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The Great Undoing

Sharlene Allsopp

How long can you run from a lie, if that lie is what your life is founded on?

In a near future all identity information is encoded in digital language. Nations know where everyone is, all the time. Not everyone agrees with this constant surveillance, and when the system is hijacked and shut down, all global borders are closed. The world is no longer connected, and there is no back-up plan to establish belonging, ownership or trade.

Scarlet Friday, whose job is to correct historical record, is stranded on the wrong side of the globe. Befriended by a stranger, she grabs an old, faded history book and writes her own version over the top—a record of the Great Undoing on the run.

But in deciding what truth to tell Scarlet must face her own history. How do we navigate identity when it is all a lie? She must reckon with her past before she can imagine her future.

About the Author


Sharlene Allsopp was born and raised on Bundjalung Country into the Olive mob. She dreams of capturing that elusive perfect sentence—preferably liquored up in a Champagne field in France. She studied Writing and Literature at the University of Queensland, and loves her role as an occasional tutor with the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance and Retention Program on campus.
She developed her debut novel as a fellow with The Wheeler Centre’s Next Chapter program. In its early stages, this novel was shortlisted for a 2019 Overland writing residency, and Highly Commended for the 2020 Boundless Indigenous Writer’s Mentorship.
She helped establish a charity for domestic violence survivors, and currently lives in Meanjin/Brisbane with her husband, sons and daughters, and a fluffy ball of puppy called Morty.


‘Sharlene Allsopp’s The Great Undoing is groundbreaking storytelling - truth telling - that pierces the reader’s heart as it asks: how do you interpret silence? The breathtaking scope of this beautifully-written debut novel, and its unique, ambitious and powerful navigation of the contested borders between history and fiction, truth and lie, archive and heresy, will stay with me. It's the kind of book that, after reading, makes you want to write to the author to say: THANK YOU.’ – Holly Ringland, author of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart and The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding

‘Sharlene Allsopp's debut novel is a remarkable achievement. Through the art of great storytelling she challenges us to respond to a threat to our very existence; our understanding of who we are, where we come from and the knowledge systems that will bind us into the future. The Great Undoing is a book for all time -our past, present, and an increasingly precarious future.’ Tony Birch, author of The White Girl and Women & Children

‘Now more than ever, we need truth-teller Scarlet Friday and her story of identity, disruption, and love. The Great Undoing is a complex thriller, and a stunning debut novel by Sharlene Allsopp.’ Anita Heiss, author of Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray and Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms

The Great Undoing is a gripping novel that blurs the lines between historical and contemporary fiction; between reality and fantasy, and will make you question everything you think you know about Australia.’ – Melanie Saward, author of Burn

‘Sharlene Allsopp has created a work of fearless generosity that charts the progress of a future undoing, tugging at the seams of both personal and societal remembering. The Great Undoing is a story to be lingered inside of, dog-eared, gifted and cherished.’ – The Wheeler Centre

‘For First Nations people, Australia is a nation founded on a lie. But this is not one single amorphous lie, but rather a web of lies that seeks to erase and make invisible First Nations peoples, her/histories and experiences. In her debut novel, The Great Undoing, Bundjalung author Sharlene Allsopp deftly juxtaposes the national and the personal mythscapes that still haunt Australia today. Through the larger-than-life character of Scarlet Friday, Sharlene explores the consequences of living a lie in a nation that refuses to acknowledge its past.’ – Jeanine Leane, author of Purple Threads and Walk Back Over

'A bold, imaginative and elegantly crafted novel that weaves a page-turning plot with a poignant exploration of how our histories are told – and by whom. The Great Undoing is a triumph – Allsopp has such a strong voice, and her writing is rich with insight and empathy.' – Carody Culver, editor of Griffith Review

 ‘Powerful and beautiful, The Great Undoing is an intelligent, heartfelt exploration of the complexities of belonging and recorded history. You won’t be able to put this book down.’ – Mirandi Riwoe, award-winning author of Stone Sky Gold Mountain and Sunbirds

‘Sharlene Allsopp's The Great Undoing is a remarkable book that reaches back into the early 20th century and forwards into the future to examine discontinuities in recorded histories, and the resonances of this within the lives of First Nations people. Allsopp's style is lyrical and almost poetic, even when describing ugliness. The Great Undoing joins the works of authors like Octavia Butler and Claire G Coleman, who use the light of what could be to illuminate what actually is.’ – Books + Publishing

‘It’s an inventive premise: Scarlet’s entries not only trace their journey, but also unpick Scott’s version of history, and some of the more sinister lies about Australia’s colonial past. Factor in, too, some family reckonings, a swooning romcom and abundant love notes to literature. Sharlene Allsopp has burning points to make about the policing of belonging and exclusion – then, now and onwards.’ –The Guardian

The Great Undoing is an exciting work of Aboriginal speculative fiction with plenty of heart to spare.’ ABC Arts

‘It is a techno-futuristic thriller, broadening the horizons of Indigenous storytelling that flirt with tropes of genre fiction; it is a parable for the imperative of truth-telling for Australia today’ – Sydney Morning Herald


‘Sharlene Allsopp's important debut shines a light on the discrepancy between fiction and truth in recorded histories, and close to home, the repercussions on First Nations people so long denied an opportunity to share their version of truth.’ –Vogue Australia




Pub Date
February 2024




Rewriting Australian history, the myth of terra nullius, race, displacement.