With Amanda Lohrey and Robert Dessaix.
Sydney, Pan Macmillan, 1997; Sydney, Picador, 1998.

The power of secrets draws together extended pieces by three of Australia's best-known writers. The ebb and flow of ideas, the weaving of image and story, reveal the potential that secrets have for carrying ideas about knowledge, envy, betrayal and shame. Each of the three stories offers very different explorations of particular secrets. The settings are richly contrasted, and the individual voices of the authors are distinguished by their writing styles and their approaches to holding, and then telling, a secret.

The characters in Drusilla Modjeska's story 'Ripe to Tell' are all touched by possession of an exotic piece of New Guinea art rescued in 1929 from the bottom of Lake Sentani, into which it had been cast by missionaries. Bound together across two generations, each characters is dramatically affected by its 'secret'.

" 'I' is a slippery creature, much given to ambiguity and prone to an almost chronic state of contingency. This too is in the nature of secrets, and increasingly I find that it suits me well."

Secrets, by Drusilla Modjeska


Nicholas Jose
Sydney Morning Herald
November 1997

In Secrets three of our best prose entertainers are summoned to a midnight feast where they pass the talking stick to take us beyond the expected and the known. I listen for what might be revealed by way of connective thread, the secret within the secret. The writers are intellectuals, rationalists of an ethically committed, politically engaged generation, yet each is edging towards things that rationality finds awkward. Quietly, unashamedly, they are finding salvation there. That is the real secret.

Joanna Murray-Smith
The Age
January 1998

Modjeska is such a skilled writer that, for the most part, the life of the story-telling and the self-consciousness of the title concept blend beautifully. The characters are defined with a moral rigour - we see them for their little failings, their hypocrisies. The narrator's niece, Rosie, is the voice of youth: all certain, all fixed. For her, 'every secret is a betrayal'. For the other, older characters, there is a recognition that our moral condition is never sacrosanct: passions find their way in. We may believe in the virtue of openness but we are forced into secrets because - like Dessaix's narrator - we can not quite bear to be viewed as our complete selves.

David Gaunt
Australian Bookseller & Publisher
October 1997

The concept is terrific: ask three superbly credentialed Australian writers to explore, in novella-length pieces, the subject of secrets. The range of their responses is fascinating. Drusilla Modjeska's 'Ripe to Tell''... glides effortlessly between the worlds of post-war Sydney art scene, London and the bush, and her familiar capacity to weave stories within stories, seamlessly, is beautifully in evidence.

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