Hazzard and Harrower: The Letters

Brigitta Olubas (ed.), Susan Wyndham (ed.)

Hazzard and Harrower: The Letters
NewSouth Publishing
1 May 2024

Hazzard and Harrower: The Letters

Brigitta Olubas (ed.), Susan Wyndham (ed.)

Shirley Hazzard and Elizabeth Harrower met in person for the first time in London in 1972, six years after they began a correspondence that would span four decades. They exchanged letters, cards and telegrams, and made occasional phone calls between Harrower’s home in Sydney and Hazzard’s apartments in New York, Naples and Capri. The two women wrote to each other of their daily lives, of impediments to writing, their reading, politics and world affairs, and in Hazzard’s case, her travels. And they wrote about Hazzard’s mother, for whose care Harrower took increasing — and increasingly reluctant — responsibility from the early 1970s (precisely the period when she herself virtually stopped writing).

Edited by Brigitta Olubas, Hazzard’s official biographer, and Susan Wyndham, who interviewed both Hazzard and Harrower, this is an extraordinary account of two literary luminaries, their complex relationship and their times.


Those who read the extract from Hazzard and Harrower in the April Readings Monthly will not be surprised to see it recommended here in the month of its release. While that small sample could hardly convey the astonishing scope of the book, it did give a taste of the distinct voices of the two Australian authors whose four decades of curated letters it contains.

Although Shirley Hazzard and Elizabeth Harrower were contemporaries, their long friendship began in 1966 when Harrower was introduced to Hazzard’s mother, Kit, by Norma Chapman, the owner of the Macleay Bookshop in Potts Point. Harrower and Kit warmed to one another quickly, and when Kit travelled to visit Hazzard in New York shortly after, Hazzard added a note to one of Kit’s letters. This began a correspondence between the authors that predated their actual meeting by six years.

In addition to discussions regarding the welfare of Kit, whose mental health was variable and often troubling, the two women primarily wrote about the challenges and joys of their writing (and that of Hazzard’s author husband), politics, reading and travel. To lose yourself in this book is to gain a fly-on-the-wall view of the bookish ecosystems in Sydney, New York, London and Capri during the years it encompasses. It is also to ponder the influence of caregiving on creative life, and unusual friendship dynamics. The two authors encouraged each other in their writing and were both keen readers; their skill in examining why some works delight and others disappoint is one of the book’s many pleasures.

Brigitta Olubas and Susan Wyndham bring deep expertise and insight to their task. This is an exceptional and comprehensively fascinating contribution to literature and history.

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