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  • Published: 8 October 2024
  • ISBN: 9780143778080
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $24.99

Wifedom

Mrs Orwell's Invisible Life




A blazing, genre-bending masterpiece from one of the most inventive writers of our time.

* A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2023 *
* THE FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOKS OF 2023 - LITERARY NON-FICTION *


'Simply, a masterpiece. Here, Anna Funder not only re-makes the art of biography, she resurrects a woman in full. And this in a narrative that grips the reader and unfolds through some of the most consequential moments - historical and cultural - of the twentieth century.' GERALDINE BROOKS

‘There’s exhilaration in reading every brilliant word.’ CHLOE HOOPER

Looking for wonder and some reprieve from the everyday, Anna Funder slips into the pages of her hero George Orwell. As she watches him create his writing self, she tries to remember her own…

When she uncovers his forgotten wife, it’s a revelation. Eileen O’Shaughnessy’s literary brilliance shaped Orwell’s work and her practical nous saved his life. But why – and how – was she written out of the story?

Using newly discovered letters from Eileen to her best friend, Funder recreates the Orwells’ marriage, through the Spanish Civil War and WW II in London. As she rolls up the screen concealing Orwell’s private life she is led to question what it takes to be a writer – and what it is to be a wife.

Compelling and utterly original, Wifedom speaks to the unsung work of women everywhere today, while offering a breathtakingly intimate view of one of the most important literary marriages of the 20th century. It is a book that speaks to our present moment as much as it illuminates the past.
‘So, she will live writing the letters she did – six to her best friend, and three to her husband. I know where she was when she wrote them. I know that the dishes were frozen in the sink, that she was bleeding, that he was in bed with another woman – and she knew it. . . .I supply only what a film director would, directing an actor on set – the wiping of spectacles, the ash on the carpet, a cat pouring itself off her lap.’

  • Published: 8 October 2024
  • ISBN: 9780143778080
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Anna Funder

Anna Funder is the author of Stasiland and All That I Am - both international bestsellers, published in more than twenty-four countries - and the novella The Girl with the Dogs.
Her books have won multiple literary awards, including the UK's premier award for non-fiction, the Samuel Johnson Prize, for Stasiland, and Australia’s most prestigious, the Miles Franklin, for her novel All That I Am.
Originally trained as an international human rights lawyer, Anna is a former DAAD Fellow in Berlin, Australia Council Fellow, and Rockefeller Foundation Fellow. She lives in Sydney.

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Praise for Wifedom

Simply, a masterpiece. Here, Anna Funder not only re-makes the art of biography, she resurrects a woman in full. And this in a narrative that grips the reader and unfolds through some of the most consequential moments - historical and cultural - of the twentieth century.

Geraldine Brooks

There's exhilaration in reading every brilliant word.

Chloe Hooper

A truly wonderful biography ... Anna Funder has written another brilliant human portrait.

Claire Tomalin

An utter triumph, and nothing short of a miracle.

Anne Summers

Wonderful, unexpected and exciting from beginning to end.

Antonia Fraser

A strikingly original study that casts Orwell in new light. Deeply perceptive, it is a testament to forgotten wives of famous men everywhere.

Julia Boyd

Astounding … A profoundly essential, significant and groundbreaking work … a work of love for both Eric and Eileen.

Bernadette Brennan

A marvelous book … I just loved it all, and have a permanently marked-up, dog-eared copy on my shelf for the next generation.

Tom Hanks

Daring in both form and content, Funder’s book is a nuanced, sophisticated literary achievement … A sharp, captivating look at a complicated relationship and a resurrection of a vital figure in Orwell’s life.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Funder pulls no punches ... Full of keen psychological insight and eloquent prose, this shines.

Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

This intriguing work is a mix of styles and genres, blending academic research, literary reading and philosophical reflection into a riveting biography that not only rediscovers Eileen and paints a picture of a volatile period of history but also poses questions about what we value in art.

Books + Publishing

Blending forensic research, fiction, life writing and criticism, Funder upends the legacy of literary triumph to reveal the woman behind it ... Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life is a brilliant, creative hybrid of life writing, feminist polemic and literary criticism, which upends the way we read.

Susan Wyndham, Guardian

Wifedom is both an immovable and an irresistible book, an object and a force ... another great and important narrative of oppression and covert suppression.

Michael Hofmann, Australian Book Review

It’s hard to think of many other contemporary writers with such an acute eye for writing into the absences in the historical record.

Michael Williams, Saturday Paper

George Orwell’s first wife emerges vividly from Anna Funder’s new book … welcome and necessary, returning life to a woman who was gifted, vivid, complex and highly intelligent, who gave up her own ambitions in the furtherance of her husband’s.

Geordie Williamson, Weekend Australian

Wifedom is a damning catalogue of the ways women are diminished, ignored, trivialised and banished to the footnotes ... a masterclass in erasure.’

The Age

Funder is the perfect writer to integrate Orwell's legacy. She, too, has devoted her writing life to the subject of surviving tyranny.

The Conversation

Radical in its outlook and distinguished by a creative writer’s imaginative insights ... Funder’s evocation of Eileen’s fugitive life haunts this reader’s imagination. It is a spellbinding achievement.

