Home' LOTL : Jun July 2017 Contents Patience and Sarah
by Alma Routsong
The Well of
This gorgeous little novel, Patience and Sarah,
written in 1969 under Routsong’s pen name,
Isabel Miller, tells the story of two star-crossed
lovers living in early 19th century Greene
County, New York. Patience is a painter
from a more well-to-do family, who falls for
the cross-dressing ‘farmerette’, Sarah.
It is a tenderly told tale with hot sex scenes
that capture elements of lesbian romance
that are particular to girls who like girls.
Look, if you are of a certain age and
grew up in a place where there was not
aplethora of lesbian novels, chances are
you have read The Well of Loneliness.
Whether you have read it before or have
never read it, we urge you read it soon.
The Well of Loneliness is a seminal text when
it comes to lesbian literary representation,
and though the final outlook seems fatalistic,
the book provides us with moments of self-
discovery, warm love, and lesbian community
in the most inhospitable of contexts.
It would be a feat to have managed to miss
Mrs Dalloway. Woolf is a genius with words.
Her ability to string sentences together that
completely capture the complexities of an
emotion in a moment in time is something
that the rest of us can only imagine.
Mrs Dalloway tells the story of Clarissa
Dalloway. Clarissa likes to throw parties,
but the insecurities she attempts to
shroud by her party-giving can only
remain subsumed for so long.
Anna is a lesbian author who lives in
Sydney and has just published her
wonderful debut novel Dark Fires Shall
Burn, a crime novel set in post-WW2
Sydney, featuring a bunch of awesome,
queer characters. LOTL had a chat with
her this month!
Who is your favourite lesbian/queer
AW: Oh, that’s a hard question! May
I have a few? The late, great Dorothy
Porter, Kate Tempest, Roxane Gay, Pa-
tricia Highsmith, Virginia Woolf, Sarah
Waters, Dorothy Allison, and closer to
home Hannah Kent.
What was the first novel you read
that had a gay character?
AW: I think it was Christos Tsiolkas’
Loaded. I would have been 11 or 12.
Obviously, my parents didn’t supervise
what I took out ofthe library.
Queer sex workers feature in your
book, and are still a fixture in the sex
industry. What needs to change to
ensure more legal protection for sex
workers, and queer sex workers in
AW: Organisations like Scarlet Alliance,
Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP),
and ACON, all provide excellent servic-
es and advocacy. In a broader sense,
community attitudes need to change
and some of that comes through
reforming the way the media frames and
presents sex work and which will hope-
fully lead to changes in the law.
In your research for the novel, what is
the most interesting thing you discov-
ered about lesbian life in Sydney in
the 1940s and 50s?
AW: Rebecca Jennings wrote a stun-
ningly well-researched account of Syd-
ney’s lesbian history called Untamed
Desires, and Garry Wotherspoon’s
anthology Being Different, were both
great for grasping the consciousness of
the period. The most interesting detail I
discovered was the resounding impact
of WW2 on mobilising women into the
workforce and allowing them to make
connections with other women who
had the same desires that they did. It
fostered many relationships that other-
wise might never have been possible.
Why should queer ladies read your
AW: I would hope that anyone with
interest in this period of Australian
history, as the novel is based on a
true unsolved crime, would read this
regardless of their sexuality. However,
teenage Anna would have been stoked
to come across a literary crime novel
that doesnot shy away from the fact
that most of the major characters are
queer, without that being the focus of
Forgotten Lesbian Novels
Photo Credit Kaylee Hazell
30 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
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