The Bell of the World


ISBN: 978-0-6484140-8-7 Format: Hardback (234mm x 153mm), 416pp Rights: World Release / Publication Date: 01 /03 /2023
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When a troubled Sarah Hutchinson returns to Australia from boarding school in England and time spent in Europe, she is sent to live with her eccentric Uncle Ferny on the family property, Ngangahook. With the sound of the ocean surrounding everything they do on the farm, Sarah and her uncle form an inspired bond hosting visiting field naturalists and holding soirees in which Sarah performs on a piano whose sound she has altered with items and objects from the bush and shore.

As Sarah’s world is nourished by music and poetry, Ferny’s life is marked by Such is Life, a book he has read and reread, so much so that the volume is falling apart. Its saviour is Jones the Bookbinder of Moolap, who performs a miraculous act. To shock and surprise, Jones interleaves Ferny’s volume with a book he bought from an American sailor, a once obscure tale of whales and the sea. In art as in life nature seems supreme. Ngangahook and its environs are threatened, however, when members of the community ask the Hutchinsons to help ‘make a savage landscape sacred’ by financing the installation of a town bell. The fearless musician and her idealistic uncle refuse to buckle to local pressures, mounting their own defence of ‘the bell of the world’.

Gregory Day’s new novel embodies a cultural reckoning in a breathtakingly beautiful and lyrical way. The Bell of the World is both a song to the natural wonders that are not yet gone and a luminous prehistory of contemporary climate change and its connection to colonialism. It is a book immersed in the early to mid-twentieth century but written very much for the hearts of the future.

Gregory Day is a novelist, poet and musician from the Eastern Otways region of southwest Victoria, Australia. He lives on Wadawurrung tabayl. Gregory is a winner of the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, the Elizabeth Jolley Prize, and the Manly Artist Book Award. In 2019 Gregory’s most recent novel, A Sand Archive, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. In 2020 Gregory received the prestigious Patrick White Award for his ongoing body of work, and in 2021 he was awarded the Nature Conservancy Australia Nature Writing Prize.

The notion of artistic production that emerges from the pages of The Bell of the World is not one of solitary genius, but rather of an artist in deep conversation with the plants, animals and soil around him, as well as with the works of other artists near and far…. The novel proceeds to set out a philosophy for a way of living and writing that Day has practised throughout his career to date. It stresses the importance of attending to a particular place and its ecology with detail, care, respect and humour. It is big-picture thinking.

Julieann Lamond – The Conversation

The acclaimed author and poet has a long history writing about our relationship with place. His hypnotic new novel feels like a culmination, imploring us to listen. The Bell Of The World is an electric crescendo of Australian nature writing.

Jack Cahill, The Guardian

This is if nothing else a written book, truly made of language and its wild possibilities in a way that shames the tidy grey functional prose of most Australian writers. Like any great book, it gathers itself magnificently, its final stretch of crosshatched narrative and musical exhilaration among its finest pages.

Adam Rivett, Sydney Morning Herald

A glorious creation, a singing gift.

Carmel Bird, The Saturday Paper

The Bell of the World is beautiful and evocative, rich with allusion and allegory, lyrical and elusive. It is transcendent, without any self-consciousness; through opening themselves to the world, the characters learn to listen, fully, to the world around them.

Canberra Times

The Bell of the World is a wonderful novel by all meanings of that adjective. It’s a big book full of wonder and learning but done with a lightness of touch and tone. It is a nudge to the reader to meditate on the ‘oneness’ of the world, ‘to let the world itself ring out’. A wondrous, sky’s-the-limit, totemic work of environmentalism.

Newtown Review of Books

The Bell of the World is a challenging book, not because it’s hard to read and make sense of, but because it challenges our ideas about what art is, what music is, and even what literature is. It is a novel rich in meaning and full of surprises.

ANZLIt Lovers

This book is a literary novel, a prose poem, a biographical masterpiece.