Jason Harding, Financial Times

Electrifying … a genre-melding hybrid that allows Eileen’s likeness to be partially recovered through her own words and the testimonies of those who remembered her, as well as reimagined in fictional passages to flesh out the gaps in the record … Wifedom is a vital, if incomplete, portrait of a woman whose unseen work was instrumental in the creation of books that became cornerstones of 20th-century literature, the extent of her contribution impossible to measure, obscured as it is by the role of “wife”.

Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

Anna Funder is a premier-league writer who can roll fiction, reportage, criticism and memoir into glinting prose, her sentences like handheld treasures you keep turning over, admiring for their graceful contours and crafted precision.

Marina Benjamin, The Spectator

Now Anna Funder’s fascinating, furious, inventive biography of Eileen takes us more immersively into the Orwells' world. And Funder is a formidable writer for the job … In Wifedom she blends fiction, biography and autobiography to bring Eileen vividly alive on the page.

Alice O'Keefe, The Times

An extraordinary blend of forensic historical detective work and evocative fiction, as well as snatches of memoir. It not only writes O’Shaughnessy back into the story but also questions how far we’ve really come in terms of gender equality. To read about O’Shaughnessy is to fall in love with her.

Radio Times

Audaciously brilliant.

Jessie Thompson, The Independent

Meticulously researched and intelligently imagined, Funder’s masterpiece of creative non-fiction is exquisitely written with the humour, heart and boundless empathy Eileen O’Shaughnessy always deserved.

Nanci Nott, ArtsHub

Genre-bending, eye-opening, wonderfully written.

Fiona Sturgess, I Newspaper

In this rattlingly fierce book, Anna Funder sets out to unmask the “wicked magic trick” by which Eileen O’Shaughnessy Blair has been made to disappear … readers will be simply thrilled – and shaken – by this passionately partisan act of literary reparation.

Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Times

Elegantly and imaginatively (resurrects) Eileen.

The Economist

One of the most startling explorations of life-writing (Eileen’s, Orwell’s and Funder’s) in recent times … Wifedom is a genre-bending tour-de-force that resurrects an invisible woman, and relitigates the saintly image of the man she called “Eric”. … a moving, forensic act of biographical reconstruction … a brilliant display of literary reverse-engineering … after Funder, we will never look at this writer or his work in the same way again.

Robert McCrum, The Independent

Dazzling, infuriating … A biography, a critique of the art of biography, a witty essay and an act of rescue.

Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune

With the precision of a historian, Funder cobbles together scant details to reconstruct a life. And with the imaginative force of a novelist, she speculates in clearly sign-posted moments on what that life was like … A spectacular achievement of both scholarship and pure feeling. The sections of Eileen’s life that are imagined by Funder have a decidedly Woolfian flair.

Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times

An act of sisterly resurrection … Wifedom offers an imaginative, gripping and sometimes enraging account of a dysfunctional marriage.

Rosemary Goring, The Herald, Scotland

Astonishing ... Wifedom is no less than the rescue of a remarkable woman from the deliberate ellipses of default male history.

Caroline Criado-Perez

Funder is a boundary-breaking, risk-taking writer whose previous books synthesized memoir, fact and imagination to impressive effect … At her best, Funder shows that radical compassion – which is not the same as forgiveness – will move one closer to understanding, in marriage and biography, every time.

Donna Rifkind, Wall Street Journal

A virtuoso performance on the theme, adding personal memoir, some fictional reconstructions and a glittering sense of purpose.

Sarah Bakewell, New York Times

Wifedom is a book that dares to imagine lives beyond social conscription – for its author and its subjects … a chilling and spellbinding revisionist history about one of the 20th century’s most imposing authors. It could not exist without such a nimble and generous imagination.

Lauren LeBlanc, Boston Globe

A brilliant and often affecting portrait of a life.

Gemma Nisbet, The West Australian

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Out now! Available here: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/wifedom-9780143787112 Looking for wonder and some reprieve from the everyday, Anna Funder slips into the pages of her hero George Orwell. As she watches him create his writing self, she tries to remember her own… When she uncovers his forgotten wife, it’s a revelation. Eileen O’Shaughnessy’s literary brilliance shaped Orwell’s work and her practical nous saved his life. But why – and how – was she written out of the story? Using newly discovered letters from Eileen to her best friend, Funder recreates the Orwells’ marriage, through the Spanish Civil War and WW II in London. As she rolls up the screen concealing Orwell’s private life she is led to question what it takes to be a writer – and what it is to be a wife. Compelling and utterly original, Wifedom speaks to the unsung work of women everywhere today, while offering a breathtakingly intimate view of one of the most important literary marriages of the 20th century. It is a book that speaks to our present moment as much as it illuminates the past. 'Simply, a masterpiece. Here, Anna Funder not only re-makes the art of biography, she resurrects a woman in full. And this in a narrative that grips the reader and unfolds through some of the most consequential moments - historical and cultural - of the twentieth century.' - Geraldine Brooks ‘There’s exhilaration in reading every brilliant word.’ – Chloe Hooper

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