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Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy

Sophie Cunningham

  • awardShortlisted, Kibble Literary Award, 2015
  • awardShortlisted, Chief Minister's Northern Territory History Book Award, 2015
  • awardShortlisted, Queensland Literary Awards, University of Southern Queensland History Book Award, 2015
  • awardShortlisted, The Nib: Waverley Library Award for Literature, 2015
  • awardLonglisted, Walkley Book Award, 2014
  • The sky at the top end is big and the weather moves like a living thing. You can hear it in the cracking air when there is an electrical storm and as the thunder rolls around the sky…

    When Cyclone Tracy swept down on Darwin at Christmas 1974, the weather became not just a living thing but a killer. Tracy destroyed an entire city, left seventy-one people dead and ripped the heart out of Australia’s season of goodwill.

    For the fortieth anniversary of the nation’s most iconic natural disaster, Sophie Cunningham has gone back to the eyewitness accounts of those who lived through the devastation—and those who faced the heartbreaking clean-up and the back-breaking rebuilding. From the quiet stirring of the service-station bunting that heralded the catastrophe to the wholesale slaughter of the dogs that followed it, Cunningham brings to the tale a novelist’s eye for detail and an exhilarating narrative drive. And a sober appraisal of what Tracy means to us now, as we face more—and more destructive—extreme weather with every year that passes.

    Compulsively readable and undeniably moving, Warning is the essential non-fiction book of 2014.


    ABC interview with Jennifer Byrne
    891 ABC Adelaide for Adelaide Writers Week
    The Monthly Video for Adelaide Writers Week


    Newtown Review of Books


    Sophie Cunningham
    About the Author

    Sophie Cunningham is a former publisher and the author of two novels, Geography published in 2004, and Bird published in 2008. She is a former editor of Meanjin, and the the current Chair of the Literature Strategy Panel of the Australia Council. She was a founding member of the Stella Prize.

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    23 July 2014
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    Praise for Sophie Cunningham

    ‘Sophie Cunnigham’s Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy I defy anyone to put down: an inspired use of oral archives, and a startling picture, sharply lit by disaster, of Australians as we were in the mid-'70s.’

    ‘The strength and beauty of this book is the way it delves into the lives of the people affected and tries to understand their responses, their courage and their failings. Cunningham argues that these kinds of natural disasters are going to become more prevalent as the effects of climate change make extreme weather conditions more likely. This book is no polemic: it’s a gripping and visceral tale.’

    ‘Highly accomplished…compelling.’

    ‘Cunningham has pieced together a pacey and energetic insight into the build up, experience and aftermath of the cyclone…It’s a great read and, given the subject, it is strangely hopeful.’

    ‘Along with an eye for good stories and a knack for telling them, Sophie Cunningham brings a contextualising political intelligence. What she is interested in is how natural disasters are also social and political events, and the period details amount to more than the sideburns and lairy shirts… What happens in natural disasters depends on how communities work; the effects and aftermaths of those disasters are in fact man-made. As the future promises more and more extreme weather events whose causes as well as effects are anthropogenic, Cunningham’s gripping book contributes to new ways of thinking about them.’

    ‘Sophie Cunningham has done a tremendous job in gathering the voices—from then and now—of those who were there and during the clean-up [of Cyclone Tracy]. The result is vivid storytelling, gripping from beginning to end.’

    ‘Compulsively readable and undeniably moving, Warning is the essential non-fiction book of 2014.’

    ‘Literary non-fiction at its absorbing, emotional, instructive best.’

    ‘In this fascinating non-ficiton book, Sophie Cunningham analyses the fallout of Cyclone Tracy from angles that other writers have tended to overlook…A well-crafted narrative ties her research together, making it a great read.’

    Other editions ofWarning
    • Warning
      ISBN: 9781921961526
      23 July 2014
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    Other Titles bySophie Cunningham