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Image courtesy of publisher's website.
y separately published work icon Cold Light single work   novel   historical fiction  
Is part of Palais des Nations Frank Moorhouse , 1993 series - author novel (number 3 in series)
Issue Details: First known date: 2011... 2011 Cold Light
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'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.)


  • Dedication:

    To David Elliott Gyger, AOM, editor, opera critic - my first mentor, who, when I was young, introduced me to all that is best in traditional American liberal values, arts, thought and manners - and much more.

    And to Owen Harris, professor, foreign affairs analyst, editor, ambassador, friend and advisor over many years and, together with his wife, Dorothy, charming dinner table companions.

  • Includes epigraphs from a range of sources including History of the International Atomic Energy Agency: The First Forty Years (1997), Homer's The Odyssey, Jorge Luis Borges The Congress, Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto and James Jones's The Thin Red Line.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • North Sydney, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Knopf ; Vintage Australia , 2011 .
      image of person or book cover 6891018200234543866.jpg
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 719p.p.
      • Publication date: 1 November 2011.
      • Hardback published by Random House's Knopf imprint and paperback published by the Vintage imprint.
      ISBN: 9781742753881 (hbk.), 9781741661262 (pbk.), 9781742754574 (ebk.)

Works about this Work

Frank Recollections Fiona Giles , 2022 single work column
— Appears in: The Monthly , August 2022; (p. 46-49)
'The article discusses Frank Moor house who was an award-winning author, essayist and giant of Australian letters, whose Edith Campbell Berry trilogy – Grand Days, Dark Palace and Cold Light – was his masterpiece. His former partner Fiona Giles , whose relationship with Moor house was fictionalized in his novel Forty-Seventeen, reflects on the impact he had on her life.' 

(Publication abstract)

Canberra Mark McKenna , 2021 single work essay
— Appears in: Meanjin , Autumn vol. 80 no. 1 2021;

'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)

Odd Fish : Frank Moorhouse’s Cold Light Sophie Cunningham , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , March 2018;

'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)

Reading The Electrical Experience in Cold Light : Labour Politics and Narrative Form in Frank Moorhouse, Then and Now. Sascha Morell , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 10 August vol. 31 no. 4 2016;
'This essay seeks to boost Frank Moorhouse’s credentials as a commentator on class consciousness and labour politics, focusing on the oblique representation of labor tension in The Electrical Experience (1974) and addressing thematic and intertextual connections with Cold Light (2011), the third in the so-called 'Edith Trilogy'. Close reading reveals the lurking presence of labour tension in The Electrical Experience, but rather than it being manifested through a direct collision of social classes, it emerges primarily from the inner tensions and contradictions of its protagonist, the soft drink manufacturer George McDowell. Primarily set in the 1920s-30s, when workers’ rights had more prominence on the political Left than in Moorhouse’s immediate cultural scene in the early 1970s, the stories repeatedly show McDowell in revolt against himself, even as he remains oblivious to his workers. The indirect political insight Moorhouse offers on a more local – even parochial – scale in this fragmented work of historical fiction is in some respects deeper and more nuanced than that in the full-scale historical novel Cold Light, which engages directly with communist agitation in 1950s Australia.' (Publication abstract)
伊迪斯三部曲——弗兰克·穆尔豪斯“间断叙述”巅峰之作 The Edith Trilogy : The Greatest Masterpiece of Frank Moorhouse in “Intermittent Narrative” Peng Qinglong , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: 外国文学动态 , vol. [2013] no. 4 2013; (p. 44-46)
<正>2011年,澳大利亚著名作家弗兰克·穆尔豪斯(Frank Moorhouse.1938—)的历史题材长篇小说《冷光》(Cold Light)出版,至此,与《盛大的日子》(Grand Days,1993)和《黑暗的宫殿》(Dark Palace,2000)构成的"伊迪斯三部曲"正式完成。这是澳大利亚文学史上的重大成就,显示出穆尔豪斯非凡的文学才华。三部小说出版后好评如潮,分别摘取迈尔斯·弗兰克林奖、昆士兰文学奖和南
Diverting Illumination Mark Thomas , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 29 October 2011; (p. 25)

— Review of Cold Light Frank Moorhouse , 2011 single work novel
Edith sans frontieres Kerryn Goldsworthy , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , November no. 336 2011; (p. 8-9)

— Review of Cold Light Frank Moorhouse , 2011 single work novel
Well Read Patrick Allington , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 19 November 2011; (p. 22)

— Review of Cold Light Frank Moorhouse , 2011 single work novel
[Review] Cold Light Thornton McCamish , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: The Sunday Age , 27 November 2011; (p. 18)

— Review of Cold Light Frank Moorhouse , 2011 single work novel
Grand Vision Delia Falconer , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 26 - 27 November 2011; (p. 18-19)

— Review of Cold Light Frank Moorhouse , 2011 single work novel
Maternal Flame Jason Steger , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Saturday Age , 12 November 2011; (p. 28-29) The Sydney Morning Herald , 12-13 November 2011; (p. 31-31)
Facts and Fiction Christine Wallace , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 19 November 2011; (p. 5)
In the Cold Light of Canberra Sally Pryor , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 19 November 2011; (p. 8-9)
Ladies' Man Shortlisted Marc McEvoy , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sun-Herald , 11 March 2012; (p. 7)
Miles Franklin Longlist Has Room for Both Genders Susan Wyndham , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 29 March 2012; (p. 5)
Last amended 13 Jul 2021 11:55:46
  • Canberra, Australian Capital Territory,
  • 1950s
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