Late in the summer five years ago, when I was recovering from a surgical procedure, I met two women within a few weeks of each other and I saw both of them regularly, always separately, for some months afterwards. Summer did not give way easily that year, and even so we must force our bodies down to sleep in the heat, and even if experience does not give itself up easily to representation, I will lay it down anyway; frame the raw and exigent weeks, the untrustworthy months after the hospital, render it and them, Frida and Sylvia, as closely as possible to reality—or whatever is the feeling of a life and mind lived inside a body.
A woman leaves the hospital after an operation and starts swimming in a pool in Melbourne’s inner suburbs. There she meets Frida, who is uncannily like her in her experience of illness. Soon after, she meets another woman in a local park, Sylvia, who sees her pain and encourages her to rest.
The two new friends seem to be polar opposites: Frida adores the pool and the natural world, Sylvia clings to the protection of interior worlds. What begins as two seemingly simple friendships is challenged by what each woman asks of her, of themselves, and their bodies.
From the acclaimed author of The Memory Artist and The Shut Ins comes a new novel about the relationship between body and self, and how we must dive beneath the surface to really know ourselves.
About the Author
Katherine Brabon’s first novel, The Memory Artist, won The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award in 2016. It was shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and longlisted in the Indie Book Awards.
Her second novel, The Shut Ins was published in 2021. It won the People’s Choice Award at the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in 2022, was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and Longlisted for the ALS Gold Medal from the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.
Katherine lives and works in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia, the unceded land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation.
Praise for Body Friend
‘Body Friend shows that pain can be a friend and a friend can be a mirror, but what they reflect is more than just a mirror image, and contains many possibilities.’ — Sydney Morning Herald
‘Body Friend is a deeply intimate tribute to the fragile and porous self, written in prose of rare clarity and tenderness. I felt everything reading this book.’— Claire Thomas, author of The Performance and Fugitive Blue
‘Body Friend is tender and expressive. Brabon’s writing is exquisitely constructed. Her prose holds quiet emotional weight – putting the reader in mind, particularly, of Elena Ferrante’s style – which is extraordinarily effective in capturing the lived realities of the body. Body Friend is a novel that clings to the mind long after it finishes.’ —ArtsHUB
‘Its language is startling for its poetic tendencies – it is rhythmic and observant, and liltingly musical – as well as its clarity and sharp concision. Brabon’s prose is one of the deepest pleasures of the novel.’ — The Saturday Paper
‘a tender and raw novel about friendship, chronic pain and the healing power of water.’ — Harper's Bazaar
‘The plot unfolds artfully and with precision to surprise and exceed readers’ expectations.’— Books + Publishing
‘A compelling and deeply insightful reckoning with illness, intimacy, estrangement and control, Body Friend is a novel of rare grace. Through the stories of three women whose experiences are both singular and uncannily intertwined, Katherine Brabon illuminates the way chronic pain disrupts familiar narratives about the self and the body, questioning how we might better care for ourselves and each other in all our tender vulnerability. Her sentences are a tonic, offering the clarity and exquisite pleasure of swimming in calm, cool water.’ — Madelaine Lucas, author of Thirst for Salt
‘Body Friend is a kind of ghost story by stealth, an account of devotion, obsession and chronic pain that reveals a netherworld inside this one. It is told with such delicacy, with such a tender and insistent voice, that it becomes—uncannily, thrillingly—luminous.’—Miles Allinson, author of Fever of Animals and In Moonland
‘Brabon writes some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read, and this book is both muted and raw, like pain itself. A love letter to a body, to relationship and connection, and to water, Brabon explores what we need and how we need it with astonishing wisdom and candour.’—Laura McPhee-Browne, author of Cherry Beach and Little Plum
—Oliver Mol, author of Train Lord and Lion Attack!
Praise for The Memory Artist
‘a thoughtful, tender novel of a people damaged beyond expression.’ - The Saturday Paper
‘the universality of the book is deeply affecting.’ - Sydney Morning Herald
Praise for The Shut Ins
‘a particularly rewarding piece of fiction.’ - The Age/Sydney Morning Herald
‘a melancholy yet compelling story about isolation, duty, desire, fear and escape.’ - Books + Publishing
Illness. Female friendships. Recovery. Rebirth.