Morning Herald
  • References
    1. ^ a b Thea Astley (Jessie Street National Women's Library) Accessed: January 22, 2007.
    2. ^ Baker (1986) p. 32
    3. ^ AusLit Gateway News 2004
    4. ^ Baker (1986) p. 37
    5. ^ Baker (1986) p. 47
    6. ^ Goldsworthy (1999)
    7. ^ Goldsworthy (1999)
    8. ^
    9. ^

    NAME Astley, Thea
    SHORT DESCRIPTION Twentieth century Australian novelist
    DATE OF BIRTH August 25, 1925
    PLACE OF BIRTH Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    DATE OF DEATH August 17, 2004
    PLACE OF DEATH Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
    under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
    or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
    with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
    A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
    Free Documentation License".