Member Loginmenu

What to do with the intensity of longing that occasionally arises? Sometimes I hug my pup so hard he growls. When my pup growls, I realise I need to find some other way of letting off steam. It’s easy to imagine I could just touch myself and be done with it, but no matter how many times I make myself come, that feeling of wanting doesn’t subside. A friend has a term for the need for touch—‘skin hungry’. Lots of people live without sex, but I find it a kind of deprivation.

What does it mean to be awakened? To want? To love? Jessie Cole is in her late thirties when she meets a man twenty years older than she is. They become lovers. Both passionate and companionable, fraught and uneven, their relationship tests her fears and anxieties. Through their interstate affair, through bushfires and the pandemic, she learns about herself, how her initiations into womanhood shaped who she is now, and how the shadow of family trauma still inhabits her body.

Jessie Cole has written an unabashed, thrilling exploration of the very nature of desire, a story about vulnerability and strength, loss and regeneration. A memoir of the body, Desire is a visceral book in which feeling and longing are laid bare.


3RRR: Spring Passage (0:13:30)    
ABC Radio National: Life Matters    
Canberra Times     
Chat 10 Looks 3 (0:26:10)
Guardian: the best Australian books out in August    
Guardian: My granddaughter’s birth was so beautiful I wept, reminded of how sweet life can be (op-ed)    
RNZ: Nine to Noon    
Saturday Paper    
Southern Cross University: Jessie Cole at Byron Writers Festival    
Sydney Morning Herald    
Sydney Review of Books: On Art as Love (and everything in between) (essay)    
To Be Human podcast    

Jessie Cole
About the Author

Jessie Cole is a writer. Her first novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was shortlisted for the 2013 ALS Gold Medal and longlisted for the Dobbie Literary Award. Her second novel, Deeper Water, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim. Staying, a memoir, was longlisted for the 2019 Colin Roderick Award and shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s...

Read Moreright
Text publication date:
2 August 2022
AU Price:
NZ Price:
Loading Rating
Praise for Jessie Cole

‘Trust Cole to give us the magic of a deeply embodied book. Prose so vital it seems to breathe and dance from the page. This is a beautiful memoir.’

‘What kind of writer enables the reader to inhabit the author’s body? Jessie Cole can make anything from the curl of a leaf to a broken heart remarkable. No author writes about ecological, bodily and relationship grief as tenderly as she does. In Desire Jessie brings us home to the forest, sharing the beauty, danger and wonderment of this intimate world.’

‘I read Desire in one sitting and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Jessie Cole has written a triumph of a book, unlike any other. You will see yourself on these brilliant pages, a lit-up version you thought you’d left hidden in the dark. They will call Desire brave and vulnerable, a tell-all. But really it is a gift, a risk, a body, a revelation of electric prose. Cole has written a love story. She has shown us what it looks like to believe yourself.’

‘A gorgeous journey of a writer seeking out the inaccessible part of herself, of those she loves, and who love her back, and of the forest that holds them all together. Desire is a book of intellectual and emotional depth, exploring the flesh and nerves and sinew — as a mother, a lover, a friend and soothsayer. A tender joy of a book, about life and death, and of all the great pulls in between. Raw and fascinating writing that shimmers with truth and beauty at once. A confession, a lament, a celebration — I cannot recommend this enough.’

Desire is propulsive, honest and tender; it will hurl you back to your own worst heartaches, whether you want to revisit them or not.’

‘Luminous with honesty. Revelatory.’

‘Jessie Cole is peerless in Australian letters; for me, she is the master chronicler of hidden psychic spaces. Her exquisite new memoir compels, startles and affirms the arterial centre that is desire.’

‘Jessie Cole is a delight. I don’t know how she does it. She drags the gnarliest anchors from the heaviest depths and throws light on the hardest of places — her prose shimmers with warmth and breathtaking honesty. Desire is about the mystery of our bodies, how the wiring can get crossed, connections lost and one woman’s delicate unstitching to find herself.’

’A love story about one woman’s efforts to escape the clutches of trauma on her own terms.’

‘Written in skilful fragmentary narrative, this sensory experience of self-and-world is tender, vulnerable, brave and raw…Desire: A Reckoning is deep life-poetry, thrumming with vitality and unpretentious symbolism. Masterfully patchworked moments pull the reader’s consciousness through a world of poignant aching and vanishing safety nets in this relevant reflection on self-embodiment. This book will appeal to lovers who have suffered through the exquisite terror of wanting, and will resonate with anyone who has ever sidestepped a rug to avoid having it ripped out from under them.’

‘[Jessie Cole] writes with a simultaneous tenderness and directness which places difficult emotions centre on the page, and forces the reader to confront the complexity of our inner lives head on… Cole’s sheer command of language captures your attention so well that pages virtually fly past. I devoured this book from the first page, completely entranced.’

‘[A] book that pours itself on to the page: the warm, impulsive imprint of a brain in the throes of longing…Cole writes with brutal honesty about the links we are prone to make between sex and self-worth.’

‘[Jessie Cole] mines the delirium of her heart—replaying scenes of painful, emotive rumination on the page…[Her] writing is so elemental, you will find yourself unsealed by her evocations…Cole seems to have performed the ultimate act of love in writing this book…she has turned that love into a work of art.’

Desire sketches a life’s spaces and textures…Cole writes about [the body] with a direct and curious gaze.’

‘[An] intricately observed, forensically honest examination of the inherent contradictions and emotional high-wire act of romantic relationships… Like most good memoirists—and Cole is an excellent one—her reflections are truly brave…and generous.’

‘[I]ntimate, lyrical…[and] rich with vivid detail.’

‘A remarkably contemporary memoir…Desire is a powerful, tender book of loss and longing, attempting to grapple with both inner pain and external tragedy. It’s a vulnerable work that moved me to tears more than once. But despite it all, there are moments of hope, even at the end.’

Other editions ofDesire
  • Desire
    ISBN: 9781922459954
    2 August 2022
    Buy ebook
Other Titles byJessie Cole