- THE DOROTHY HEWETT AWARD
By Sylvia Martin
“Late afternoon. An isolated lagoon, water glassy, teeming with birdlife—black swans, ducks, a pelican. Sunset begins to tint the sky. I point the camera at the water to catch the clouds reflected there just as a solitary duck swims into view. Everything in the photograph is familiar yet the effect is entirely strange. The duck is swimming across the sky...”
The reflections in Sky Swimming can be read as meditations on the enigmas of love, family, ageing, memory, home and belonging. At its heart is a mudbrick house built by two women on an ancient lava flow in the Warrumbungle Mountains, circling back to a childhood filled with music in Melbourne and an early career in the theatre. It fans out across the world to a family mystery in The Netherlands of the 1950s and a friendship in Montreal in the 1990s. Reflections on the process of writing feminist biography are included and the women from Martin’s biographies thread their way through the narrative alongside the people who have helped shape her life, often in unexpected directions.
In this delicate memoir Sylvia Martin considers the ways in which researching other women’s lives have led her deeper into her own. She asks how do you build, how do you write, a life?
Martin inducts us into the thrill of the biographical chase in this series of lyrical, yet unsentimental, vignettes. Sky Swimming is in turns rhapsodic and elegiac. PETA MURRAY