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September 18, 2017


The Slow Natives

by N@ncy


  • Author: Thea Astley  (1925-2004)
  • Title: The Slow Natives
  • Published: 1965
  • Genre: social satire
  • Setting: Condamine  (Queensland Australia)
  • Toneempathetic  as Astely examines the lives…so recognizable to her
  • Publication success:  this book won the Miles Franklin Award 1965 and
  • gained Astely  her well-deserved audience in the U.S.
  • It was her to be her breakthrough…novel.



  1. I choose the image of a family of elephants to represent
  2. the central characters, the Leversons, in this book.
  3. …Bernard, Iris and their son Keith.
  4. Astely revealed how she came across the title of the book.
  5. It is based on a joke she heard:
  6. What’s the black stuff between the elephant’s toes?
  7. Slow natives. (pg 160, Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather)



  1. A suburban couple, Iris and Bernard, 
  2. …have drifted into the shallows of middle-aged boredom.
  3. Their fourteen-year-old son, Keith  is a stranger.
  4. The boy slips into petty theft…shoplifting.
  5. This is a portrait of the surface of ordinary life
  6. …but underneath emotions are rising.
  7. Astley alternates chapters about Iris, Bernard and Keith with
  8. Father Lingard and Sister Matthew.
  9. They are doubting their religious vocations.
  10. Miss Trumper and Miss Paradise .
  11. Spinsters now in their fifties…life has passed them by.


Book and Astley’s life:

  1. Astley has used many aspects of 
  2. her family, unstable marriage and life-long struggle with Catholicism.
  3. Sister Matthew –  psychologically unhinged nun –  Astley’s  Catholic convent education
  4. If you have ever been taught by those self-effacing Catholic nuns
  5. you will appreciate Astley’s imagery.
  6. This brings back memories:
  7. Favorite Quote:  (Sister Matthew with pupil Eva)
  8. “… gently touching her arm with a force that was not at all physical,
  9. but held the compulsion that brings mountains to Mahomet.” (pg 52)


  1. Father Lingard  – sexually starved spinster priest = Astley’s  brother Phil who was a priest
  2. Astley felt the church was stealing his time….stealing his life.
  3. The Leversons are based on her own family =  husband Jack and son Ed
  4. Bernard Leverson is a piano teacher =  based on Astely’s music teacher A. Sharman
  5. Keith LeversonAstley’s rebellious son  =  Ed
  6. Iris Leverson  = Thea Astley’s own self-absorbed personality



  1. Keith: desperate need for a father’s firm hand
  2. Bernard: finally becomes emotionally engaged with son
  3. …while the boy is unconscious in hospital….he is almost too late.
  4. Iris: ‘one-liner’s, her smart-arsed cracks
  5. …relieved the tension in the marriagebut not for long.
  6. Poor Iris.her adultery had not been a success.
  7. Husband Bernard did not care and the other one (Gerald) was not tortured.
  8. Favorite quote:
  9. “Let someone, anyone, love me, she prayed, burning the toast.”
  10. Thea Astley is in top-form ….social satire about Condamine Australia!



  1. I did not think Astley’s writing could get any better.
  2. It does!
  3. After reading Girl With a Monkey (1958), Descant for Gossips (1960)
  4. and The Well Dressed Explorer (1962)
  5. this is the best book so far!
  6. It won the Miles Franklin Award 1965.
  7. Astely was asked what is the most difficult part of writing?
  8. She said writing dialogue that does not sound trivial.
  9. This book is filled with clever… eggshell brittle dialogue
  10. …with dazzling metaphors, dense prose.
  11. Strong point: Astley’s skill in constructing the perfect image with
  12. an action verb that ties it all up into a neat powerful package!
  13. Example:  …lollipop umbrella’s had their color sucked from them by the sun.
  14. Example: …along the drooping eyelids the blood pulsed lavender.
  15. This is a gem!


Read  #Thea Astley:   here is a list of her  books….I plan to read all of them!

  1. Girl with a Monkey (1958) – READ
  2. A Descant for Gossips (1960) – READ
  3. The Well Dressed Explorer (1962) – READ
  4. The Slow Natives (1965) – READ  (breakthrough novel…..Miles Franklin Award 1965)
  5. A Boat Load of Home Folk (1968)
  6. The Acolyte (1972) (This was Thea Astley’s favorite book)
  7. A Kindness Cup (1974)
  8. An Item from the Late News (1982)
  9. Beachmasters (1985)
  10. It’s Raining in Mango (1987)
  11. Reaching Tin River (1990)
  12. Vanishing Points (1992)
  13. Coda (1994)
  14. The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow (1996)
  15. Drylands (1999)
Read more from Uncategorized
9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 21 2017

    Yes, I know, I really must read more Astley.

    Your delight & enthusiasm though is enough to keep me going 😊


    • Sep 21 2017

      I never would have heard of Thea Astley…if it were not for you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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