The Anniversary

Stephanie Bishop

The Anniversary
Hachette Australia
29 May 2024

The Anniversary

Stephanie Bishop

There were things that I wanted to say. Things I knew I couldn't say but needed to tell someone. And then the things I knew I should say. What they wanted to hear. There is never only one version.

Novelist JB Blackwood is on a cruise with her husband, Patrick, to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Her one-time professor, Patrick is much older than JB. A maverick when they met, he seemed somehow ageless, as all new gods appear in the eyes of those who worship them. He is a film director. A cult figure. But now his success is starting to wane and JB is on the cusp of winning a major literary prize. Her art, that has forever been overseen by Patrick, is starting to overshadow his.

For days they sail in the sun. They lie about drinking, reading, sleeping, having sex. There is nothing but dark water all around them.

Then a storm hits. When Patrick falls overboard, JB is left alone as the search for Patrick's body, the circumstances of his death and the truth about their marriage begins.


One of the most wonderful and satisfying things about being a reader is following the careers of writers whose work you have found and loved, waiting expectantly for their next work, and then being rewarded when that anticipation is justified by the publication of an outstanding new book. One of the authors I follow is Stephanie Bishop. So many of us were transfixed by her breakthrough book and winner of the 2015 Readings Prize, The Other Side of the World, and her accomplished 2018 novel, Man Out of Time: I hope all these people and many, many more will discover her major new achievement, The Anniversary.

Novelist JB Blackwood is married to Patrick, a renowned filmmaker. They met when JB was a university student and Patrick was a charismatic visiting professor. He was much older of course, holding court to an enthralled cohort of disciples while exuding the kind of cultish rockstar-intellectual appeal (complete with leather jacket) that is peculiar to academia. Their chance encounter in the rain after he delivers a lecture leads to a passionate affair, but this was not a brief distraction for either of them, since they are now celebrating their fourteenth wedding anniversary on a luxury cruise. JB has organised the whole thing, despite Patrick’s lingering resistance to the effort involved in travel. She is hoping they can spend some quality time together; their relationship has been strained of late. But this dream of travel, imagined just as JB is about to be acknowledged for her writing with an important prize, becomes a tragedy when Patrick falls overboard and is lost at sea.

I can’t speak highly enough of this literary work. It’s an absolute pleasure to read, and is the kind of book that makes you beg your household to leave you alone so you can get back to it. Its story is tense and engrossing, and the reading experience intellectually challenging and supremely rewarding. At times, this reader was left marvelling at the talents of its writer, rereading her beautiful sentences, delighted by her skill and her ideas. Bishop asks, what is it to live a creative life, and how does one do that in partnership with another with their own artistic aspirations? What is collaboration, success, recognition? And when the power dynamics shift, what is the collateral damage? Bishop’s observations of human frailties, intimate relationships, and gender politics are subtle but incisive and brilliant. Time and memory recur as concerns across Bishop’s novels, themes that are difficult to render and in lesser hands can challenge a book’s structural integrity, but this writer’s power and control over these subjects – already so very accomplished – are only increasing. This is an exceptional book, and is most certainly one of the literary highlights of 2023.

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