Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 19, 2018

Vale Beverley Farmer (1941-2018)

It is with sadness that I share news of the death of Beverley Farmer, who died last weekend after a long illness.

Beverley Farmer was a Melbourne author, educated at MacRob and graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1960 with a BA.  She spent time in Greece with her Greek husband but returned to Melbourne where she worked in various jobs to support her writing.

In 2009 she was awarded the Patrick White Award, for highly creative writers who have not received much recognition for their work.  (This annual prize is funded by the winnings from Patrick White’s Nobel Prize award).  This recognition was long overdue, though Farmer had won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction for Milk in 1984, and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award in 1996 for The House in the Light. 

Her short story collections include Snake (1982); Milk (1983); Home Time (1985); Collected Stories (1987) and her most recent publication with Giramondo, This Water: Five Tales (2017), which I reviewed here and which was shortlisted for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award.  I have yet to source any of her novels, which include Alone (1980); The Seal Woman (1992) and The House in the Light (1995), or her non-fiction The Bone House (2005) but I’ve read and admired A Body of Water: A Year’s Notebook (1990), (see my review).

In my review of The Body of Water, I wrote:

In the early pages, there is a sense of melancholy, brought about by the loss of friends. Farmer writes that ‘the invisible network of women reading each other’s work and cherishing it’ matters very much to her (p27), and she grieves for the loss of women writers that she knows both in real life (Marjorie Barnard, Olga Masters) and through their work (Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Katherine Mansfield).

It is our turn to grieve now for the loss of a great Australian writer…




  1. Oops, Lisa, I think she was born in 1941 not 1914! I had to check when I saw 1914 because that would have made her a very venerable age!

    I’m sorry to hear this. She was one of the women writers I fell in love with with I started my Aussie, well all, women writers project back in the 1980s. I read and loved Milk and Home-time back then. In fact, Hometime was the fifth book my reading group did in its now long existence. I have Body of water and The house in the light on my TBR but must find time to get to them.


    • Oh, dear, that is a bad typo, I’ll fix it now.
      It is sad…


  2. Oh, how sad Lisa. Thank you for such a heartfelt tribute. Beverley was in my night class at the old Praharan College many years ago with Gerald Murnane as our tutor. I remember her shy and apologetic reading of the story that later became her first published work and then onto a novel. The course was the precursor to professional writing courses for those of us yearning to be creative. I treasure my notes from that period and Gerald’s feedback. We all knew Beverley was talented and I’m so glad she persisted and gained recognition. Classes moved to Toorak College and I had to drop out for health and financial reasons but I have never forgotten the wonderful writers or tutors and if I close my eyes can picture Beverley reading her work. So talented and self-effacing – and courageous considering the topic – what a sad loss but a wonderful legacy.


    • Oh, that is a lovely memory to treasure.
      I am going to try harder to find her novels, I really would like to read more of her work.


  3. I have not read Farmer yet but I have heard good things. I happen to have a copy of This Water, kindly sent to me by a friend, and I’ve been eyeing it for when the TBR thins down a little.


    • I think you will really like her writing, Joe:)


  4. Sad news indeed. I still have my copy of Milk. She always went her own way, without regard for fashion or fear of criticism


    • Well, that’s what we want writers to do. Be themselves, be authentic…


  5. I was deeply saddened and shocked to read of Beverley’s death. We had been out of contact for some time. She was a dear friend. I have read all of her writing and we corresponded for some years. We met whenever I was near Pt Lonsdale. She sent me a number of books including her Bone House for my 70th. I could never understand why she had suddenly disappeared but now that I know she had Parkinson’s (such a shock) I understand why I was unable to find her again. I had planned to visit her on the 26th April and had been waiting to finish reading This Water before trying to phone her. A beautiful writer – beautiful friend. Vale Beverley.


    • Hello Janet, I am so sorry that you had to learn of the death of your friend in this way. She is a great loss to all of us who loved her writing, but it must be harder still when you have a personal connection.


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: