Elizabeth Harrower was born in Sydney in 1928 but her family soon relocated to Newcastle where she lived until she was eleven. After leaving school she worked as a clerk and studied psychology.
In 1951 Harrower moved to London. She travelled extensively and she began to write fiction. Her first novel Down in the City was published in 1957, and was followed by The Long Prospect a year later. In 1959 she returned to Sydney where she began working for the ABC and as a book reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald. In 1960 she published The Catherine Wheel, the story of an Australian law student in London, her only novel not set in Sydney.
The Watch Tower appeared in 1966. No further novels were published though Harrower continued to write short fiction. Her work is austere, intelligent, ruthless in its perceptions about men and women. She was admired by many of her contemporaries, including Patrick White and Christina Stead, and is without doubt among the most important writers of the postwar period in Australia.
Elizabeth Harrower lives in Sydney.
‘When Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower came ‘roaring out of forty years in obscurity’, as Helen Garner put it in the Australian’s 2012 round-up of best books, we didn’t know that we’d go on to republish all of Elizabeth’s work.’ Read this feature on the Text blog by senior editor David Winter.
‘Harrower’s writing is witty, desolate, truth-seeking, and complexly polished. Everything (except feeling, which is passionately and directly confessed) is controlled and put under precise formal pressure. Her sentences, which have an unsettling candor, launch a curling assault on the reader, often twisting in unexpected ways…Harrower is an exceptionally subtle psychologist…[Her] five novels have an almost relentless thematic consistency and a strikingly similar darkness of vision.’ James Wood, New Yorker
Australian: Elizabeth Harrower: nearly 90 and still dangerous ($)