'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 ambitions to become Australia's first female ambassador, but while she waits for a Call from On High, she finds herself caught up in the planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be "a city like no other".
'When her communist brother, Frederick, turns up out of the blue after many years of absence, she becomes concerned that he may jeopardise her chances of becoming a diplomat. It is not a safe time to be a communist in Australia or to be related to one, but she refuses to be cowed by the anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. It is also not a safe time or place to be "a wife with a lavender husband". After pursuing the Bloomsbury life for many years, Edith finds herself fearful of being exposed. Unexpectedly, in mid-life she also realises that she yearns for children. When she meets a man who could offer not only security but a ready-made family, she consults the Book of Crossroads and the answer changes the course of her life.
'Intelligent, poignant and absorbing, Cold Light is a remarkable stand-alone novel, which can also be read as a companion to the earlier Edith novels Grand Days and Dark Palace.' (From the publisher's website.)
'On November 2018, the Icelandic composer and ‘multi-instrumentalist’ Ólafur Arnalds walked onstage at Canberra Theatre and offered his first impression of the city before a packed house. ‘As we landed in your elusive capital,’ he began, ‘I wondered if we’d arrived in the right place. It felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere.’ Clearly enjoying himself, Arnalds grinned, before declaiming with one arm raised: ‘It’s such a beautiful place but it doesn’t look like a capital city.’ The audience erupted in laughter.' (Introduction)
'I have returned to Cold Light, the third novel in the Edith Trilogy by Frank Moorhouse, time and time again. One of my reasons for going back to it is, as is often the case with writers, self-interest. I am currently writing a novel about Leonard Woolf and Woolf was, like Edith Campbell Berry, an odd fish. A bureaucrat of sorts, committed to public service. A man who could be both cruel and deeply romantic, and, while not as queer as Edith, he certainly surrounded himself with queer acquaintances, living the life of a Bloomsbury man, a man who was in, to quote a phrase oft-used by Edith, in a Bloomsbury Marriage. In the current draft of my novel a fictional character called Bella jots various scenes of a novel she is writing down on 3 x 5 inch cards. It was no surprise to me, really, when researching this lecture, that I discovered Frank Moorhouse carries 3 x 5 inch cards everywhere he goes, in a leather custom made wallet.' (Introduction)