Sophie Cunningham, Emily Bitto, talk This Devastating Fever

1 February 2023

Australian author, and co-founder of the Stella Prize, Sophie Cunningham, discusses her latest novel, This Devastating Fever (published by Ultimo Press, September 2022), with Melbourne based author Emily Bitto, in a podcast recorded by the Wheeler Centre.

This Devastating Fever, Cunningham’s ninth book, tells the story of an author writing about the life of Leonard Woolf, the husband of British writer Virginia Woolf, and features a curious tie in with the once notorious Y2K bug:

Alice had not expected to spend most of the twenty-first century writing about Leonard Woolf. When she stood on Morell Bridge watching fireworks explode from the rooftops of Melbourne at the start of a new millennium, she had only two thoughts. One was: the fireworks are better in Sydney. The other was: is Y2K going to be a thing? Y2K was not a thing. But there were worse disasters to come. Environmental collapse. The return of fascism. Wars. A sexual reckoning. A plague.

Uncertain of what to do she picks up an unfinished project and finds herself trapped with the ghosts of writers past. What began as a novel about a member of the Bloomsbury set, colonial administrator, publisher and husband of one the most famous English writers of the twentieth century becomes something else altogether.


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