Juliana Stolburg was a pretty child, but small. She would collect sounds and mimic them: the hollow clip-clop of horses' hooves on cobblestones, the growl of Papa's motorbike. Papa was a hero of the Resistance. His long leather coat smelled of tobacco, gin and the sea. Mama returned from the death camp at Dachau carrying a cardboard suitcase the Americans gave her.
Leaving their grand estates behind, the family sail to Australia. The buildings there are so new. But the sky is high. And there is a strange man, Philly. Juliana has a knack for languages and becomes a diplomat. She travels the world. At the end of her career, against the backdrop of drought and a crumbling marriage, she tells of what happened after the war. For herself, yes, and for all those who come after.
A novel of devastating emotional power from a mesmerising new voice in Australian fiction.
About the Author
Elisabeth Holdsworth is an essayist, poet, and writer of short stories and reviews, and has been published in Best Australian Essays, Heat, Southerly, Island, The Monthly, Mattoid and Transnational. Born in the Netherlands just after WWII in the south-western province of Zeeland, Elisabeth's family name is de Rijke-Nassau, one of the branches of the Nassaus sharing the common ancestry of Charlemagne and Willem and Juliana de Rijke. The de Rijkes, and their identification as part of the fabric of Middelburg and the island of Walcheren, can be traced back to the thirteenth century.
She won the inaugural ABR/Calibre prize for her essay An die Nachgeborenen: For Those Who Come After, which was published in the February 2007 issue of Australian Book Review and later broadcast on ABC radio.
Elisabeth came to Australia with her parents in 1959. She was educated at MacRobertson Girls' High School (Melbourne), Monash University and the University of Melbourne. She had a long career in the Department of Defence. Apart from her writing, she is involved in arts patronage and is an active collector. She lives with her husband in Goulburn, NSW.
The narrator in Those Who Come After, Juliana Stolburg, is an Australian intelligence specialist in the NATO sphere of influence. She is at the end of her career and is being recalled to Canberra but the day before she is due to leave, she learns that her last relative is dying in The Hague. Before she dies, Lady Katrien Stolburg tells her niece that she should write the family history.
Juliana rejoins her husband on his mother's farm outside Goulburn in NSW. Against the backdrop of drought and the realisation that her marriage is disintegrating, she begins her story, recalling her early childhood, the events that led to family's decision to migrate, the trauma of her father's sudden death and the inability of her mother to hold on to her sanity.
This is a powerful work of fiction which I enjoyed enormously. It has a very authentic feel, which is hardly surprising since Holdsworth herself emigrated from Holland to Australia. After a long career here as a public servant, she settled down to write essays, poetry and short stories from her Southern Tablelands base.
The publishers have gone to a lot of trouble with this debut novel. It is presented as a lovely hardback edition, with beautiful photographic end papers and a lovely jacket with flaps. Best of all, it is extremely well priced.
Go here for Holdsworth's answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 1st April 2011
Dimensions (cm): 20.8 x 13.4 x 3.0
Weight (kg): 0.398