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The long-awaited new collection of short stories from Australia’s master of the short-story genre.

An artist marooned on a remote island in the Arafura Sea contemplates his survival chances. He understands his desperate plight and the ocean’s unrelenting power. But what is its true colour?

A beguiling young woman nurses a baby by a lake while hiding brutal scars. Uneasy descendants of a cannibal victim visit the Pacific island of their ancestor’s murder. A Caribbean cruise of elderly tourists faces life with wicked optimism.

Witty, clever, ever touching and always inventive, the eleven stories in The True Colour of the Sea take us to many varied coasts: whether a tense Christmas holiday apartment overlooking the Indian Ocean or the shabby glamour of a Cuban resort hotel.

Relationships might be frayed, savaged, regretted or celebrated, but here there is always the life-force of the ocean – seducing, threatening, inspiring.

In The True Colour of the Sea, Robert Drewe – Australia’s master of the short story form – makes a gift of stories that tackle the big themes of life: love, loss, desire, family, ageing, humanity and the life of art.


An elegant collection, muscular and subtle, from one of the best writers in Australia.

The Weekend Australian

With his narrative inventiveness, and the deft combination of a light touch and dark sensibility, Drewe offers a fresh perspective on oceanic themes - freedom, cleansing and renewal along with their obverse of entrapment, muck and danger. Playful undercurrents and perilous rips of eroticism run through these tales.

The Saturday Paper

[Drewe's stories] are dark but they are thrilling, and they roll along, taking the reader into marvellous places on the face of the Earth, as well as biting into truly terrible parts of the mind, the heart and the spirit.

The Weekend Australian

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    July 30, 2018

    Hamish Hamilton

    224 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    July 30, 2018

    Penguin eBooks

    224 pages

    Online retailers

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


Black Lake and Sugarcane Road

After I spotted a python climbing into her picnic basket and yelled out, I got chatting to a young woman down at Black Lake. She had a badly scarred face and a baby. She flipped one of her sandals at the snake, casually backhand, like she was throwing a frisbee; the snake uncoiled itself from the basket and slid up the nearest camphor laurel, and we got talking.

Diamond pythons aren’t venomous but it’s still a conversation starter to find one nestled in your sandwiches, near a newborn baby and all, and we went on to discuss local snakes in general, especially the number of dangerous eastern browns around this summer.

‘I hold the cane toad responsible,’ I told her. ‘It’s their fault the snake ratio is out of whack.’ I explained how before the toads migrated down here from Queensland, red-bellied black snakes used to keep the browns’ numbers down by eating their offspring. But not only did the toads get a taste for young black snakes, the adult blacks liked to eat cane toads, and then they died from the toads’ poison.

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