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Cold Light

(Edith Trilogy #3)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  172 ratings  ·  28 reviews
It is 1950, the League of Nations has collapsed and the newly formed United Nations has rejected all those who worked and fought for the League. Edith Campbell Berry, who joined the League in Geneva before the war, is out of a job, her vision shattered. With her sexually unconventional, husband, Ambrose, she comes back to Australia to live in Canberra.

Edith now has ambitio
Paperback, 719 pages
Published 2011 by Vintage (Random House Australia)
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  172 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Jo Case
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aus-authors, novel
Frank Moorhouse's trilogy of novels about Edith Campbell Berry is surely one of Australian literature's finest achievements.

In 1993's Grand Days, we met 26-year-old Australian Edith, on her way to take up a posting at the League of Nations. She was bright with potential; passionately dedicated to the idea of the League as a means to prevent war.

The sequel, Dark Palace, opened in the shadow of an ailing marriage and followed the slow creep of World War II and subsequent demise of the League.

Belinda Rule
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
There's a great feeling of personal loss at the completion of a reading experience as long and meaty as the Edith trilogy - quite aside from feelings arising from the nature of this book's ending.

Edith, for me, raises two melancholies.

One: she reminds me of my late grandparents, who belonged to a strand of Australian WASP culture in which intelligence, serious-mindedness and engagement with the international world were considered the compulsory heart of moral personhood. I don't see this strand
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia, c21st
Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse is third in his ‘Edith’ trilogy comprising Grand Days and Dark Palace. I read these years ago when they were first published, and enjoyed both the strong characterisation and the piquancy of reading about a woman’s career in the failed League of Nations of the interwar years. Cold Light can be read entirely independently of the companion novels: it follows Edith’s chastened return to Australia as the Cold War tightened its grip. The novel begins with Edith and her c ...more
Jan Hemphill
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Part of the Edith trilogy, this volume is set in Canberra, where Edith slowly comes to terms with her failed hopes and reluctant aging. She and her husband, Ambrose, come to live in Canberra where Edith hopes to find a new career at the level of her role in The League of Nations. In the meantime she works planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be 'a city like no other'. Her communist brother, Frederick, wants to be close, but she is worried that this may put she and Ambros ...more
Jul 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, australia
I enjoyed this in parts. Overall a good read and a reasonable ending to the Edith trilogy. Being born and bred in Canberra, I particularly enjoyed the domestic scenes and the sections about the planning of Canberra. I grew up there in the 50s so I know the place extremely well. My parents would have known many of the real people in the book, although they probalby didn't socialise with them as they (my parents) were catholics and as Edith observes on several occasions, Catholics were beyond the ...more
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian
Last of the Edith Campbell Berry series. Edith and Ambrose are back in Australia in Canberra, where Edith is hoping to secure a posting with the government. This proves more difficult than she hopes, though she is offered a position with the planning department where her input helps in the design of the new capital. She and Ambrose eventually separate because of fears that his predilection for female clothing will become known. Her brother, Frederick, and his girlfriend Janice also complicate ma ...more
Karen Leopoldina
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
an impressive opening, and the ending still lingers, but what about those 700 odd pages in between? weight is what i think of with this book: its physical mass matched by the weight of all that research which mired the narrative into a sludge that was almost inert at times. i love history, and i love books which use invented characters and places them in the midst of a real historical context. but research needs to be worn lightly, and this indeed mr moorhouse does not do. oh not indeed. this re ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian, own-copy
Last of the "Edith" trilogy, and a disappointing end. Having previously read both Grand Days and Dark Palace, I did enjoy the story, because I wanted to know what happened to Edith after her time in Europe, however if I had read this as a stand alone novel I would have been very disappointed. The book is extremely well researched, but on occasions the intrigues of the Australian Communist Party were too much. Certainly the beginning and the end of the novel were the best.

Having completed the tri
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have given this five stars because it is the end of a fabulous trilogy. Well written and the background research must have been enormous and so thorough. Moorhouse has created a wonderful character in Edith; brave and intelligent, foolish and foolhardy, a snob, an absolute stickler for correct protocol and always wonderfully vain. A literally breath-taking ending to an absorbing story. I can see a mini-series in the making with Cate Blanchett and Guy Pearce as the older Edith and Ambrose, just ...more
Kim Elith
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've spent every summer for the last three years with Edith - and it is so sad to say goodbye to her now. This was a wonderful finale to the trilogy - such a great balance between being educated about the intricacies of diplomatic life in the post war period to following the highs and lows of Edith's life journey. She overthinks everything and is such a perfect mix of the intelligent woman of the world and a naïf - Moorhouse has created a memorable and highly appealing character who will stick w ...more
Jan 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Didn't enjoy this one anywhere near as much as previous two books in The Edith Trilogy. I had to start it twice before I could get into it. I felt the same story could've been achieved with 20% less words and if he said the word 'Bloomsbury' one more time, I was going to scream. Maybe this would be a better 'holiday read' when you've got plenty of time to plough through all those pages.
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Now that I have finished the third book I miss Edith. I grew with her personally and professionally, so this is a kind of grieving.

