Vinyl Inside


ISBN: 9780975022894 Format: Trade Paperback Rights: All rights: Transit Lounge Release / Publication Date: 01 /12 /2007

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


You’re destined to fall in love with this quirky, bittersweet story of Elsie and Sterling and caravan park life in the ’80s.

What happens when the daughter you thought you would never see again turns up twenty years later? Dania’s arrival at Splashes Caravan Park in search of her mother forces the novel’s loveable characters to face the reality of their lives and to come to terms with the nature of regret.

Brimming with delicious pop-culture references, this a story told with great warmth, humour and respect. Vinyl Inside is by turns hilarious, moving and unforgettable; a novel that allows us to feel affection for our past innocence and to ponder what has been lost and gained.

Dr Rachel Matthews is a Melbourne author, lecturer and teacher. Her debut novel Vinyl Inside received strong press reviews and was highly commended by the Australian Vogel Award judges. Siren, her 2017 novel was part of a PhD at Victoria University exploring sexual violence in Australian football. Never Look Desperate is her third novel. Her short fiction has been published in EQ magazine, educational and writing journals. She has over 15 years’ experience as an educator within a diverse range of learning environments, including lecturing in RMIT’s Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing, ACU’s Bachelor of Creative Arts, international settings, the RVIB and in student welfare at Virtual School Victoria (the largest gov school in the state). Rachel is also a contributor to news media.

The 1980s were shaped by Reaganomics, Thatcherism and a‘‘greed is good’’ excuse to be selfish, but this quietly impressive first novel stays inside a marginalised culture of the time: caravan park long-stay residents,with their self-conscious pride and brooding resentments.

Elsie and Sterling are set in their ways, and sure of their love for each other. Sterling is handsome, enjoying the approval and company of other women, but remains touchingly loyal to Elsie, who works as a barmaid, grieving a brief memory of the baby she was forced to give up by attitudes steeped in 1950s morality. (The chapter epigraphs quoting women’s magazines of the time are cringingly hilarious.)

When a young woman turns up claiming to be her daughter, Elsie is forced to reconcile the past. Recommended.

Ian MacFarlane, Sunday Canberra Times 2 March 2008.

Vinyl Inside also enjoys the riddle of love. Like (Toni) Jordan Matthews manages to avoid the customary cynicism that tends these days to come standard with writing about matters of the heart. The book ventures into complex emotional territory but does so with a gentle belief that life’s burdens can shift into more comfortable positions … Matthews’ recreation of Elsie’s family is poignant and the portrait of her bewildered father is exquisite, especially at a time after the birth when Elsie joins him playing lawn bowls. Matthews uses details of consumer culture to draw the lines between different eras: Sterl wears Blue Stratos and her dad wears Old Spice.

Eventually, Elsie’s child, Dania, now an adult comes looking for her birth mother in Splashes. The sorest point of the story is that, in ten years of partnership, Elsie has not been bale to tell Sterl about her child. Sterl wanted kids of his own. But this earthy couple communicates brilliantly about anything that does not matter. They aren’t so good on the big stuff.

Toni Jordan and Rachel Matthews are writers of generous spirit. If sometimes their worlds are less clouded than the real one, the result is anything but disappointment.

Michael McGirr, The Age 23 February 2008.

An earthy first novel, Vinyl Inside follows Elsie and Sterling as they, well, go nowhere in particular. Touchingly in love, they’re living quietly in a caravan park when a blast from Elsie’s past — the daughter she gave up as a teenager — interrupts their rosy routine. Rachel Matthews has a nice ear for dialogue and creates a warm and witty little piece of Australiana here. Sterling and Elsie are the sort of characters other authors make fun of, but Matthews shows them the respect they deserve. In a word: affectionate.

Claire Sutherland, Herald Sun 5 January 2008.


Matthews delicately explores the idea of what a mother is and should be, and plays with themes of loss, regret and abandonment in an authentic and graceful way. The segments describing Elsie’s youth are particularly beautiful as they capture and convey the intensity and fragility of young womanhood.

Women readers and fans of unique Australian fiction, and of authors like Rebecca Sparrow, will enjoy this story. Vinyl Inside’s whimsical feel and the warm, likeable characters are what will keep readers interested until the surprising and cleverly gentle ending.

Lucy Meredith, Bookseller and Publisher October 2007.

In the 1980s Elsie and Sterling live at Splashes, a caravan park.Then, after 20 long years, Elsie’s daughter turns up, and there are a whole lot of adjustments to be made. The period, its culture and inocence is brought delightfully to life, and the characters are rich, real and (mostly) lovable. Long ago quotes from Aussie women’s mags at the start of each chapter are a reminder of a very different time in our history…

Julie Redlich,Woman’s Day 14 January 2008.