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Bodies Of Light


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About the Author

Jennifer Down is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Age, Saturday Paper, Australian Book Review and Literary Hub. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year consecutively in 2017 and 2018. Our Magic Hour, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her second book, Pulse Points, was the winner of the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction and the 2018 Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection in the Queensland Literary Awards, and was shortlisted for a 2018 NSW Premier's Literary Award. She lives in Naarm/Melbourne.


'In Bodies of Light, Jennifer Down crafts a story of almost impossible regeneration from the ashes of unbearable pain and loss...With ethical precision, Down insists that we do not look away from the destructive consequences of life on the fringes, that we do not render invisible those who come through, miraculously, despite decades spent in the shadows of institutionalised neglect, socially sanctioned loneliness, unforgivable poverty and the attendant abuse that accompanies these conditions...Bodies of Light is a novel of affirmation, resilience and survival, told through an astonishing voice that reinvents itself from age six to sixty.' * 2022 Miles Franklin judges' comments *
'Brutal and beautiful-I couldn't stop reading it. Jennifer Down is a brilliant writer.' * Victoria Hannan *
'Mesmerising, uncompromising and extraordinary. A whole life is in these pages.' * Robbie Arnott *
'Fierce and compelling. Down's compassion for her character, her refusal to look away from intolerable suffering, is a lesson for us all. A novel with immense dignity and heart.' * Carrie Tiffany *
'Jennifer Down is going to be a major part of the future of Australian literature. The quality of her writing, as well as her ability to tap into the loves, fears and anxieties many of us experience guarantee this.' * Readings Monthly *

'Pulse Points consolidates [Down's] reputation as a remarkable young writer. Her stories are effortlessly global yet strongly anchored in place. They testify to Down's remarkable powers of observation and her ability to create bleak but engaging worlds.'

* Michelle de Kretser, Australian Book Review *

'Jennifer Down is a subtly extraordinary writer, and Pulse Points is one of the best Australian literary offerings we'll see this year.'

