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Night Street

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  38 reviews
An intensely satisfying novel that celebrates the short richly lived life of Australian artist, Clarice Beckett. Co-winner of the 2009 Australian/Vogel Literary Award.

Night Street is the passionate story of a young painter, Clarice Beckett, who defies society's strict conventions and indifferent art critics alike and leads an intense private and professional life. With her
Paperback, 252 pages
Published September 2010 by ALLEN & UNWIN (first published January 1st 2010)
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3.27  · 
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 ·  123 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
The novel is a fictionalised life of the painter Clarice Beckett, who lived and worked in Beaumaris under the most extraordinarily difficult conditions. Having studied under Frederick McCubbin and Max Meldrum, she then found herself having to care for frail parents during daylight hours, and was only able to paint between dusk and dawn. She managed to pursue her art despite these difficulties but never found favour with the local art scene. Beckett died young, her work unrecognised and left to r ...more
vi macdonald
And now a haiku on my total loathing for the abhorrent mess that is Kristel Thornell's Night Street.

What a load of crap.
I feel nothing but loathing.
This is just wretched.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful rendition of the life of the Australian artist Clarice Beckett (1887-1935). Kristel Thornell states that "the Clarice who appears in this work is not Clarice Beckett" (p. 241); for the known facts of the artist's life, see:

Instead of the "poor Clarice" figure with whom we are familiar, dutifully caring for ungrateful parents, her paintings thrown away in the chooks' yard after her death, Thornell has imagined an artist with a passionate natu
Steve lovell
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
As frequenter of the art galleries of big cities, I am conversely rarely drawn to local art exhibitions. Many moons ago one did entice, a collection of works by a then relatively unknowm Clarice Beckett. Her misty renderings of the streets and coastlines of Melbourne and its environs immediately entranced - she came across as a latter day antipodean Turner with her muted sombre sublety. This book in many ways reflects the art work of its subject, although we are reminded this is not a biography ...more
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this quietly absorbing novel in one sitting. I've always loved Clarice Beckett's tiny canvases and it was intriguinging to be taken so completely into her head. Just lovely!
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kristel Thornell's imagined life of Australian landscape painter Clarice Beckett is a sensory cornucopia as well as a testament to unwavering artistic commitment. Clarice's dreams were fevered and vivid, and without having seen any of Beckett's work but only pictured it through Thornell's evocative prose, I suspect Clarice's images and dreams will haunt my own.
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I knew when I reached the point where the sky was likened to "white sauce reducing in a pan" that this book was not for me. Unfortunately, it's a book we'll be studying in school this year so I was forced to finish it.
James McArdle
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is fantasy an unwelcome intrusion on truth in life writing and portrayal?

I have just finished reading Kristel Thornell’s Night Street. Yesterday I went to hear Kate Forsyth speak at the Bendigo Writer’s Festival, where she was asked about the way she treats real figures from the past in her historical romances. She expressed her annoyance with those writers who do not adhere to the facts when taking a real person for a character in their stories, and who twist their life story to fit their narra
Steven Hallman
There's the potential for a really good book in here, and there probably are some out there who might like it, but I've found it to be a chore to get through. At time of writing, I've finished it twice for schoolwork, and it gets worse with repeats.
The biggest problem I can identify is that the protagonist seems to lack any agency, and shows few signs of development. We get to follow her from early childhood to the end of her life, and at no point did I feel like a change had occurred. This migh
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway
Night Street is a dreamy book, filled with passion for art. The life of Clarice Beckett is imagined, although she was a real artist living at the beginning of the twentieth century who painted some wonderfully modern pieces in Australia. She was virtually unknown during her life due to her gender and the different nature of her work, but when her pieces were rediscovered she became part of Australia's artistic history. Kristel Thornell has depicted her life as introverted, secluded and consumed ...more
This novel about Australian artist Clarice Beckett, my first goodreads free book, was like a sustained prose-poem. Thornell’s language is beautifully sophisticated as it paints images like art, finding a tonal quality as did Beckett in her vaporous paintings. “The fine movements of her brush sewed her own fibres firmly to life.” (p.101) The plot is merely the timeline of the artist’s life, but I was content to submerge in it like a meditation, misty and fuzzy-edged. “… she realized that a painte ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most insightful books about the creative mind that I have ever read and her choice of one of my favourite artists, Clarice Beckett, as the protagonist made this totally fascinating. Despite the author's declaration that this was not meant to be a 'biography', nevertheless I found her descriptions of paintings and of places around Melbourne so authentic that it was a real joy to read. The intense depiction of the artist's inner life grounds the book in fiction but it also encou ...more
Debbie Robson
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is a major achievement inspired by an artist I have long admired. The real Clarice Beckett has always fascinated me - her dedication to her art, her belief in her own abilities and not being swayed by people who called her paintings murky. She just kept on painting and remained true to herself - a very individual "Misty Modern".
I thought Thornell did a wonderful job of bringing the artist to life but it seemed that once she had done that, something was lost - as if the author had paint
Greg Brown
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. It was somewhat hypnotic - inviting the reader into what we might imagine was the transcendental state of the artist at work. Clarice Beckett was interested in theosophy and transcendentalism and it is not a far stretch to imagine her using altered states in her creative process. This is certainly how I feel when I look at her paintings. The book is also funny and observant and very moving. I wished it was longer, but that's the power of minimalism - to leave a sense of ...more
Colleen Maclennan
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book on Goodreads and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was not familiar with the artist Clarice Beckett but this book gave me an insight into her life. The author was able to capture her artistic ability as well as her human struggles with relationships . The characters were all very unique . The author was able to show something simple through my eyes was very detailed and beautiful in the eyes of Clarice.
Rob Kennedy
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
A writer’s interpretation of the life of the painter Clarice Beckett that seems to fit her life so well, that you wish it was true. Subtle and soft writing that lends its self quite comparatively against the artworks of Clarice Beckett.

