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This Devastating Fever | Sophie Cunningham | Avid Reader

Wednesday, 7 September 2022




Avid Reader Bookshop West End

Sometimes you need to delve into the past, to make sense of the present.

Ashley Hay is in-conversation with Sophie Cunningham discussing her latest novel This Devastating Fever.

Alice had not expected to spend most of the twenty-first century writing about Leonard Woolf. When she stood on Morell Bridge watching fireworks explode from the rooftops of Melbourne at the start of a new millennium, she had only two thoughts. One was: the fireworks are better in Sydney. The other was: is Y2K going to be a thing? Y2K was not a thing. But there were worse disasters to come: Environmental collapse. The return of fascism. Wars. A sexual reckoning. A plague.

Uncertain of what to do she picks up an unfinished project and finds herself trapped with the ghosts of writers past. What began as a novel about a member of the Bloomsbury Set, colonial administrator, publisher and husband of one the most famous English writers of the twentieth century becomes something else altogether.

Complex, heartfelt, darkly funny and deeply moving, this is Sophie Cunningham’s most important book to date – a dazzlingly original novel about what it’s like to live through a time that feels like the end of days, and how we can find comfort and answers in the past.

‘This Devastating Fever is both timely and timeless, a sophisticated work of fiction that addresses the anxieties of the present moment as well as the most profound questions of history, art, love and loss. A magnificent novel.’ Emily Bitto author of The Strays and Wild Abandon

‘It takes a phenomenal control of craft, and a keenly honed intelligence, to do what Cunningham has done with this novel: to interrogate politics and art and culture, to take on love and sex and suffering and loyalty, while all the while ensuring that the reader remains buoyant and captivated by narratives that leap across space and time … I loved this book. I absolutely loved it.’ Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap and 7 ½

‘This Devastating Fever is thrillingly audacious fiction. Sophie Cunningham’s entwined subjects are profound – Leonard Woolf and colonialism, the crises of the present day, the challenges of creative work – and she writes commandingly and inventively about them all. The result is an extraordinary novel.’ Michelle de Kretser, author of Questions of Travel and Scary Monsters

Sophie Cunningham AM is the author of seven books, across multiple fiction and nonfiction, children and adults and include City of Trees – Essays on life, death and the need for a forest, and Melbourne. She is also editor of the collection Fire, Flood, Plague: Australian writers respond to 2020. Sophie’s former roles include as a book publisher and editor, chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council, editor of the literary journal Meanjin, and co-founder of The Stella Prize celebrating women’s writing. She is now an adjunct professor at RMIT University’s non/fiction Lab. In 2019, Sophie was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her contributions to literature.

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