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  • Published: 1 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9781925324228
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.99

Music and Freedom

Winner of the 2016 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, a gripping and beautifully written novel for fans of Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Strout.

'I have no use for forgiveness, not yet. But other ideas like that, kindness, for example, I think that is fundamental. Resurrection; I like that too. And love, of course, love, love, love.'

Alice Murray learns to play the piano aged three on an orange orchard in rural Australia. Recognising her daughter’s gift, her mother sends Alice to boarding school in the bleak north of England, and there Alice stays for the rest of her childhood. Then she’s offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, and on a summer school in Oxford she meets Edward, an economics professor who sweeps her off her feet.

Alice soon finds that Edwards is damaged, and she’s trapped. She clings to her playing and to her dream of becoming a concert pianist, until disaster strikes. Increasingly isolated as the years unravel, eventually Alice can’t find it in herself to carry on. Then she hears the most beautiful music from the walls of her house …

This novel’s love story is that of a woman who must embrace life again if she is to survive. Inspiring and compelling, it explores the dark terrain of violence and the transformative powers of music and love.

  • Published: 1 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9781925324228
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Zoe Morrison

Zoë Morrison is the author of the debut novel Music and Freedom, which won the 2017 ALS Gold Medal, the 2016 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, was iBooks Australian Fiction Book of the Year for 2016 and short-listed for an ABIA award. Morrison has a DPhil in human geography from Oxford University where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar before working as a college lecturer in geography and gender studies. She has done research and advocacy in the fields of violence against women and social justice. She also has an LMusA in piano performance. She lives in Melbourne.

Praise for Music and Freedom

A sublime work of literature, filled with fierce intelligence, gentle humour and, above all, enormous heart.

Alice Pung

a thrilling journey of self-discovery, one that examines the outer limits of what a human being can endure and the possibilities for healing to be found in love and art.


This is a wise novel that brings with the story a wonderful sense of music and passion. Morrison’s writing is perfectly paced and at times very beautiful. This novel is for those who love the writing of Anna Goldsworthy, Alice Pung and Elizabeth Jolley. I adore a story of redemption, and also of resilience. This debut novel is sonnet to both.

Chris Gordon, Readings magazine

[A] beautifully written and satisfyingly elaborated novel ... the book has a lovely musical lightness to it that is most attractive

Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

Music and Freedom urges us toward 'balance ... Rhythm versus rubato. Tightness versus looseness. Head versus heart.' In tracing Alice's journey of discovery and recovery, Morrison reveals how this harmony can be achieved – in music, life, and the written word.

Australian Book Review

This novel is a symphony. Beautiful. Haunting. Composed perfectly. Like the often referenced classical masterpieces in the text – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Rachmaninoff. It contains within its pages the delightful slow build, the epic crescendo and the devastating silence.

Kate, manager, Sun Bookshop

Morrison's fiction never falters. Her style sings and the structure revolves like a spiral staircase ... Milan Kundera writes of novels in musical terms: a part is a movement; a chapter is a measure; each part carries a musical indication, a tempo, that conveys an emotional expression. Instinctively, and by design, Morrison's novel brings all of these contrasting elements to perfect balance, creating a taut narrative with space between the lines ... [She] opens up access not just to the way Alice's mind works but how language can evoke classical music.

The Age

A sensitively written debut novel by an entrancing storyteller ... Zoë Morrison has an advocacy background in social justice issues, such as gender inequality and social exclusion, and has worked in areas relating to domestic violence and sexual assault. Her experience clearly shows in her deft and straightforward writing of this poignant and unforgettable book

South Coast Register

A tender examination of the crushing impact of disadvantage and petty domestic tyrannies on the promise of a talented concert pianist ... In its representation of important truths around gender inequality and violence against women, Music and Freedom has given Morrison a voice more powerful than had she persisted with her concert music and quasi-government career.

Linda Morris, Sydney Morning Herald

This is a finely tuned study of an abusive relationship ... The novel begins vaguely, the first two chapters like the exposition in music, introducing themes in contrasting styles that swell and dive into a narrative that's exquisite in style and devastating in detail until it rises with hope.

Herald Sun

I adored Music and Freedom ... You do not have to love music to enjoy this book. [It] is skilfully structured and will dance you through the symphony of Alice’s life. Completely engrossing, artfully written, bursting with heart. An absolute winner.

Love That Book blog

Exploring themes of love, loneliness, and the price of artistic expression, Music and Freedom is an ambitious and considered debut novel. Morrison’s characters are vividly drawn, and their relationships portrayed with exquisite sensitivity. The novel is engaging and structurally sound. Morrison writes about sound and music with a joy and poetry even the unmusical can appreciate – providing a stunning and heartfelt counter to the dark relationship that forms between the two main characters. Music and Freedom is challenging, stylistically sure, accomplished, and consistent. Above all though, it is simply a good story, beautifully written.

Maxine Beneba Clark

Elegant, powerful writing

Graeme Simsion

[Alice] is an immediately engaging character, quirky, intelligent and wayward, with a belief in resurrection, and love...Beautifully written and satisfyingly elaborated.

Adelaide Advertiser

Zoë Morrison’s prize-winning Music and Freedom is hauntingly dark, but exquisitely written; there are scenes from it that still won’t leave me.

Maxine Beneba-Clarke, Books of the Year, Guardian

A rich, fierce and satisfying book, animated by a deep love of music.

Anna Goldsworthy, author of PIANO LESSONS

Music and Freedom I found completely compelling ... It’s very very deftly done by Zoe Morrison -throughout there is this completely accurate consideration of music, classical music, and the role it plays in somebody’s life.

Jason Steger's Book of the Year, ABC Book Club

Awards & recognition

The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction

Winner  •  2016  •  The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction

ALS Gold Medal Award

Shortlisted  •  2017  •  ALS Gold Medal Award

Indie Book Awards

Longlisted  •  2017  •  Indie Book Awards (Debut Fiction)

Discover more

Zoe Morrison Q&A

The Music and Freedom author on the book’s inspiration and creation.

Music and Freedom book club notes

A debut novel to savour: Zoë Morrison’s Music and Freedom.

Book List
Rhythms of life

Books that move to a musical pulse.

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