The Well in the Shadow: A Writer’s Journey through Australian Literature


ISBN: 978-0-9805717-7-6 Format: Trade paperback 384pp Rights: All rights: Transit Lounge Release / Publication Date: 01 /06 /2010

This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.


Award-winning Australian author Chester Eagle journeys through Australian literature offering engaging essays on the works of writers including Miles Franklin, Patrick White, George Johnston, Beverley Farmer, Helen Garner and Alexis Wright. As Eagle says in his introduction: ‘The essays are not introductory. I consider them rather as a sharing of one writer’s reflections with the thoughts of readers who are looking for something new to add to their thinking. What the fellow-writer has to offer is the insight that comes from having also been at the heart of the risky business of creating and imagining. Writers can see what other writers are up to because they face the same problems and use the same tricks.’ These entertaining essays are linked by the essential notion of what it means to be a writer in Australia, and as such offer up valuable insights into our literature and country.

Chester Eagle ( 10 October 1933- 6 May 2021) wrote novels (Four Faces Wobbly Mirror, 1974 and Wainwrights’ Mountain, 1997), essays (Benedictus 2006), portraits of Australian life (Hail and
Farewell: an evocation of Gippsland, 1971; Mapping the Paddocks, 1984; and Play Together, Dark Blue Twenty, 1985), and much more besides, including several collections of opera librettos (Love in the Age of Wings and The Sun King ). His earlier books were published by Heinemann, Wren, McPhee Gribble and Harper Collins. More recently he has published privately under the on-line Trojan Press imprint.

‘Pick of the Week’
CHESTER Eagle, whose works include Mapping the Paddocks, does not claim to be a professional literary critic. What he offers is the writer’s view, a writer onfellow writers. His selection runs from Henry Handel Richardson to Alexis Wright (a major thread being indigenous writing’s response to colonisation), incorporat­ing Patrick White, Judith Wright, Hal Porter — as well as lesser-known figures such as Barnard Eldershaw. The tone is conversational, the language accessible, the observations astute. His essay, based on two interviews with George Johnston’s brother Jack, who didn’t think much of My Brother Jack, looks at the disjunction between actuality and invention. Another theme, the writer and society, of writers responding to what is important  to them and “recording the inner life of their society”, is pertinent to a sales-driven world.

Steven Carroll The Age, Saturday June 19

That old Sydney-Melboume divide! Eagle, a writer hardly known in Sydney, was a joint-winner of The Age Book of the Year award for nonfiction back in 1985 for a work of autobiography. Who today remembers Mapping the Paddocks? Anyway, this is a writer writing about other writers.

It is not high-contemporary literary criticism but rather a chatty, high-end “Book Club discussion” kind of book.

The author acutely aware of the problems of creative writing, looks across a broad spectrum of Australian literature (from Henry Handel Richardson’s Maurice Guest andThe Fortunes of Richard Mahony through Patrick White’s Voss and A Fringe of Leaves to Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus and Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip and, writing in a breezy, conversational manner, offers astute
observations and insights.

Bruce Elder Sydney Morning Herald, 17-18 July 2010

Eagle’s challenge to the shibboleth that great art transcends the political is refreshing; he is ever willing to interrogate the ethics of ‘great books’.  …’

Extract from:  Christina Hill, Australian Book Review, September 2010