The Biographer’s Lover (Ruby J Murray, Black Inc.)
Ruby J Murray returns with her second novel, The Biographer’s Lover, a book that is as much about the art of biography as it is a fictional story about a biographer and her subject. Murray’s young, nameless narrator has been hired to author a short monograph on the life and works of a largely unknown Australian artist named Edna Cranmer. The younger woman soon learns that the facts of Cranmer’s life are slippery, and the art of biography is one of constant negotiation not just between herself and the subject, but also between the past and present, public and private, and fact and fiction. Though Edna Cranmer is a fictional creation, Murray breathes life into her, and into Cranmer’s fictional artworks. The trope of the rediscovered artist is a common one in literature, but in Murray’s hands it is refreshed. While the plot takes some unexpected melodramatic turns, the final twists are satisfying and genuinely surprising. Murray asks some serious questions about the value of women in our society—their suffering and achievements—and challenges the mythologies built around national icons of masculinity such as sporting heroes and the ANZACs. The Biographer’s Lover will appeal to fans of literary fiction, especially the works of Emily Bitto and Gail Jones.
Angela Elizabeth is a bookseller and freelance writer