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Autumn Laing

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Autumn Laing has long outlived the legendary circle of artists she cultivated in the 1930s. Now 'old and skeleton gaunt', she reflects on her tumultuous relationship with the abundantly talented Pat Donlon and the effect it had on her husband, on Pat's wife and the body of work which launched Pat's career. A brilliantly alive and insistently energetic story of love, loyalt ...more
Hardcover, First, 464 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Allen & Unwin (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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Lyn Elliott
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
John and Sunday Reed were wealthy patrons of the modern art movement in Victoria from the 1930s onwards. Their home, Heide, was in the semi-rural outskirts of Melbourne when they bought it in 1934, and is now a Museum of Modern art, almost in the inner suburbs.

As Miller himself wrote: this is a story ‘about the intimate lives of passionate, ambitious and gifted people …about their loves, their hates and their betrayals, but it is also a story about Australian art and culture and some of the ques
Aug 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I know there are many readers who adore the writing style of this book, but unfortunately I am not one of them. The endless descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, punctuated by reminiscences of childhood that do nothing to advance plot or character, combined with interminable, repetitive, rambling, ungrammatical navel-gazing by some of the most boring characters ever to be committed to print made this almost impossible to read. It reminded me of the sort of work submitted by earnest but talentless ...more
Sandy Hogarth
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I didn’t enjoy Autumn Laing as much as Journey to the Stone Country or Lovesong, perhaps because it was more city based with less of Miller’s lyrical prose giving us the outback and the Australian Desert. I am a strong fan of his writing.
I found the switching of time periods sometimes distracting.
Autumn Laing is married to her rather quiet and long suffering husband, Arthur, when she meets Pat Dolon and they become lovers. Pat’s wife, Edith is pregnant.
‘This is Autumn’s story:’ They are all de
Annabel Smith
Mar 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, australian
This is the 2nd Alex Miller novel I've tried and abandoned. I really disliked the narrative voice and didn't even make it to page 30. ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: australia
Another book fictionalising the lives of artists? Well, yes, and no. Alex Miller’s latest novel, Autumn Laing is loosely based on Sunday Reed’s notorious affair with Sidney Nolan, but really, it has more in common with Matthias Politycki’s Next World Novella than other recent fictionalisations reviewed on my blog. (Visit the URL below for the link). Miller’s book is a reflection on life and a plea for redemption.

A page-turner it’s not. Very little actually happens as Autumn Laing looks back ove
Renée Heaton
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this novel. Alex Miller is a poignant and insightful master of literary fiction. His ability to almost become his characters is demonstrated here beyond criticism. I was immersed in Autumn, throughout the entire story. I actually loved reading her as her older self. I wish I could explain why with some brilliant words, because I feel like I need to after reading such an excellent piece of writing. Put simply she gave me insight in to getting older, but I could also connect bec ...more
Steve lovell
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Summer is supposedly the time for effortless reads in the sun, so perhaps it was somewhat perverse of me to tackle two of Alex Miller's tomes at this time of year – his mint new offering 'The Passage of Love' and one that had been hanging around on my shelves for a while, 'Autumn Laing' (2011). Miller is one of my favourites, up there with Winton. He is also a national literary treasure and I think 'Journey into Stone Country' and 'Coal Creek' are masterpieces. He won the Miles Franklin for the ...more
Daniel Tynan
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Bit too rambly and romantic for me...
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Alex Miller is one of Australia’s most famous and awarded literary writers yet, for some reason, I’d never read any of his work. When, after reading yet another glowing review of his most recent novel Autumn Laing I saw that very same book on display at the library, I figured the universe was telling me it was time to fill this literary hole of knowledge so I picked up the book and took it home with me.

The eponymous Autumn Laing is loosely based on Sunday Reed who, with her husband John, ran a k
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
A 2.5 star review. I nearly liked it.

A truly awful main character, made more interesting in her grouchy 80's than she was in her scheming selfish 30's has an affair with an ambitious but thus far untested artist 10 years her junior. Both married, he to a lovely young woman who has just informed him he's to become a daddy, she to a "good man", a soulmate, a steady sort with whom she has boring sex irregularly but she has a good life with him, including cultivating a circle of artsy folk who come
Catherine Abbott
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not quite sure what this book was trying to say. If it was a meant to be a book about a art movement in Austalia- it did not get the point across. I found it strange reading a book set just before world war 2 when there was absolutley no mention of it. Maybe that was the way it was in the Australian rich and famous - no regard for politics just art. There were parts I enjoyed reading, the stories and voices of the other characters, but I found the voice and thoughts of Autumn irritating and I di ...more
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written book that evokes many emotions and brings to life a Melbourne of the past. Alex Miller's ability to write from the perspective of a female character and to do it so well, is reminiscent of Ian McEwan. You feel immersed in the lives of Autumn,Edith, Pat and Arthur.
You feel for them and what they experience and although you may not always like them, you cannot resist them. Even the minor characters in this book stay with you.
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. Autmn reminded me very strongly of an elderly artist I once knew. The book was a little slow and somewhat indulgent for the first half but progressed at a different pace in the second half. I loved Autumn; her personality and her life story. I loved the imagery (local Melburnian here!). Alex Miller is a wonderful author. His novels are each very different.
Linda Steiger
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
No hesitations: completely wonderful! Confession of an intelligent, passionate 85 year old woman but that hardly describes it at all. It's about a long-past a love affair (brief, passionate); the pre World War II art world in Melbourne Australia; and being an Australian--what that means for an artist, in the shadow of Europe. Wonderful characters, beautifully done plot, lots of places to stop and just think about stuff, great writing. Why isn't this book better known? I couldn't find it in my Ba ...more
Rob Wilkinson
Jul 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Life as the mistress of an artist can surely be no bed of roses. The complexity of divided loyalties added to the volatility of the artistic temperament - muse, lover, model, doormat, life support?

