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The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift

edited by Nadia Wheatley

Charmian Clift’s writing captivated readers across the country, and helped to transform Australian society. Her life inspired legends that continue to cast a spell, fifty years after her death.

In this award-winning biography, Nadia Wheatley explores the complex relationship between the myth and reality of Charmian Clift’s life. She also creates a vivid picture of places and times in which her subject lived — whether it be small-town Australia in the 1930s, wartime Melbourne in the 1940s, London and Greece in the 1950s, or Australia during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.

Meticulously researched, beautifully written and highly readable, The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift provides a portrait of an immensely talented woman, and the unique literary partnership she shared with George Johnston.

HarperCollins 2001 (hb, 739 pp)

Now available as print on demand

Selected reviews

In her long-meditated life of Clift, Nadia Wheatley has written one of the greatest Australian biographies, a work of absolute assurance and relaxation and pace, a work which never confuses itself with fiction but which has the same readability and flair and command of tempo. It’s a hell of a story.
— Peter Craven, Sydney Morning Herald
Wheatley evokes the complexity of Clift’s character with the care of a mosaicist, and often with much the same technique: she builds up a portrait partly by amassing and arranging fragments of testimony in patterns of complement and contrast.
— Kerryn Goldsworthy, Australian Book Review
Here stories shape lives, fact informs fiction and writers recognise themselves in the words they offer readers. An engaging, thoughtful and richly rewarding book.
— Stephanie Holt, The Age
Outstanding... a rare feat in Australian literary biography
— The Weekend Australian


  • The Age Book of the Year, Non Fiction, 2001
  • Australian History Prize, New South Wales Premier's History Awards, 2002