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Kaz Cooke invites you to an audience with the amazing Ada. She's a show girl and a story teller with a trunk full of stories and secrets. A funny, tender novel about an extraordinary woman who made the very best of everything life threw at her.

‘It’s not every day a handsome young man appears on your doorstep to ask if you’re a respectable woman…’

Miss Ada Delroy and her famous vaudeville troupe stormed five continents, enchanting royalty, miners and larrikins alike with her wit, illusions, and breathtaking dances.

‘I had a diamond pendant near as big as an emu egg off the Maharajah of What's-His-Name. They named a racehorse after me, and a pigeon and a potato soup on an Orient steamship.'

Under the costume made from 100 yards of billowing silk was a woman who couldn’t help being both fabulous and disreputable. Down on her luck in a rented room in Melbourne, morphia cocktail in hand, Ada receives a visitor. Is she ready to share her secrets?

Inspired by photos of real 1890s vaudevillians, Kaz Cooke brings to life a forgotten world of cunning clairvoyants and trained cockatoos; of fierce loyalties and mixed lollies; the glamour of the stage and the muck of the road. Funny, inventive and lovingly researched, Ada is the story of an extraordinary woman in the toughest of times, with the courage to make herself the star.

‘I’ll tell you what I loved about being a theatrical. You’re a custodian of magic, a purveyor of glamour, a repository of mystery. You’re someone.’

'I was enchanting, and indefatigable, and dainty, and all the other words they find to avoid saying 'beautiful'. The word they used the most was 'piquant'. Makes you feel like chutney.' - Ada Delroy

A former reporter and cartoonist, Kaz Cooke is the author of the bestselling books Up The Duff, Kidwrangling, Girl Stuff, Girl Stuff 8–12, Women’s Stuff, and the children's picture books Wanda Linda Goes Berserk and The Terrible Underpants, which is not entirely autobiographical. This novel grew out of her research and exhibition during a Creative Fellowship at the State Library of Victoria, 2013-2015.



Ada is absolutely compelling, complex and real! This Lady Thesp leaps off the page and stage with a brilliant turn of phrase and a fascinating life. Laugh out loud - and heartbreaking.

Gina Riley

Cooke breathes life into historical facts, creating a charming narrator in Ada and skilfully capturing the highs and lows of life on the stage for a woman in the 1890s.

Cosima McGrath, The Big Issue

Kaz Cooke's sparkling exploration of the life of Ada Delroy carries an extra charge of realism and social comment ... Ada's memories are related in a monologue full of pain, vitality, affection and wit.

Folly Gleeson, The Newtown Review of Books

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    October 30, 2017


    272 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
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    • Abbey's Bookshop
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    • Collins Booksellers
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    • Robinsons Bookshop
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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    October 30, 2017

    Penguin eBooks

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • iBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks



It’s not every day a handsome young man appears on your front doorstep to ask if you’re a respectable woman.

Come in out of the terrible sunshine, and find somewhere to sit while I hoist myself back into bed. I’m in reduced circumstances, so you have a choice of the wooden chair from the scullery, the floor, or you can settle on the end of the coverlet near the window. I’m not infectious, I’m sure, but I shan’t take offence if you’d rather not sit close.

I shouldn’t be surprised at you bobbing up to investigate my suitability. I suppose you can’t permit just any old creature to be granted a charity cottage at the Old Colonists’ Homes for Desiccated Actors and Others of the Theatrical Profession. I’m more by way of being ‘Others’, myself, of course: a lady dancer, a comedian, and a comic singer. And as I’m sure your committee already knows, the head of my own travelling troupe. The Ada Delroy Company, lately extinct.

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Book Clubs
Ada Book Club Notes

Take your reading group on a journey of vaudevillian enchantment.

Researching Ada

Kaz Cooke reveals the impassioned rummaging to capture Ada Delroy on the page.

Also by Kaz Cooke