Autumn Laing was no Sylvia Plath, no brilliant mind clashing catastrophically with one equally brilliant and equally unstable. This is a book foremost about what it feels like to be a woman desperately in love and then jilted.

Autumn Laing was clearly a remarkable woman and this book, a distillation of
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I really struggled to rate this book, which is why I have taken so long to review it. It certainly is not my favourite of Miller's novels. I was looking forward to reading it because it is a fictionalised account of Sunday Reed and Sydney Nolan, so the premise of the story is engaging and it is well written. I found the main protagonist, Autumn Laing's, recounting of her life rather melodramatic; this may simply be because she is presented as a highly-strung character and may simply be a literar ...more
Dec 21, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Another book I'd had on my shelf for years, entranced every time I picked it up while dusting, by its cover.

An elderly Autumn tells the story of an affair that she had with a man in her and her husband’s group of friends. These things are always entered into so selfishly, with little regard to the consequences, both short and long-term. The fact that it would happen, though, was evident from nearly the beginning, but Autumn kept us waiting far too long and I expected something much mor
Charelle Nievaart
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'll keep this review short and sweet. This book was frustratingly long winded. Was rather hard to finish. I found none of the characters particularly likeable. One could have easily cut out the first five chapters and had no impact on the overall outcome. When the plot finally got around to going somewhere, it was engaging enough, I suppose. Would I recommend it? Not really. ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
My first Alex Miller book and I enjoyed it - nearing the end of her days, Autum Laing peels back the layers of her memories to tell her sad story of compromising passion for safety.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
I found this hard work. I love Alex Miller's writing, but this really felt forced, with no sympathetic characters at all ...more
Lee Walker
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read from one of my favourite authors. Cannot wait to recommend it to my book club.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
'Autumn Laing' is loosely based on the relationship between Sidney Nolan and Sunday Reed, and revolves around the eponymous Autumn and her circle of artist and poet friends in late 1930s Melbourne, and the affair she has with the artist Pat Donlon. It takes the form of a memoir written by an 85-year old Autumn looking back on her life after she has seen Pat's ex-wife Edith on the street after more than 50 years. Many of the chapters are written in the first person and are about Autumn now and he ...more
Apr 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, kindle
As someone who never reads reviews or even the description on the back of the book most of the time, I had no expectations about the book or even an idea of what it was about.

It reminded me a little of Anna Funder's 'All that I am', as I read this fairly recently and it is also about an Australian woman who, now in her old age, tells about her remarkable life.

It wasn't until Pat started painting up in Queensland that I began thinking that some of the ideas in the paintings seemed familiar & mayb
The Bookshop Umina
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Alex Miller is one of my favourite Australian authors and I am thrilled that he will be coming to the Central Coast to attend a dinner event for us when this book is launched in October.

This book is full of Miller's humour. Autumn Laing is a feisty old lady now, but was once a Sunday Reed style figure, influential with young artists and caught between her husband and an inspiring, talented young painter who was recreating the face of Australian art. I loved Autumn's crankiness and bluntness and
This novel is an outstanding example of the power of fiction to explore the possible inner lives of real people. Here, the imagined characters of Autumn and Arthur Laing and Pat Donlon (among others) reflect on real people, art patrons Sunday and John Reid (the Heide Circle) and Australian modernist artist Sidney Nolan. It is a fascinating setting as it embodies not only the inner turmoil of artistic expression, but also the drama of the artistic movements of the times, the rise of Modernism and ...more
David Sweeney
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
One shouldn't reduce books to the number of pages, but for the first 250 pages I was just SO irritated and couldn't care less about these people. I was also greatly irritated by the writing, as it very much written in "this is literature" manner. I found it all quite pretentious BUT the last 200 pages were quite rewarding. That said it was way too long.
BUT and BUT I was three quarters through the book when it occurred to me that the character Pat Donlan, the artist, must be based on Sidney Nolan
Meg Dunley
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Alex Miller is now one of my new favourite authors. This is the first of Alex's books i have read and I am truly grateful to him for his brilliant story telling. Thank you Alex for throwing me into the depth of Autumn Laing and Pat Donlan's lives. This is a story loosely based on Sydney Nolan and Sunday Reed and those involved in the art scene at the time when Sydney was about to come onto the scene in Australia. It is a story of love and betrayal, grief and acceptance, art and poetry ...more
Scarlett Murray
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely adored this book and was mourning for it after I had finished it - sometimes its not a good idea to read a book too fast. It is loosely based on the affair between Sidney Nolan and Sunday Reed but I had no knowledge of their affair before I picked up this book so was able to enjoy it purely as a work of fiction. This is what I like best in Miller's books: a small number of characters, heavily painted. Miller is sympathetic to everybody, there is no black and white, wrong or right ch ...more
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Alex Miller is one of Australia's best-loved writers, and winner of the Melbourne Prize for Literature 2012.

Alex Miller is twice winner of Australia's premier literary prize, The Miles Franklin Literary Award, first in 1993 for The Ancestor Game and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. He is also an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, in 1993 for The Ancestor Game. His fi

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