A Country of Eternal Light

Paul Dalgarno

A Country of Eternal Light
HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
1 November 2023

A Country of Eternal Light

Paul Dalgarno

Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year and The Readings New Australian Fiction Prize in 2023

Margaret Bryce, deceased mother of twins, has been having a hard time since dying in 2014. These days she spends time with her daughters - Eva in Madrid, and Rachel and her family in Melbourne - and her estranged husband, Henry, in Aberdeen. Mostly she enjoys the experience of revisiting the past, but she's tiring of the seemingly random events to which she repeatedly bears witness. There must be something more to life, she thinks. And death.

Spanning more than seventy-five years, from 1945 to 2021, A Country of Eternal Light follows Margaret as she flits from wartime Germany to Thatcher's Britain to modern-day Scotland, Australia and Spain, ruminating on everything from the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster and Australia's Black Summer bushfires to Mary Queen of Scots' beheading, the death of Princess Diana and in-vitro fertilisation. But why is facing up to what's happened in one's past as hard as, if not harder than, blocking it out completely? A poignant, utterly original and bitingly funny novel about complicated grief and how we remain wanted by our loved ones, dead or alive.


Margaret Bryce is dead. Since her death in 2014, she has spent her time watching over the lives of her two daughters: Eva in Madrid and Rachel in Melbourne. She also checks in on her estranged husband in Aberdeen. When not watching over the lives of those she left behind, she revisits pivotal moments in history, spanning the 75 years between 1945 to 2021.

Margaret sees it all now, yet cannot help but wonder why there isn’t more to death than this. It seems grief has demands, not just of the living, but also of the dead.

A Country of Eternal Light is a startlingly ambitious novel. Truly original in its premise, it poses deep philosophical questions that push the reader to wonder, ‘Do I believe what I think I believe?’ Margaret is a marvellous protagonist. Fully formed and entirely relatable, it feels as though we have the incredible privilege of watching over her (now non-existent) shoulder, following on her magical, often painful, journey through life and death.

This is an astonishingly accomplished, bittersweet, poignant and funny novel. For those familiar with his other work, this should come as no surprise. Dalgarno is former deputy editor of The Conversation and author of Poly (Ventura, 2020), And You May Find Yourself (Sleepers, 2015), and the forthcoming Prudish Nation (Upswell Publishing, 2023).

With A Country of Eternal Light, Paul Dalgarno has gifted the world something quite rare. A novel that is not only an immersive, engaging, and entertaining read, but one that makes us think. A Country of Eternal Light arouses one’s curiosity in a way that few novels can do. The year is young indeed, but I am quietly confident this wonderful novel might well be my favourite read for 2023.

This item is in-stock at 7 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.