'Crispin Clare returns to his ancestral home in Suffolk to recover from a tropical disease he contracted while working in the Pacific. His life is now one of quiet mornings and peaceful afternoons spent in the garden. Suffering physically and psychologically, Clare turns to writing as a source of therapy. Intrigued by the local folklore he re-examines his life and the world around him through myth and legend. Ouija-board conversations, illness-induced fever dreams and strange voices in his head blur the lines between reality and these mythic tales. Clare's road to recovery is full of twists and turns. Weaving old-English legends with contemporary fables, Stow creates an imaginative landscape unlike any other. The Girl Green as Elderflower is an exceptional story of loss and exile.'(Publication summary)
Dedication: To C. in Suffolk
Even such midnight years must ebb; bequeathing this: a dim low English room, one window on the fields.
Cloddish ancestral ghosts plod in the drowning mist Black coral elms play host to hosts of shrill black fish.
My mare turns back her ears and hears the land she leaves as grievous music. 'Outrider' (1960)
'Randolph Stow’s expatriate novels, Visitants (1979), The Girl Green as Elderflower (1980) and The Suburbs of Hell (1984) are often read as emerging from specific experiences in Stow’s expatriate life, beyond Australia—the two former as his ‘fever’ novels, informed by his work and illness in the Trobriand Islands and subsequent recovery in England; and the latter carrying the experience of an event from Stow’s Australian past into the setting of Harwich, England, where he lived from the early 1980s until his death in 2010. I have discussed elsewhere the overt connection in The Suburbs of Hell to Australia (Noske, ‘Chatter’), but it is also possible to read in the earlier texts connections with Stow’s life in Australia, particularly in his representation of landscape. Reading The Girl Green as Elderflower in this context opens interesting possibilities in understanding the spaces constructed within. This article will argue that Stow’s writing in the novel presents a complex transnationalism, one which challenges extant critical responses to Stow’s expatriation. It reads Stow’s place-making as embracing a fluidity that allows him to actively respond to postcolonialism as a global phenomenon and in doing so, examine Australian spaces through the lens of expatriation.' (Publication abstract)
'Randolph Stow’s ‘English’ novels, The Girl Green as Elderflower (1980) and The Suburbs of Hell (1984) offer complex representations of space in text, which layer narrative and memory each over the other to inform the known setting. The resulting conceptualisation of place holds at its centre a transnational fluidity, which, when combined with the overt textual links between the stories and Stow’s own life, suggests a unique practice of place-making within his writing as an oeuvre. Reading Stow’s The Suburbs of Hell along these lines suggests it has a greater connection to a more general consideration of Australian narratives of place that might be assumed given its English setting. But what is specifically functioning within Stow’s writing practice to create places which embody this transnational mutability? This paper will examine Stow’s practice in writing for the purpose of understanding the manner in which the text constructs its setting, and whether or not reading these connections between Stow’s life and the text are productive of a cognizance of place-making in terms of writing practice.' (Publication abstract)
'The novels I shall concentrate on in discussing messiahs and millennia in Stow's work are To the Islands, Tourmaline, Visitants, and The Girl Green as Elderflower. Tourmaline and Visitants are the two which most clearly relate to millenarian themes. Tourmaline records the growth, and collapse, of a millenarian cult centred on the messianic or would-be messianic figure of the diviner Michael Random. Visitants is a structurally more complex exploration of three millenarian visions and their communal and personal repercussions, although the connotations of the title are not restricted to cargo or flying saucer cults.' (Publication abstract)