Melbourne, 1938. Annabel's dream is to be a scientist. Falling in love is not part of her plan. But when she meets Bill Whitten she knows instantly that they are destined for each other.
She has to wait for him to come back from the war. Their life together, as lovers and microbiologists, can now begin.
The newlyweds emigrate to New York. They are at once captivated by fellow immigrants Frank, an ex-Communist from Hungary, and his playwright wife, Suzy. It's the 1950s and the Cold War is in full swing. Frank, Annabel and Bill find work on weapons projects, experimenting with lethal infectious diseases.
Did they cross the world for this? Annabel's whole being is anchored in her ardour for Bill, and their work together. But other forces—suspicion, paranoia, deceit—are at play. Everything begins to unravel: her work, her career and her marriage.
With its backdrop of science and politics Who We Were is a love story to be reckoned with, an intimate and powerful first novel about trust, obsession and the truth itself.
Read Caroline Baum's Review:
In 1938 Australia, the opportunities for ambitious young women who dreamed of becoming scientists were few and far between. So if you are given the chance to work in a lab in the United States, as Annabel is, it’s best not to think too much about the purpose of the research into lethal infectious diseases you are assigned. Nor to question the motives of your husband, your colleagues and your boss as microbiology becomes warfare’s newest weapon.
An impressively mature and deft debut novel with big themes - Cold War paranoia and the ethics of medical research - which builds a convincingly tense atmosphere of malaise.
About the Author
Lucy Neave completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing in the US on a Fulbright scholarship, and has received a Varuna New Writers' Fellowship and Australian Society of Authors Mentorship. Her fiction has appeared in Australian and American literary journals, including Southerly, Overland and Lost Magazine, and in Best Australian Stories 2009. She teaches Creative Writing at the Australian National University.
`A love story turns into a Cold War thriller: a beautifully, tautly written novel...I could not put it down.' -- Joan London
'Who We Were is a tale told simply with great poise and assurance. Neave has a strong narrative sense and a gift for the evocation of time and place.' * Weekend Australian *
'Neave's elegant, assured prose turns a run-of-the-mill love story into an intense and intriguing narrative that builds into a Cold War thriller...This is a first-class debut novel that crosses the literary and commercial divide.' * Herald Sun *
'Neave has written a powerful novel set in an intriguing time, with interesting Melbourne and New York-and a mysterious twist in the tale-woven in for good measure.' * Melbourne Weekly Times *