Winner of the 2023 Quentin Bryce Award, The Sitter (UQP 2023) is a luminous, poetic and moving novella by Angela O’Keeffe. In this slim volume, O’Keeffe explores the relationship between art and artist, between author and words, between mothers and their children.

The story is partly narrated by an Australian writer confined to her bed in Paris 2020, struggling to compose a story about Hortense Cezanne, wife and muse of the famous painter. Part of the novel is narrated by Hortense, who comes to life in a surreal way through the very writing about her life. Each woman examines the other, both physically and on the page.

Both women contain multitudes: of stories, of secrets, of pain and heartbreak, of loss and grief, of memories and dreams and hopes.

O’Keeffe’s writing is exquisite and illuminating, glowing with warmth from the pages. This is a soft, gentle novel with a dark secret at its core. The unusual structure is experimental and brave, and it works. Meditative, graceful and thoughtful, The Sitter reminds me of the writings of Catherine de Saint Phalle, Trevor Shearston and Claire Keegan – spare, lyrical and moving, with a keen eye for detail and a talent for leaving the reader to imagine the many moments that lie beyond the page. A brilliant and beautiful book.