The ending is just so effective; it is a picture (just like Beckett’s) in words that melt into your mind.

You can find an article on Clarice Beckett here

May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favourite books about the artist Clarice Beckett, the author used historical research with her own creative take on Clarice's rather sad life, her work was forgetten, then found in a shed in the country, badly damaged and the gallery owner Rosalind, have forgetten her surname re-established her in the 1980's.
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads. I am not sure I would have purchased this book myself had I not received this copy. I personally do not know a lot about art or Clarice Beckett;however, I really enjoyed this book and it made me interested in learning more.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
While I can see its relevance to an "imaginative landscape" and appreciate its ability to describe setting, it is the most pompous, self-important book I've ever had the displeasure of reading.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Found this book boring
Laurel Kinross
Slow moving, and detailed this book allows us to participate in Agatha's disappearance. It is thoughtful and feels as though this was a possible explanation about the days where she vanished. It just lacked a little in energy but that is how she may have been herself.
Susan Steggall
A highly original book based on a somewhat risky idea – that of creating a fictional work from a real-life story. As Thornell says in her Author’s Note, ‘The Clarice who appears in this work is not Clarice Beckett (1887-1935) but my imagining of her. While the historical figure’s art and life inspired me, I took many creative liberties with these’.
In writing fiction (much as John Banville did in ‘The Untouchable’, a fictional life of art historian Anthony Blunt), Thornell is able to get inside t
T. Stranger

Call a spade a spade except when it's a tool for digging, having an iron blade adapted for pressing into the ground with the foot and a long handle commonly with a grip or crosspiece at the top, and with the blade usually narrower and flatter than that of a shovel.

"Night Street" by Kristel Thornell is a novel chosen as part of the Context: Imaginative Landscape section of the English study design. Its purpose is to provide students with a muse to which they can cultivate and
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have to read this for my English class at school in relation to an "imaginative landscape" and how a landscape can affect who we are and how we view that particular place. And I actually really liked this book (a lot of the other kids hated it, but they don't appreciate literature). And It is set in the area that I live! I know nothing about painting and arts but the way Thornell described things was amazing! The vocab was really hard for me as I am still in school but I kept my dictionary wi ...more
Elaine Haby
Jan 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Found this quite disappointing. I would have preferred to read a more accurate version of her life story. This story did not sit comfortably with my view of the paintings of Clarice Beckett, her time and era. But maybe it's just that my romanticised view of her and her time are different. I enjoyed the painterly writing to begin with, but towards the end of the book tired of that approach. It became an effort to finish.
♥ C.A.Anna ♥
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another set novel for my final year of high school and thank goodness that this novel was enjoyable. I absolutely loved Thornell's poetic descriptions and did enjoy the narrative quite a bit. This novel is one of the better novels that I have read for English over the last 6 years. At times I found it hard to stay focused at the time which meant that I couldn't read this in one sitting but it was still enjoyable and made for a good read.

4/5 for me
Apr 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not familiar with the artist depicted in this book. However, I enjoyed reading it. I particularly loved the beach descriptions, and got to know her well by the end of the story. The author does state that this is a fictional portrayal of Clarice Beckett but not knowing the story of the "real" Clarice I found this a good read.
Triecia Gibney
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A beautiful novel about Clarice Beckett a young woman who resisted the normal conventions of where her life was supposed to go in order to paint.
Careful - this novel will make you want to take the day off in favour of heading down to Beaumaris beach with your easel!
Kali Napier
May 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An imagined life of Melbourne artist Clarice Beckett. The prose creates a misty, soft focus on the artist’s life, reflecting the moody landscapes she painted. It’s a quiet life with moments of frisson, well-lived, but ultimately as expendable as her artwork. Sad, moving, and engaging.
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really made me think about how liberated women are and for that matter men.
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Kristel Thornell was born in Sydney, Australia, and has also lived in Italy, Mexico, Canada, Finland and the US. Her debut novel, Night Street, co-won the 2009 Australian / Vogel Literary Award and won the Dobbie Literary Award for a first book and the Barbara Ramsden Award for best book of the year. Night Street was also a finalist for the Glenda Adams Award and the Christina Stead Prize for fict ...more
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