The Museum of Words

Georgia Blain

The Museum of Words
  • Format
  • Publisher
  • Country
  • Published
  • Pages
  • ISBN

The Museum of Words

Georgia Blain

In late 2015, Georgia Blain was diagnosed with a tumour sitting right in the language centre of her brain. Prior to this, Georgia’s only warning had been a niggling sense that her speech was slightly awry. She ignored it, and on a bright spring day, as she was mowing the lawn, she collapsed on a bed of blossoms, blood frothing at her mouth.

Waking up to find herself in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital, she tries to answer questions, but is unable to speak. After the shock of a bleak prognosis and a long, gruelling treatment schedule, she immediately turns to writing to rebuild her language and herself.

At the same time, her mother, Anne Deveson, moves into a nursing home with Alzheimer’s; weeks earlier, her best friend and mentor had been diagnosed with the same brain tumour. All three of them are writers, with language at the core of their being.

The Museum of Words is a meditation on writing, reading, first words and last words, picking up thread after thread as it builds on each story to become a much larger narrative. This idiosyncratic and deeply personal memoir is a writer’s take on how language shapes us, and how often we take it for granted - until we are in danger of losing it.


I hadn’t read Georgia Blain until her last novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog, published early last year. Immediately I regretted not having read her work sooner, as it was clear from the first page that here was a writer capable of wrangling the messiness and magic of ordinary lives with masterful insight, intelligence and wit. When Blain passed away late last year after living with brain cancer for 13 months, I turned to her remarkable personal essay collection, Births, Deaths and Marriages, taking comfort in her signature spare prose, which is unsentimental yet deeply affecting.

The Museum of Words, published posthumously, is an incredible gift for those who loved Blain, those who valued her writing and those who are still to discover this great writer. Blain wrote it knowing she was dying, yet it’s not about that exactly; she uses her illness reflexively. Her primary focus is language – specifically the experience of a writer beginning to lose one’s words. Most of all The Museum of Words is a celebration of what is most important to Blain: her family. It’s about Anne Deveson, and growing up with a writer as a mother; Anne passed away a few days after Blain. It’s about Rosie Scott, who Georgia met through Anne, and her importance to their family. Rosie also died from brain cancer earlier this year. And it’s about Georgia’s husband, the photographer and film-maker Andrew Taylor, and their daughter Odessa.

Blain’s intention was take the messiness of both illness and treatment and process it in the way she knew best – with remarkable warmth, clarity and honesty. Thanks to the immense skill of Blain’s editor at Scribe, Marika Webb-Pullman, and Blain’s partner Andrew, The Museum of Words reads like a fully realised work by one of Australia’s very best writers. We are so lucky to be able to read it.

Stella Charls is the marketing and events coordinator for Readings.

This item is in-stock and will ship in 2-3 business days

Please note, our stock data is updated overnight, and availability may change throughout the day. Prices are subject to change without notice.

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