* Good Reading *
'Bodies of Light is Jennifer Down's third book and her best yet...A brilliant, sharply observed and deeply affecting epic that secures Down's status as one of the best writers in Australia today.' * Books+Publishing *
'A remarkably empathic book...a life that the reader cannot deny.' * Declan Fry, Guardian *
'A story of a woman's remarkable resilience, the possibility of human kindness, and the necessity of hope...Intelligently, tenderly restrained.' * Australian Book Review *
'Down is reframing altogether the way that difficult life events can be written about and can be rendered artistically without becoming manipulative or sensationalised...An incredibly propulsive book...I gobbled it up.' * Patrick Carey, RN Bookshelf *
'There is no other release in 2021 that I would recommend more passionately to almost every reader. Bodies of Light is so full of beauty and hope, not least because Down is an incredibly accomplished writer, who manages to plunge the reader into time and place with astonishing depth and assuredness... The care that Down takes to give us trauma that feels genuine-though sometimes uncomfortably so-means that Bodies of Light remains a grounded and satisfying read. By striving for authenticity and for hopefulness in its depiction of Maggie's chequered existence, Down's novel avoids the opera of trauma for titillation, instead serving what feels like fidelity, understanding and dignity.' * Matilda Dixon-Smith, Meanjin *
'It should come as no surprise that Jennifer Down has delivered another gem. But Bodies of Light is streets ahead of her earlier work, bringing the sophistication and craft of her short stories together with her keen insight into the ways we all yearn for connection, and the things that keep us apart...Heartbreaking as it may be, this novel is so rich with the details, both visceral and true, of Josie's life that it will be deeply felt by everyone who reads it.' * Bec Kavanagh, Readings Monthly *
'A truly stunning novel...with such rich emotional depth.' * 3RRR Glasshouse *
'Mesmerising, brutal and unforgettable.' * Laura Brading, Sydney Morning Herald *
'A sweeping, intensely immersive novel.' * Kill Your Darlings *
'This is an absolute staggering, heart in your mouth read. While often brutal--the main character, Maggie, is confronting the trauma wrought from being a ward of the state for all of her childhood--the writing is shot through with light. I don't think I've read anything that so viscerally writes the body on the page. Calling into question notions of identity, invisibility, sexuality, trauma and belonging, Maggie's relationship with her own body and the bodies of others is devastating and sublime. I could not put this down.' * Molly Murn, Matilda Bookshop *
'An ambitious novel that explores the psychological fallout of a life that has gone wrong from the start...Down is one of Australia's most promising young writers.' * Stephen Romei, Saturday Paper *
'Bodies of Light is an assured second novel, from the mind of a writer who has taken the time to really think through what she wants to express in a novel, and how she wants the reader to feel as they go through it...It is laden with emotions and gorgeous images and is unafraid of sentimentality. Reading this book is like getting sucked up into a blanket, and when you emerge out of the cocoon, the world around you looks a bit different. Or maybe, you look at it differently, with a bit more care, I think.' * Madeleine Gray, Sydney Review of Books *
'Extraordinary...Tender and spiky, evocative and engrossing, this gorgeous novel will break your heart and linger in your brain.' * Jo Case, InDaily *
'[Down] takes her skills to new heights with the stunning Bodies of Light...It's a major achievement, and is exactly my kind of Great Australian Novel.' * Alison Huber, Readings Monthly *
'Overwhelmingly affecting and empathic, at times surprisingly hopeful, this is a remarkable read and one of our favourite books of the year.' * WellRead *
'Staggering in its scope, encompassing half a century of life lived by its magnetic and mystifying central character...Down balances [the] darkness with small moments of beauty, rendering Maggie's complex, harrowing life with grace, humanity and hope...A dignified documentation bearing witness to a life both quiet and immense, Bodies of Light is Down's strongest work yet.' * Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Age *
'Exquisitely written and extraordinarily tender.' * RNZ Nine to Noon *
'A heartbreaking story that confronts you with an honest and compelling narrative and a flawed, complex female protagonist who endures more than you think possible. Gripping, tender and thought provoking, Bodies of Light leaves you wanting more.' * Byron Shire Echo *
'An epic Bildungsroman that honours the dignity of crafting a life in the wake of childhood trauma.' * Yves Rees, ABR Books of the Year 2021 *
'A truly beautiful modern Australian novel-one that grabs hold of you the second you enter it, and absolutely will not let you go... Jennifer Down is clearly one of Australia's best young novelists... An epic and transformative novel, the journey through which changes you as the reader, and also your understandings of the world. [Down] takes such intense trauma and pain that her character suffers and turns it into a lovely magnificence...It was a privilege to have read this book; someone please wipe my mind so I can do it all over again.' * James Blackwell, Overland *
'A tremendous book.' * 2SER Final Draft *
'The most moving book I've read over the past few years. This is a wonderful, sad and hugely empathetic book and I'm so glad I read it.' * Ellen Cregan, Kill Your Darlings *
'A story of one person's life, and at the same time, a reflection of the numerous lives we all lead. The book contains themes that are often depicted in a simplistic, gratuitous way but Down presents them with tenderness and grace, and as someone living with the ongoing effects of trauma I found the experience of reading this extremely validating and moving. She has created characters that feel so real I realised I was delaying the final chapter because I didn't want to say goodbye.' * Deidre Fidge, Kill Your Darlings *
'Remarkable, brutal...[A] detailed, carefully observed, tenderness-and-rage study of childhood on the edge.' * Kate Evans, RN Bookshelf *
'An ambitious novel...that sees Down demonstrate her imaginative range and take risks...The result is a daring and compelling work, suffused with pathos and an impressive degree of empathic vulnerability.' * 2022 Stella Prize judges' report *
'Epic, exquisite..Down writes her heroine's story with great empathy and love.' * ABC *
'[A] beautifully controlled account of a life devastated by systemic failure...Down's narrative is layered and sweeping.' * Honi Soit *
'Bodies of Light is a virtuoso performance from Jennifer Down, showing a remarkable level of research, imagination, and art...Lyrical, staggeringly rich in detail, moving and ambitious, Bodies of Light establishes Jennifer Down as one of Australia's most important writers.' * 2022 Barbara Jefferis Award judges comments *
'Suffused with moments of great beauty...Unforgettable.' * Good Weekend *
'I can't remember the last time I inhaled a book as quickly as I did Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down.' * Gleebooks *
'Outstanding...Bodies of Light requires attention and patience, unfolding at its own pace and ending up exactly where it should be.' * Spectator *
'The Miles Franklin judges got it right this year-this is a masterwork...Jennifer Down is a writer with profound insight, skill and compassion and I can't even imagine how she'll top this extraordinary novel.' * Triple R *
'Distinctive, unflinching.' * New York Times *

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