The End of the Morning

Charmian Clift, Nadia Wheatley (ed.)

The End of the Morning
NewSouth Publishing
1 April 2024

The End of the Morning

Charmian Clift, Nadia Wheatley (ed.)

In those days the end of the morning was always marked by the quarry whistle blowing the noon knock-off. Since everybody was out of bed very early, morning then was a long time, or even, if you came to think about it, a round time — symmetrical anyway, and contained under a thin, radiant, dome shaped cover…

During the years of the Great Depression, Cressida Morley and her eccentric family live in a weatherboard cottage on the edge of a wild beach. Outsiders in their small working-class community, they rant and argue and read books and play music and never feel themselves to be poor. Yet as Cressida moves beyond childhood, she starts to outgrow the place that once seemed the centre of the world. As she plans her escape, the only question is: who will she become?

The End of the Morning is the final and unfinished autobiographical novel by Charmian Clift. Published here for the first time, it is the book that Clift herself regarded as her most significant work. Although the author did not live to complete it, the typescript left among her papers was fully revised and stands alone as a novella. It is published here alongside a new selection of Clift’s essays and an afterword from her biographer Nadia Wheatley.


There is both a joy and a sadness in reading Charmian Clift’s unfinished novel, The End of the Morning, as it is published now, 55 years after her death. Nadia Wheatley, Clift’s long-time advocate, biographer, and champion of the work and the woman that was Charmain Clift, has produced this wonderful volume.

It comprises a novella-length opening to an unfinished book, an insightful essay by Wheatley on the background of said novel, and a further selection of Clift’s wonderful essays from her groundbreaking, wildly popular newspaper weekly columns of the 1960s. She just wrote so bloody well. Heartfelt, direct, empathetic, unapologetic, challenging us – she pulled no punches and was not afraid to be heard.

Clift first started The End of the Morning in 1962. Her most important autobiographic work, just 47 pages, is simply a delight. A beautifully evoked memory of a young girl’s relationship with her own country and people in coastal Kiama, Clift’s writing is evocatively rendered with love and fondness and honesty. It begins as a panoramic picture of place and people, of the day-to-day happenings of the family and the community. There are portraits of struggles and trials and joys of the everyday that are just beautifully written, and I smiled and grimaced and laughed and cried – often within the same page.

This is a wonderful book and Nadia Wheatley has done a superb job in keeping Clift’s work alive. Charmian Clift painted with words: read and listen to her passionate voice, her fine, detailed descriptions of place and time and people, of the love she felt and the troubles she struggled with. That she took them all on board and then challenged us all to be better – bless her.

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