Photo credit: Danika Cottrell
Jessie Cole grew up in an isolated valley in Northern NSW, and still lives in the house of her childhood. Her first novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was shortlisted for the 2013 ALS Gold Medal and longlisted for the Dobbie Literary Award. Her second novel, Deeper Water, was released in 2014 to much critical acclaim, with Portia Lindsay calling it a ‘fine and elegantly written novel’ in the Weekend Australian, and Naama Amram stating – ‘Deeper Water delivers on its title’s promise of immersion, sensuality, and the liminal … a compelling examination of our relationship with nature’ in the ABR.
Her work has also appeared in many Australian publications, including Best Australian Essays, Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Island Magazine, The Lifted Brow, Good Weekend, Big Issue, Daily Life and the Guardian.
Jessie’s memoir, Staying, was released by TEXT in 2018, and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-fiction.
Drop her a line at jessie.x.cole (at) gmail (dot) com
Reviews of Staying:
‘A wounded, lovely, luminous book about grief, trauma and the strange healing potential of words.’ Tim Winton
‘A work of shining brilliance.’ Romy Ash
‘Staying aches and pulses with life … Cole is a writer of immense talent.’ Anna Krien
‘Staying is rich and complex – and often surprisingly funny given its dark subject matter. Above all, this memoir is a meditation on what it means to be traumatised by loss, and ultimately to be healed by life.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘It is a literary achievement, but always a human story. Its message is that life has a tenacious power to draw us out of states of bereavement that, if surrendered to, have the capacity to destroy us entirely … The challenge is the one Cole meets and betters in this lovely, sad, sometimes luminous memoir: to hold the brokenness that grief creates without becoming broken oneself. To find consolation in remaining unconsoled.’ The Weekend Australian
‘This touching memoir from Australian author Jessie Cole, whose childhood was irrevocably changed when her sister committed suicide, offers a rare personal take on unthinkable tragedy.’ Elle
‘When Australia’s cultural narratives insist an artist must leave home to succeed, Cole shows one forged by staying put. She still inhabits her fallen Eden today. It’s surprising that, in the midst of such sorrow, what resounds is a sensation of fecundity. But perhaps it’s not, from a writer of such talent and grace.’ The Saturday Paper
‘Staying is a well-written, extremely moving memoir that steers resolutely clear of stereotypes and self-pity … For all the darkness, there is light too. Cole is a gifted writer with a sensual turn of phrase, and her exploration of the reverberating effects of suicide is both illuminating and absorbing. It will appeal to readers who loved her previous novels.’ Books+Publishing
‘This is a tender book about family, loss and trauma, and it deserves a wide readership.’ Readings Magazine
‘Staying is a heartbreaking testament to the despair, helplessness and guilt of those left behind.’ Australian Financial Review
Order a copy from Text Publishing. Or any good bookstore!
Reviews of Deeper Water:
‘She takes us to a place of the strangest innocence and lovingness … And she takes us to a physical place that’s quite her own, and when you go to her country – the lush but uneasy country inland from Byron Bay – you recognise at once that she’s the voice of it, the country speaks in her voice, though the captivating wise gentleness of that voice belongs only to Jessie.’
“Deeper Water is a fine and elegantly written novel from an impressive writer.”
The Weekend Australian
“Deeper Water delivers on its title’s promise of immersion, sensuality, and the liminal … a compelling examination of our relationship with nature.”
Australian Book Review
“Cole’s characters are, each one, perfectly drawn examples of flawed and fragile humans, and she evokes the landscape in which she herself grew up and still lives with the tender familiarity of a child for its mother. This is a softly spoken coming-of-age tale that deserves the label tour de force.”
North & South Magazine
“Mema’s narrative voice is quiet and measured, never giving very much away but at the same time revealing the immense depth and intensity of her feelings that sit just below the surface. Her longing is mysterious, and Cole’s descriptive prose imbues it with the gloriously sensual anticipation of a bud about to burst into bloom. A compelling and satisfying read; its sensuality and earthiness give a mythical quality to the regional Australian landscape.”
“A fierce momentum tugs the reader by the belt buckle, causing her to flip pages to see when the tension will be finally released. Cole’s talent lies in the depiction of the intangible feelings of a sexual awakening.”