I can't understand why Frank Moorhouse didn't win more acclaim for this book.

An extraordinary feat of research, writing, character development and plot.
Nick Pengelley
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Two of my favourite Australian novels have long been Frank Moorhouse’s Grand Days and Dark Palace. I loved these tales of Edith Campbell Berry’s doings at the League of Nations from the 1920s through WWII, so, a few months ago when I learned that there was a third book, Cold Light, I was very excited. That excitement persisted through the many weeks it took to obtain the book from Australia – it not being sold in Canada, where I live.

My excitement, after opening the book, did not persist. I sup
Patrick Lenton
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I fell in love with the protagonist of the Edith trilogy, Edith Campbell Berry in the first book, Grand Days, it was a during a cold, rainy winter. I was reading it on the train to a new job, and I felt nervous and excited and contemplative. It was a wonderful parallel to Edith on the train to her new position in the League of Nations. Anyway, I decided I loved the book so much, that I would wait a year until I read the next one, so I could evoke that same feeling again. So now, two years l ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Biography of Edith Berry, a woman of little discernable talent or experience, used as a spy for British intelligence.

First obtaining employment at the League of Nations, an international assembly formed to advance the imperial interests of Britain and France, she was moved to Australia to spy on her brother, an official of the Australian Communist Party (the real reason for his expulsion from the ACP).

Her marriage to a homosexual man is shown to parade Australian pariochialism – even though th
Lauren Boyd
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
She's a wonderful heroine & in this 3rd & final leg of her journey, Edith Campbell Berry's internal dialogue is going a bit mad! Frank Moorhouse has made a great series from her journey: as ingenue with grand plans to make the world a better place, to ambitious young diplomat learning how to have the greatest influence in the League of Nations, to disillusioned woman watching her career and influence crumble. Her arrival back in Australia with her "tail between her legs" but hope of find ...more
Carolyn Mck
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This is the conclusion of the ‘Edith’ trilogy. The first two novels dealt with Edith’s work for the League of Nations and her two marriages - I found them fascinating. This third novel is set in Canberra in the 1950s and explores the development of the capital and the political turmoil over the operations of the Australian Communist Party. The other thread explores Edith’s relationship with her bisexual husband, Ambrose, and her third marriage to Richard, a Canberra public servant. I very much e ...more
Rob Carseldine
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I would like to read a female reviewer's opinion about how well Moorhouse has 'got it right' in this female character. I was daunted by the size, 719 pages, but once in to it thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the following passage from p 617 simply excellent. Maybe it shows my age.

As the memories streamed through her mind, she heard herself make a sound she had never made before. Nearly a sigh. She knew instantly what it was – a sound from the creaking timbers of age. The sounds of old people we
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This is the third book in the series and I have had the good fortune to be able to read them back to back. They are marvellous and Edith Campbell Barry is wonderful. I found the last part of the book to be a bit cramped as if Moorhouse was trying to get his opinion on every political and social matter mentioned and I was aware that I was coming to the END. How does one end a book of such a rich and varied life? I want to find out more about Moorhouse himself now, the man behind the woman'.
I am s
Moorhouse has given us a great character in Edith Berry. She is passionate in her beliefs. In the first two books she was passionate in wanting the League of Nations work. In the third and final book she is passionate about planning a great city, then in the nuclear disarmament and other environmental causes. She was passionate in her love life. But she was not a family person and kept looking for the next opportunity.
In 'Cold Light' there is some great sections on the early days of Canberra, t
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. What seems like a very dry premise has some great characters set in a time of optimism and hope in an Australia that wasn't so far away but we have come so far from now. Great to be so immersed in such a chunky read and now I might have to go back and read the other two prequels.
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Final in Edith Trilogy, set in Canberra from 1950s to 1970s. Edith returns to Australia hoping for a job with External Affairs, but is reduced to a temporary position in National Capital Development Commission. Entertaining discussion on the concept of a ‘planned city’ and political events of the period- banning of Communist Party, rise of atomic power and the notion of a ‘lavender marriage’.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wonderful social history, with a refreshing, engaging character, but it does go on a bit. For my full review, please see: Whispering Gums:
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it

Interesting as a work of historical fiction and a period of 20th century history I didn't know much about before. Couldn't get into the main character though and feel the book lost its way about halfway through. Never quite picked up momentum again.
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm glad I've read the third of this series as the story seems complete. I enjoyed the first two thirds of this much more than the last section.
May 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Too dry for me
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australian, male, tbr20, needed
My review, if you can call it that, is here In summary, just so good.
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Moorhouse is perhaps best known for winning the 2001 Miles Franklin Literary Award for his novel, Dark Palace; which together with Grand Days and Cold Light, the "Edith Trilogy" is a fictional account of the League of Nations, which trace the strange, convoluted life of a young woman who enters the world of diplomacy in the 1920s through to her involvement in the newly formed International Atomic ...more

Other books in the series

Edith Trilogy (3 books)
  • Grand Days
  • Dark Palace
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