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Mourning a literary mother and daughter

Books & Poetry

Australian author Georgia Blain and her writer, broadcaster and filmmaker mother Anne Deveson, have both died within days of each other.

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Blain – who was born in Sydney in 1964 and spent her formative years in Adelaide after moving to the city with her family at the age of 14 – lost her battle with brain cancer last Friday.

Deveson died yesterday at the age of 86, two years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Blain’s first novel, Closed for Winter, which drew on her own life experiences and was set by the beach in Adelaide, was adapted for a movie starring Natalie Imbruglia in 2009.

Her other books include the short story collection The Secret Life of Men, her memoir Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Between a Wolf and A Dog. The latter, which was published in March and won the fiction prize at the recent Queensland Literary Awards, was completed after the writer received her diagnosis.

Blain had also been writing a regular column for The Saturday Paper, called The Unwelcome Guest, about her cancer.

In a tribute posted on Facebook this morning, fellow Australian writer Charlotte Wood (author of 2016 Stella Prize-winning novel The Natural Way of Things) said she was “absolutely heartbroken” by her friend’s death and urged people to read her work:

“Georgia’s novel ‘Between A Wolf and A Dog’ is superb. Read it and all her other books to see her brilliant, loving mind at work.”

Blain’s publisher, Scribe, posted a statement on its website and social media offering its condolences to her partner Andrew, daughter Odessa and brother Joshua.

“The warmth, intelligence, insight, and empathy so evident in all of her writing also characterised Georgia herself, and everyone at Scribe who had the pleasure of working with her over the last few years will miss her very much,” wrote editor Marika Webb-Pullman.

Deveson, a former head of the SA Film Corporation and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, was known for her advocacy on social issues and mental health. In 1991 she published Tell Me I’m Here, which told the story of her son Jonathan, who died with schizophrenia at 24. Her 2013 memoir, Waging Peace, was published in 2013.

“Vale Anne Deveson, you gave us so much over a long productive life so your friends honour your contributions to making society more civil,” feminist Eva Cox said in a tweet.

Among the many other tributes pouring in for mother and daughter, author and journalist Anne Summers wrote: “Both women contributed so much to our society and our literature and we must never forget Anne’s courageous work on the Royal Commission into Human Relationships, a daring initiative of the Whitlam Government.”

Alzheimer’s Australia praised Deveson’s “courage, honesty and openness” in speaking about her battle with Alzheimer’s.

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