Dancing on Coral
Dancing on Coral was the fourth book and second novel by celebrated author Glenda Adams. With this book, Adams’ reputation as a writer of sparkling prose and subversive wit was cemented forever, though not without controversy: in 1987 it won several awards, including the Miles Franklin, but the NSW Premier’s Literary Award prize money was unfairly withheld because Adams was still living overseas. How ironic that this novel, itself drenched with irony, should portray the desperation and the desire of that quintessentially Australian post-war impulse to escape.
Dancing on Coral is the story of 1960s suburban girl Lark Watter, who follows a man and a dream by ship across the Pacific to the USA. Accompanied by the maddening yet wise Donna Bird (draped in scarves and always scribbling in green ink), Lark encounters frustration more than fulfilment when she finally reaches her romanticised destination of New York. The eponymous scene is one of the best I have ever read: and it must not be explained, so readers ought to buy this novel and find out for themselves. This reprint (part of Text Publishing’s Classics series) includes an excellent introduction by author and literary editor Susan Wyndham.
Glenda Adams was a writer and academic who taught creative writing at UTS for 10 years until 2003. She passed away in her hometown of Sydney in 2007.
This review originally appeared in the August edition of U: Mag