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Conditions of Faith


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Winner of the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, NSW Premier's Award 2001. Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award 2001.

About the Author

Alex Miller's latest novel, Journey to the Stone Country has won this year's Miles Franklin Award. He also won the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Barbara Ramsden Award for best book of the year in 1993 with his third novel, The Ancestor Game. His previous novels were Watching the Climbers on the Mountain and Tivington Nott. In 1995, he published his critically acclaimed novella, The Sitters. Conditions of Faith, his fifth novel, was first published in 2000 and won the Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the 2001 NSW Premiers Literary Awards. It was also nominated for the Dublin IMPAC International Literature Award and was shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award in 2000, the Age Book of the Year Award and the Miles Franklin Award in 2001.


Alex Miller's fifth novel is an impressive, complex and challenging story, set in the 1920s, of Emily Stanton, a restless, passionate upper-middle-class woman. She travels with her engineer husband Georges (he's drawing plans for a bridge for Sydney Harbour) from Richmond Hill to Paris and Chartres. The action crystallises in Tunisia, where Emily, resting alone during her pregnancy, learns the story of Perpetua, a Christian martyr who gave up her child before being killed by Romans. Perpetua's story is recorded by Tertullian as a profound sacrifice to her God, but Emily senses an unreliable witness - and sees little in the modern world to temper her scepticism. She is pregnant after all, likely to a priest, from an encounter in the crypt of Chartres cathedral, a scene that is richly described. Emily is a strong, engaging lead for the novel. What price will she pay to control her destiny? This is a stately novel which reminds me of Martin Boyd's best work with its cosmopolitanism backgrounding poignant conflicts of identity, history and family. The `conditions of faith' tested by Emily will leave many readers with profound questions to consider long after closing the novel. Michael Shuttleworth is a Melbourne-based reviewer. C. 2000 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

This is an amazing book. The reader can't help but offer up a prayerful thank you: Thank you, God, that human beings still have the audacity to write like this.' Washington PostI think we shall see few finer or richer novels this year a singular achievement.' Andrew Reimer, Australian Book ReviewA truly significant addition to our literature.' The AustralianMy private acid test of a literary work is whether, having read it, it lingers in my mind afterward I am still thinking about Emily.' Colleen McCulloch

Miller supposedly based this first novel on his mother's journal, a distinctly unfilial act that has produced a fine book. Spirited and beautiful Emily finds marriage and impending motherhood insufficient for her fulfillment. However, 1920s France, rigid in its views of gender roles, frowns on her attempt at serious scholarship. Then, even more than now, a woman could not have it all; it was assumed that if she had a serious career and children, one must receive less than its due. For Emily, her life's work is in Tunisia, uncovering the history of a young Berber woman executed by the Romans in the second century A.D. However, her husband's future is in Australia. Emily's decision regarding which life to surrender is abundantly painful and beautifully rendered (a number of subplots involving questions of paternity, place, and faith keep the reader involved). Consider for all fiction collections, especially those where readers are interested in women's studies.ÄJudith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Carefully researched yet curiously flat, Miller's (The Ancestor Game) fifth novel follows a young Australian woman as she attempts to find her place in the world in the early 1920s. The daughter of a professor at Melbourne University, Emily Stanton has just graduated from that institution with a First in the history of classical civilizations. Though her father feels she has potential as a scholar and urges her to go on to study at Cambridge, Emily marries Georges Elder, a Scotsman who grew up in Chartres, works as an engineer in Paris and has come to Australia to plan a bridge for Sydney Harbor . Returning with her husband to Paris, Emily is disillusioned with her new life, and a visit to Chartres to meet Georges's widowed mother, the formidably stout and pious Madame Elder, and his Aunt Juliette, only exacerbates her feeling that she has entered a stiffling environment. An erotic encounter with a priest in the cathedral further confuses Emily. Soon after, Emily's health begins to fail, and Georges sends her to Tunisia to recover. There she meets working archeologists and her interest in history, particularly in the Christian-claimed martyr Perpetua, is rekindled, an intellectual need that will eventually be pitted against Emily's role as wife and mother. Although Miller meticulously reconstructs Paris, Chartres and a Tunisian village in the early '20s, his thorough and indiscriminate attention to detail and his sometimes wooden prose make the novel slow going. A few striking scenes later in the novelDone capturing the disconcerting blend of familiarity and formality between husband and wife, for instanceDwill reward the patient reader. Miller's characters, however, are broadly sketched and lack convincing interior lives. Despite the novel's careful construction, his tale never acquires vitality. Agent, Arnold Goodman. (July) FYI: In 1993, Miller received both the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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