1897: Isabella Trent is found murdered in a Fremantle asylum cell. Why did she die? Who is the killer? What is the meaning of the ornate motifs that she has secretly embroidered on a man’s frock coat? And who, really, is Isabella?
Years earlier, young Lucy Malpass leaves her home in Staffordshire for London, where she is drawn into a community of artists and socialists around William Morris and his family. Before long there is not only a prospect of fulfilling work but also a glimpse of reciprocal passion. Then her high hopes gradually begin to unravel.
There seems to be a link between Lucy and Isabella, related in some way to an old Icelandic tale. But what exactly is this link, and what can it explain about their closely held secrets?
The Madwoman’s Coat is a story of love and grief, artistry and insanity, acts of sudden transgression and moments of quiet contemplation.
“His prose is always vivid and evocative, almost poetic. The dialogue, moral dilemmas and contradictions are all handled with equally exquisite expression. It’s been a long time since I came to the end of a novel and immediately wanted to read it again to uncover more of its nuances. Ian Reid is a revelation, and deserves the widest recognition as a remarkable ambassador for Australian historical fiction.” — Marina Maxwell, Historical Novel Review (UK), “editor’s choice”
“Ian Reid’s fiction is grounded in an understanding of how complicated character can be, how tragic fate can be, and how lives that might seem inconsequential carry the immense power of history and personality.” — Brenda Walker, prize-winning author of Reading By Moonlight
“It carries all the hallmarks of his previous novels: impeccably researched, meticulously plotted, and blessed with artfully crafted prose.” — Paul Genoni, prize-winning co-author of Half the Perfect World
For a selection of responses to The Madwoman’s Coat, see this blog post.
All of my fiction is (at least to some extent) set in the past, mainly the late 19th and/or early 20th centuries. The settings vary: in the first, the action moves from New Zealand and Australia through the Pacific (Hawaii, Japan) to Alaska, Canada, the US, Guatemala and Jamaica; the second is located in Perth, regional parts of Western Australia, and the Northern Territory; the third and fourth take place in both England and Australia.
My third novel, The Mind’s Own Place, was released in 2015. You can order it here. Like my previous novels The End of Longing (2011) and That Untravelled World (2012), it was published by UWAP.
If your local bookshop doesn’t currently stock my fiction, follow these steps:
- Express total astonishment and dismay;
- Administer a firm rebuke, more in sorrow than in anger;
- Go to online sources such as Amazon or Booktopia, and place an order.
By clicking on their respective cover images below you’ll be taken to excerpts, reviews, interviews and relevant comments on each of my earlier novels.
I also write short stories, one of which appeared recently in the US-based magazine Antipodes.
The topics of my non-fiction books are quite varied. One is about language and values in higher education; one is a critical survey of the short story form; one is about the teaching of literature in schools; one is about narrative theory; one (co-authored with Gale MacLachlan) is about how readers interpret texts; one is an historical account of how ideas drawn from Wordsworth’s poetry shaped the emergence of English literary studies in universities; one is a comparative study of the influence of the Great Depression on Australian and New Zealand fiction… and so on.
If you’d like to know more about any of them just click on the cover images below, which link to excerpts from reviews.
In the past I’ve also produced a stream of critical essays and reviews. My output of these has slowed in recent years because I prefer now to concentrate on writing fiction. But I still contribute a few pieces from time to time to books and periodicals, mainly on the subject of literature in the secondary school classroom. These include a chapter in the AATE book Teaching Australian Literature and an article in the journal English in Australia. Both pieces refer to my own fiction and are written from the dual perspective of author and educator. For brief excerpts, click on the cover images.
Praise for my chapter in Required Reading:
“Part 2, ‘Histories,’ begins on a high note with Ian Reid’s beautifully crafted distillation of much of his own influential writing on the provisional status of the literary, and the ongoing processes of its construction by the ‘circumtextual’ materials that frame it.”
– from a review by Patrick Buckridge in Australian Literary Studies
I also continue to write occasional book reviews, for example one of Brenda Walker’s Reading by Moonlight (here) and one of The Cambridge History of Australian Literature, ed. Peter Pierce (here) – both appearing in the e-journal Transnational Literature.
My poetry appears in Antipodes, Epoch, Nantucket Review and Shot Glass (USA), Ariel and Descant (Canada), Catalyst, Climate, Flash Frontier and Troubador (New Zealand), and in the Australian magazines Burrow, Cordite, Creatrix, Mattoid, Meanjin, New Poetry, Pure Slush, Quadrant, Saltbush Review, StylusLit, South-West Review, Unlikely and Voices.
It has also been anthologised in Ear to Earth, Mapped But Not Known, Neither Nuked nor Crucified, Number 2 Friendly Street, Pattern and Voice, Poetry Downtown, Poetry for the Planet, Shorelines, Sonnets on Western Australia, The Friendly Street Poetry Reader, Tuesday Night Live and Writings from the Shipwreck Coast.
A few of my poems have won commendations or awards in competitions (the Antipodes Prize, Henry Kendall Prize, Shakespeare Society Prize, Mattara Prize).
Two collections of my poems have been published – Undercover Agent and The Shifting Shore – plus a couple of chapbooks, Rhumbs and Shorelines.
The Shifting Shore was published simultaneously by Grange Press (Canada) and Mattoid (Australia).
Along with a selection of my own poems it includes my translation of Paul Valéry’s monumental modernist work ‘La Cimetière Marin.’
The title poem, ‘The Shifting Shore’, won the inaugural Antipodes poetry prize.
Shorelines is a booklet containing half a dozen poems from The Shifting Shore, each accompanied by its translation into Korean.
A distinguished poet and scholar, the late Young-Moo Kim, translated them.
This little publication was issued by the UWA Faculty of Humanities to mark the establishment of its program in Korean language and culture.
Enquiries about obtaining copies of these poetry titles may be directed to me through a comment in the box below.