Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 13, 2010

Opening Lines: The Acolyte, by Thea Astley (1972)

Thea Astley(1925-2004) won four Miles Franklin awards.  Two of them she shared with other authors: the first of these was in 1962 for The Well Dressed Explorer which was shared with George Turner for The Cupboard Under the Stairs; and the other, for Drylands in 2000 was shared with Kim Scott’s Benang.  She won the award in her own right with  The Slow Natives in 1965, and again 1972 with The Acolyte.

My copy, with its authentic 1970s fluorescent cover (what were they thinking??) came from Kay Craddock’s Antiquarian Bookshop.  Inside it there is a little slip from the publishers Angus & Robertson dated August 24th 1972, which notes that the price of the book was $4.50 and asks the person receiving this presumably complimentary copy to send their review. But the book looks and feels pristine, so perhaps the review was never written!

These are the opening lines:

‘Credible?’ he asked, swivelling his dark glasses round on the chair where he had supposed Neilsen to be sitting. But the chair was empty and Neilsen, shoving his sticky proboscis critically over a port, had ambled across the room to the piano and spoke his mercantile rubbish straight into the back of the questioner’s head.

‘It’s a splendidly crafted little score,’ he conceded. ‘Splendidly. Bubbling. Active. Mildly sardonic at times, I think you’d agree, Holberg, but only mildly. And always utterly credible.’

It’s a witty, intelligent book – redolent with Astley’s bitter cynicism – and it’s wickedly funny. See my review.

Author: Thea Astley
Title: The Acolyte
Publisher: Angus & Robertson 1972
ISBN 0207124221
Source: Personal Library, purchased from Kay Craddock’s Antiquarian Bookshop, $50.00


  1. Everytime you mention Astley I feel so guilty. I’ve really got to extract Drylands out of the TBR to read this year!


  2. *chuckle*
    Every time I do these opening lines for Astley’s Miles Franklin winning books *I* feel guilty – because the only other one I’ve read is Drylands!
    I’ll get to them one day…


  3. […] The Acolyte (1972), see my review and the Opening Lines […]


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