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At sea can be a beautiful and ferocious place to find yourself – alone and together.

Growing up in inland Australia, Judy, a young teacher, has rarely seen the sea. But when she flees a rioting classroom one dismal Friday, a dud and a failure, she gets drunk and wakes up on a boat. Overnight her life changes; she is in love with being on the water and in love with Wes Bannister who lives on the boat. Sailing was not something Judy had ever thought about wanting, but now she craved it. Wind was the best teacher she’d had, by far…

From then on, Judy believes that the one trusted continuation of herself is with Wes, and always will be, but then events at sea challenge their closeness. Must they become competitors against each other in the push to be equals? It seems they must.

A Sea-Chase is a novel that vividly tracks ambition, self-realisation, and lasting love tied up in a sea story. The idea that nobody who sets off to do something alone, without family, friends, rivals, and a pressing duty to the world, ever does so alone, finds beautiful, dramatic expression in Roger McDonald's tenth, and most surprising novel.


A Sea-Chase is a salty affair, mixing descriptive writing about the sea with portrayals of characters grappling with politics and life on the ocean waves, set in the late 1970s and '80s. The heart and soul of the novel is McDonald's gripping and poetic description of sailing and the sea. And there is, as there should be, a thrilling shipwreck, showing that the sea can be cruel, as well as kind to sailors ... it's also a book about the sea itseld - a subject that has inspired great literature for centuries. the tradition continues.

Phil Brown, QWeekend, The Courier-Mail

When McDonald puts out to sea, so to speak, he is in splendid form, at his most engaged and brilliant.

Brian Matthews, Australian Book Review

A brilliantly controlled hybrid fiction. It is a democratic epic, a human comedy and an exploration of how, to their cost, many are wounded solitaries, however companionable they seem. There are no easy surprises in A Sea-Chase, rather a clear-eyed apprehension by McDonald of what idealism and perversity, inextricably blended, can enable individuals to attempt. The ending of the novel is quiet and poignant, though it does not — one hopes — signal the conclusion of one of the most original, un­obliged and compelling careers of Australian novelists who, happily, are still among us.

Peter Pierce, The Australian

A Sea-Chase will satisfy landlubbers and boaties alike with nautical jargon and poetic ocean scenes, though it's McDonald's unexpected turns of phrase that set him apart. A Sea-Chase is a story about being a little lost and looking for a steadfast belief, a guiding star: love and freedom to temper self-doubt and anxious expectation.

Helen Sullivan, The Sydney Morning Herald

This is a story about lives lived differently, risks taken to pursue dreams and not compromising in order to be honest in relationships and in the rest of life. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Melissa Wilson, Good Reading magazine

A Sea-Chase tells the story of a life-changing meeting between Judy, a young teacher from outback Australia, and Wes, who lives on a boat in Sydney Harbour. Told with the simplicity and clarity that epitomises McDonald's prose, A Sea-Chase tells of Judy and Wes's evolving relationship. A Sea-Chase is a novel that vividly records ambition, self-realisation and lasting love tied up in a beautiful, dramatic sea story. In the end, Judy, the girl from the bush, achieves her ambition at sea, crossing vast oceans alone.

Peter Campbell, AFLOAT

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    October 30, 2017

    Vintage Australia

    288 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    October 30, 2017

    Random House Australia

    288 pages

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    • Amazon Kindle AU
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    • eBooks



Last period Friday an acting inspector found a young teacher sobbing at her desk in the farthest demountable classroom of the lower secondaries of an outer suburban high school. She had made a wrong turn, she wailed. A wrong turn into teaching. A subject report spread in front of Judy Compton splashed with tears said she created a ‘zone of indifference’ in her classes. It meant she was a dud.

‘Dud is a word I never want to hear from you ever again,’ the inspector said, pulling up a chair that had been thrown to the ground after a rioting class fled for the day. Passing Judy a box of tissues, he leaned forward over her desk with a manner implying he had known her for longer than thirty seconds, which he hadn’t.

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