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Hurdy Gurdy - Jenny Ackland

Hurdy Gurdy

By: Jenny Ackland

Paperback | 4 June 2024

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A powerful and important novel with a crucial and timely feminist message, from the Stella Prize-shortlisted author of Little Gods.

'A ripping, sprawling family saga featuring an eccentric cast with an abundance of big secrets.' Stella Prize judges' comments on Little Gods

'A remarkable and exhilarating debut. At once joyous and haunting, and a moving meditation on love, honour and belonging, it is a story about the strength of women and what it means to be a good man.' Australian Arts Review on The Secret Son

She tells me to sit down, that she has something I need to hear and it's that they don't cut hair or set curls. Well, we do, she says, but not always. We help them with a problem. We make it go away.

In a near-future Australia, the world has changed. A small circus caravan travels the countryside performing for dwindling audiences. Matriarch Queenie works outside the law, helped by high-diver Win, nineteen and yearning for love. By night, they gather under the dark sky, joined by philosophical clown Valentina, and Girl, who they found at the side of the road. By day, they offer other services: hairdressing for women and a close shave for men. But while women come to them for help, men tend to disappear.

And in the distance, a reverend and his nun-like companion preach against alcohol, adultery and abortion. Two groups on an ideological collision course in a landscape altered by time and human error, while overhead a space mission has gone wrong.

Hurdy Gurdy sits alongside classics like The Handmaid's Tale, Station Eleven and The Natural Way of Things, and is a provocation, both compelling and haunting. It's a feminist revenge tale about the choices that women have to make, and it asks the big questions: Can beauty be found in times of great darkness? How do we go on?

About the Author

Jenny Ackland is a writer from Melbourne. Her debut book was The Secret Son (2015), a novel about truth, history and what it means to be a good man. Her second novel Little Gods (2018) is about girlhood and the mess of family, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize in 2019.

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