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House of Longing

Charlotte has always known she is different. Where other young women see their destiny in marriage and motherhood, the reclusive Charlotte wants only to work with her father in his stationery business; perhaps even run it herself one day. Then Flora Dalton bursts through the shop door and into Charlotte’s life—and a new world of baffling desires and possibilities seems to open up to her.

But Melbourne society of the 1890s is not built to embrace unorthodoxy. When tragedy strikes and Charlotte is unmoored by grief, she finds herself admitted to Kew Lunatic Asylum ‘for her own safety’.

There she learns that women enter the big white house on the hill for many reasons, not all of them to do with lunacy. That her capacity for love, loyalty and friendship is greater than she had ever understood. And that it will take all of these things—along with an unexpected talent for guile—to extract herself from the care of men and make her way back to her heart’s desires.

A compulsively readable historical romance, House of Longing combines an effortless instinct for narrative with impeccable research, lightly worn. House of Longing is the debut of a major talent.


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Tara Calaby
About the Author

Tara Calaby lives in Gippsland with her wife and far too many books. She is currently a PhD candidate at La Trobe University, researching the social worlds of women in Victorian lunatic asylums. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, attempting to learn Danish, and patting other people’s dogs. House of Longing is her debut novel.

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Text publication date:
30 May 2023
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Praise for Tara Calaby
andHouse of Longing

‘Written through a female lens of empowerment, at its heart House of Longing is about accepting who you are and finding ways to live while working to support the changes you can make.’

‘Tara Calaby’s debut novel, based on her doctoral studies, wears its clearly extensive research lightly as it weaves an engrossing story…Both realistic and hopeful.’

‘A moving historical feminist and sapphic narrative that illuminates the shadowy corners of 19th-century colonial culture…The novel is carefully researched, and the different sections of society appear in satisfying alternating waves. The shopgirl and the socialite perform a tortured dance that promises a fine happy-ever-after waltz.’

‘[Tara Calaby’s] imagination fleshes out experiences that are hard for historians to access; she enters the interior lives of people from the past…Her characters are well-drawn portraits of women inmates, but also of the nuances in their care…A hopeful story about love and courage—which suggests alternative futures for women seeking independence from marriage and social norms.’

‘A thoroughly enjoyable debut set in 1890s Melbourne, skilfully delivering a tender Sapphic romance and building a world with complex characters and nuanced relationships. Calaby builds an utterly endearing heroine.’

‘There’s a hypnotic rhythm to Tara Calaby’s writing, full of compassion and comprehensive depth, making this a compelling debut. Charlotte is equal parts fascinating and sympathetic, and Flora lights up the page with her vim. House of Longing is a beautiful romance that will break your heart, and set it soaring again, this time with hope. ’

‘A good, cracking read.’

‘A beautiful book…It flows so well. House of Longing blends all the elements of good storytelling.’

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