The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey

Published: 2020 Genre: General fiction 1. First lines 2. Cover: Text Publishing 3. Antique wooden chairs [Public Domain] via Public Domain Pictures

Erica Marsden has moved to a small beachside town south of Sydney to be near the prison where her son is in jail, and to retreat from her former life to deal with the grief that is overwhelming her. She decides to build a labyrinth in her yard, and in the process forges relationships with local people.

“Put the hands to work and the hands will pacify the demons in the brain.”

“The Labyrinth” by Amanda Lohrey

Glanceabook: Even though this story’s themes are heart-rending, the writing is very quiet and soothing. It has a reassuring tone that instills a feeling of hopefulness that there might be some reconciliation in the characters’ broken relationships.

  • The Guardian: The Labyrinth offers a pull towards the unknown and a comfort in solitude. It is a sharply tuned novel, a sprawling narrative that resists rigid expectations, instead allowing those who inhabit the pages to surrender themselves to the mode of “reversible destiny” that it is constructed around. Despite sometimes eerie loneliness, the book is quietly compelling, a carefully planned reflection on the many ways that we might retrace and remake ourselves and our relationships.
  • Sydney Review of Books: The Labyrinth is just the kind of novel we need now: sharp-edged but ultimately hopeful about our ability to survive the disasters that befall us.
  • Judges’ Report (Miles Franklin Award):The Labyrinth is an elegiac novel, soaked in sadness. It is a beautifully written reflection on the conflicts between parents and children, men and women, and the value and purpose of creative work.”


“What am I here, here behind the dunes in this dusty old shack? To be close to the prison, yes, but there is another reason.”

“I grew up in an asylum, a manicured madhouse. The lawns were kept trim and the flowerbeds in bloom all year round. My father Kenneth Marsden was the chief medical officer, meaning he was a psychiatrist, and unlike his colleagues who were happy to escape the institution as soon as their roster hours had expired, Ken chose to live within the compound..”

“The use of the hands is a powerful medicine, he would say. We can succumb to the temptation to overthink a problem when the cure for many ills is to make something.”

Awards: Winner, Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2021; Longlisted, Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, 2021


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