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Kathryn Heyman

A roadmap of recovery and transformation, this is the story of becoming heroic in a culture which doesn’t see heroism in the shape of a girl.

At the age of twenty, after a traumatic sexual assault trial, Kathryn Heyman ran away from her life and became a deckhand on a fishing trawler in the Timor Sea.

Coming from a family of poverty and violence, she had no real role models, no example of how to create or live a decent life, how to have hope or expectations. But she was a reader. She understood story, and the power of words to name the world. This was to become her salvation.

After one wild season on board the Ocean Thief, the only girl among tough working men, facing storms, treachery and harder physical labour than she had ever known, Heyman was transformed. Finally, she could name the abuses she thought had broken her, could see ‘all that she had been blind to, simply to survive’. More than that, after a period of enforced separation from the world, she was able to return to it newly formed, determined to remake the role she’d been born into.

A reflection on the wider stories of class, and of growing up female with all its risks and rewards, Fury is a memoir of courage and determination, of fighting back and finding joy.


At a time when it often feels impossible to take a breather from the overwhelming injustices and inequalities that warrant outrage, you might hesitate to pick up a book called Fury. This memoir by prolific Australian writer Kathryn Heyman is an account of her traumatic sexual assault trial at the age of 20; the childhood of poverty and family violence that preceded it, and the reckless adventure that followed as a deckhand on a fishing trawler in the Timor Sea.

Heyman’s story is definitely a heavy one, but it never once drags the reader under. Instead, Fury vibrates with energy, remarkable physicality, clear-eyed rage and a clever, fiery wit that frequently left me breathless. Heyman’s story is unputdownable, made even more compelling by her expert narrative structure and incredible control of language. While Fury spans over two decades of tough experiences, these fractured pieces of a life come together so powerfully; the effect is far greater than the sum of its parts. This is Heyman’s story, one that stands alongside the best adventure memoirs of women’s survival (such as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild or Robyn Davidson’s Tracks), but it also offers an original reflection on issues of class and the oppressions (both harrowing and ordinary) that girls face every day.

‘But I don’t have a machete, I don’t have a sword, I don’t have a knife. I just have words. Thousands and thousands of them, and each time I swing another one, now, decades after all of this, I feel my stomach tighten and the fear rise.’ As readers we are very lucky that Heyman has turned some of these words into this galvanising memoir. Fury is a thrilling and vital read, and its release couldn’t be more timely.

Stella Charls is a bookseller for readings Carlton.

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