The Catherine Wheel: Text Classics

The Catherine Wheel: Text Classics


by Elizabeth Harrower
27 NOV 2014

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Extent: 352pp

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781922147950

Introduction by Ramona Koval

'The wind from Siberia as announced by the BBC came down Bayswater Road from the direction of Marble Arch…Searing skin, and petrifying metal and wood, it took possession of London and this early day of the new year. Gently, somehow sympathetically, with a secret sort of throb, my ears ached against it, but rather more drearily and with a sense of injustice my eyes watered as I narrowed them at the steely dark sky and swirling smoke. The centre of the universe! The brilliance of the winter season!'

Twenty-five-year-old Clemency James has moved from Sydney to a chilly bedsit on the other side of the world. During the day she studies for the bar by correspondence; in the evenings she gives French lessons to earn a meagre wage. When she meets Christian, a charismatic would-be actor, she can see he’s trouble—not least because he’s involved with an older woman who has children. She is drawn to him nonetheless: drawn into his world of unpayable debts and wild promises.

First published in 1960, The Catherine Wheel is Elizabeth Harrower’s third novel and the only one of her books not set in Australia. In it she turns her unflinching gaze on the grim realities of 1950s London, and the madness that can infect couples.


‘I love The Watch Tower, but I love The Catherine Wheel more. Like all the Harrower books, with their psychological mysteries, their droll humour, their brilliant language and ear for voices, The Catherine Wheel takes your hand from the first page and beckons you in.’ Ramona Koval

‘A brilliant achievement.’ Washington Post on The Watch Tower

‘First published in 1966, this book has traces of Patrick White mixed with the darkness of the brothers Grimm. It is a great novel due a rediscovery in the way that Stoner was championed by John McGahern.’  Irish Times on The Watch Tower

‘ A remarkable achievement.’

Australian Book Review on Down in the City

‘Rich and rewarding.’

Starred review, Kirkus

‘The Catherine Wheel is a great starting point for those new to Harrower’s work, those readers who are unafraid to face the darker aspects of desire we’re sometimes too ashamed to acknowledge.’

3am Magazine, Top Reads for 2015