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As the day unfolds, lies are told, choices are revisited, family, friends and strangers are lost and found and Lilith Grainger discovers it’s exhausting being an unknown woman.

As the day unfolds, lies are told, choices are revisited, family, friends and strangers are lost and found and Lilith Grainger discovers it’s exhausting being an unknown woman.

It is Tuesday May 15 and accidental housewife Lilith Grainger wakes to find herself in a photograph on the front page of the newspaper, in a place she shouldn’t be, in a world her privileged family knows nothing about.

At the centre of the novel is 44 year old Lilith Grainger a former actuary who gave up work to look after her two children. It was meant to be for a year or so, but that year or so has turned into 10. She has a lovely, funny husband Bernie who works as a lawyer. Two children, Olivia (14) and Daniel (11) a father in a nursing home, a CEO brother who has just been accused of sexual harassment at work, a neighbour who is getting under her skin (some may say she is becoming obsessed by her) and a mother-in-law coming for dinner.

Lilith’s relationship with her selfie obsessed 14-year-old daughter, her overweight son, her good husband who works long hours, her convenience friend Nikki, her mother-in-law Garland who has launched a successful career as a sculptor at 63, are all laid bare.

The Unknown Woman is a portrait of a woman who doesn’t know who she is anymore and a portrait of modern life.


This skilfully written and unusual novel deliberately departs from the conventions of realist fiction. The "unknown" in the title isn't just about suburban anonymity: Lilith is unknown to herself. This is making her act in strange ways, including trespassing and an almost-kidnapping. The novel is disturbing and engaging in about equal proportions.

Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald

This is top-end literary commercial fiction. The writing is so sharp, the imperfect characters so well drawn that it's not an oversell to rate it as one of the best releases of 2014.

Samantha Bond, InDaily Adelaide News

The Unknown Woman is not black and white. It approaches the question of whether a woman should or should not stay at home with her children—and for how long—from many angles. Lunn also acknowledges that the question itself is a privileged one that many Australian families can’t afford to consider. The novel debunks the concept that women can have it all and seeks out those sacrifices that women necessarily make. The story of the male midlife crisis is one we know well, the female one less so, and The Unknown Woman is a nuanced portrait of both a woman and a society poised in a state of uncertainty.

Margot McGovern, lip lit

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    May 1, 2014

    Vintage Australia

    288 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

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

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    May 1, 2014

    RHA eBooks Adult

    384 pages

    Online retailers

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

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Jacqueline Lunn

Under The Influence


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Best Laid Plans
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Fool Me Once
Private Delhi
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Swing Time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Girls
The Mistress
The Bone Collection
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
The Trip of a Lifetime