'Liza used to say that she saw her past life as a string of roughly-graded balls, and so did Hilda have a linear conception of hers, thinking of it as a track with detours. But for some years now I have likened mine to a globe suspended in my head, and ever since the shocking realisation that waste is irretrievalbe, I have been careful not to let this globe spin to expose the nether side on which my marriage has left its multitude of images.
'Nora Porteous has spent most of her life waiting to escape. Fleeing from her small-town family and then from her stifling marriage to a mean-spirited husband, Nora arrives finally in London where she creates a new life for herself as a successful dressmaker.
'Now in her seventies, Nora returns to Queensland to settle into her childhood home.
'But Nora has been away a long time, and the people and events of her past are not at all like she remembered them. And while some things never change, Nora is about to discover just how selective her 'globe of memory' has been.
'Tirra Lirra by the River is a moving account of one woman's remarkable life, a beautifully written novel which displays the lyrical brevity of Jessica Anderson's award-winning style.' (Publication summary)
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 12 (Literature Unit 4)
independence, memory, relationships, the loss of innocence, the search for connection
Ethical understanding, Intercultural understanding
'Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River is one of the few Australian novels of the 1970s that has remained in print since its first release. By contrast, to take just one example, four-time Miles Franklin winner Thea Astley’s books have been out of print a few times – this remains the case for The Acolyte, which won the Miles Franklin in 1972. Perhaps in part because of its easily digestible length, Tirra Lirra is a staple of high school and university curricula. Tirra Lirra tells the story of Nora Porteus’ return to her family home in Brisbane after decades overseas. As she is ill and is nearing the end of her life, Nora’s mind turns to her past, her ex-husband, friends, and the interplay of art and labour.' (Introduction)
'This study shows how fiction that makes use of textiles as an essential element utilizes synaesthetic writing and synaesthetic metaphor to create an affective link to, and response in, the reader. These links and responses are examined using affect theory from Silvan Tomkins and Brian Massumi and work on synaesthesia by Richard Cytowic, Lawrence Marks, and V.S. Ramachandran, among others. Synaesthetic writing, including synaesthetic metaphors, has been explored in poetry since the 1920s and, more recently, in fiction, but these studies have been general in nature. By narrowing the field of investigation to those novels that specifically employ three types of hand-crafted textiles (quilt-making, knitting and embroidery), the book isolates how these textiles are used in fiction. The combination of synaesthesia, memory, metaphor and, particularly, synaesthetic metaphor in fiction with textiles in the text of the case studies selected, shows how these are used to create affect in readers, enhancing their engagement in the story.
'The work is framed within the context of the history of textile production and the use of textiles in fiction internationally, but concentrates on Australian authors who have used textiles in their writing. The decision to focus on Australian authors was taken in light of the quality and depth of the writing of textile fiction produced in Australia between 1980 and 2005 in the three categories of hand-crafted textiles – quilt-making, knitting and embroidery. The texts chosen for intensive study are: Kate Grenville’s The Idea of Perfection (1999, quilting); Marele Day’s Lambs of God (1997, knitting) and Anne Bartlett’s Knitting (2005, knitting); Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River (1978, embroidery) and Marion Halligan’s Spider Cup (1990, embroidery).' (Publication summary)