The Performance - Claire Thomas

The Performance

By: Claire Thomas

Paperback | 23 February 2021 | Edition Number 1

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The breakout literary sensation of 2021, THE PERFORMANCE is a tightly woven examination of women's inner lives that is funny, profound and deeply human.

The false cold of the theatre makes it hard to imagine the heavy wind outside in the real world, the ash air pressing onto the city from the nearby hills where bushfires are taking hold.
The house lights lower.
The auditorium feels hopeful in the darkness.


As bushfires rage outside the city, three women watch a performance of a Beckett play.

Margot is a successful professor, preoccupied by her fraught relationship with her ailing husband. Ivy is a philanthropist with a troubled past, distracted by the snoring man beside her. Summer is a young theatre usher, anxious about the safety of her girlfriend in the fire zone.

As the performance unfolds, so does each woman's story. By the time the curtain falls, they will all have a new understanding of the world beyond the stage.

About the Author

Claire Thomas is a Melbourne writer. Her acclaimed first novel was Fugitive Blue, which won the Dobbie Award for women writers, and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Claire holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne where she teaches literary studies and creative writing.
Industry Reviews
In this novel, the project of living is rendered with compassionate clarity. - THE NEW YORK TIMES

Thomas's imitation of wandering minds is flawless and yet entirely comprehensible. Without drifting into stream of consciousness, she nonetheless reproduces that vast galaxy of thoughts that revolves around the dark matter of anxiety at the center of each life. Although, in one sense, nothing 'happens' in this novel, there's something uniquely revealing about it... The structure of The Performance forces Thomas to create movement even while her characters are sitting stock still, but she rises to the challenge. We're drawn into the cares of these women's lives and made to care for them... The Performance is an insightful response to Beckett's 60-year-old classic and a thoughtful reflection on what's burying women in the modern age. - THE WASHINGTON POST

The ideas underpinning The Performance are certainly provocative and how each woman interacts with and is altered by the play enacts beautifully the dialectical relationship between art and life. - THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN

intimate, poignant and darkly funny... Much like Beckett, Thomas is more interested in the untangling of inner truths than in external incident, and her novel is quietly transformational. As the curtain falls on both the book and the performance, it is us and the characters alike who are changed in thought, if not yet in deed. - SUNDAY TIMES

Claire Thomas has constructed, with graceful precision, a near-perfect wind-up music box of a novel in The Performance... [She] is deliciously clever and self-aware. Not a sentence is overwritten... Thomas handles themes of love and grief, family and the environment, with breath-snatching wisdom. - ARTS HUB

Written with passion, The Performance is a brave book: unafraid of confronting the dissonances of living in a modern Australia. - THE CONVERSATION

Through beautifully wrought prose the author digs into the emotional hearts of their everyday lives. - THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLY

Thomas's innovative novel, which spans curtain up to lights down, makes excellent use of Beckett's text... an original, at-a-sitting read. - DAILY MAIL

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