Newtown Review of Books
“With its simple yet elegant prose, and quiet yet deeply felt emotion, Deeper Water is a mesmerising story about a young woman’s awakening to the possibilities of love and life.”
Shelleyrae, Book’d Out
“Jessie Cole is an exciting talent, who with Deeper Water proves that she is an Australian writer to watch.”
“Now and then it’s hard to write a review about a certain book – not because there is nothing to say but rather because I struggle with what to say that will be enough to truly capture the essence of the book and then adequately relay that to readers of my review. Deeper Water is one such book … This story seduces you from the start, drawing you in powerfully by a critical event in the first few pages of the book and then slowly sings itself to you until the song is done. I love Jessie Cole’s writing style – it is calm, quiet, experientially descriptive, truly beautiful. Rich and real … deeply sensual … This is a tantalising book. It is raw, real and emotive.”
Jennie, Daystarz Books, Goodreads
“In the last four years, I’ve reviewed a lot of books. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes I have to coax them. The reasons for the writers block can be varied but I honestly think this is probably the first time I haven’t really known what to write because the book is so beautifully written and I’m not sure how to convey that accurately … I read Jessie Cole’s first novel, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and was impressed by it but this novel showcases her evolution and advancement as a writer. It’s the sort of book that you wish went a bit longer, just so you could keep reading it and experiencing it.”
Bree, All The Books I Can Read … 1 Girl 2 Many Books!
Reviews of Darkness on the Edge of Town:
“One of the stand-out debuts of 2012.”
Katharine England, The Adelaide Advertiser
“Jessie Cole’s spellbinding first novel is the kind of book that you can describe with words such as ‘beautiful’, ‘touching’ and ‘tender’ as easily as you can with words like ‘uncomfortable’, ‘painful’ and ‘disturbing’ … I can’t wait to see where this talented new voice takes us next.” 4 and 1/2 stars.
Meredith Lewin, Good Reading Magazine.
“Jessie Cole’s debut novel Darkness on the Edge of Town is on another level of storytelling altogether … It’s exquisite writing. Graceful, revealing, pitch perfect. Cole is an author who pays sharp attention to the world around her. And she deserves to have the world pay her some attention in return.”
Ed Wright, The Australian
“A sad and tender tale of the extraordinary events which make up the everyday lives of ordinary people, Darkness on the Edge of Town elegantly expresses the simplicity of emotions that we often find so hard to handle. Unflinching in her capacity to scrape at the raw nerves of our desperation for love, Jessie Cole has written a distinctly Australian story about hope, desire, sexuality, violence and our failure to communicate.”
Rob Minshull, ABC Radio Brisbane
“Jessie Cole writes with the most deceptively simple language. She pulls you into the story and along its threads until bam! She hits you right between the eyes. This is great storytelling. It’s tense, mean, compassionate and very real … The characters are so real it’s as if Cole sat in the pub and copied down everything everyone said. Every minute of reading this book was a joy.”
Meredith Jaffe, The Hoopla
“Cole is one of a number of younger female writers drawing our attention to lives lived on the margins … She focuses the writer’s eye on an Australia both familiar and hidden, creating stories that make some readers feel uncomfortable. But these are stories essential to our understanding of the Australian landscape and those who inhabit it, where tenderness and violence accompany each other in an eerie pact of necessity. While there is a necessary debate occurring in Australia around the value of literary prizes and who they go to, Jessie Cole has rewarded us instead with a novel that leaves us with much to think about.”
Tony Birch, Overland Blog
“Cole’s writing is evocative in its simplicity, the characters’ dialogue – sometimes grimy – as honest and real as Australia can be … A gripping and heartbreaking read.”
Fiona Hardy, Readings
“An engaging and thoughtful novel.”
Eloise Keating, Bookseller & Publisher
“A gripping debut novel by NSW writer Cole about the reverberating effects of domestic violence, love, loss and the kindness of strangers, Darkness on the Edge of Town proves difficult to put down as it hurtles towards it confronting conclusion.” 4 stars.
To purchase Darkness on the Edge of Town go to Readings.