The Conversion by Amanda Lohrey

Review | Dec 2023

Our Rating
Author: Amanda Lohrey


Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Text Publishing

ISBN: 9781922790484

RRP: $32.99

To pick up an Amanda Lohrey novel is to be drawn in from the first page. A subtext of underlying themes however inevitably enriches the experience and prompts reflections that endure beyond the end of the book. This is very much the case with her latest novel, The Conversion.

The story begins with a middle-aged couple who decide to sell their suburban Federation villa and buy a deconsecrated church in the country. As events unfold the bricks and mortar conversion is echoed in the self-renovation of Zoe, the protagonist. When calamitous events leave her grappling with grief, disorientation, betrayal and shattered self-belief, moving forward becomes as much of a dilemma as integrating stained glass windows, altars, fonts, and other ecclesiastical effects within a conventional home.

As she discovers, heavenward aspiring church architecture with its insistence on the vertical is unsuited to the domestic space, and the quandary of how to reframe the original purpose of the building without desecrating it provokes anxieties on unexpected levels.

Perfect harmony in the material sense proves as illusory an aspiration for Zoe as reconstructing a future without rationalising past losses. Disconcerting visitations of a ghost from her recent past not only keep her awake at night but threaten to topple the fragile identity she’s striving to build.

The Conversion is a quieter book than Lohrey’s Miles Franklin Literary Award winner The Labyrinth and as such may attract less acclaim, however as an incisive commentary on contemporary material, social and cultural values it’s startlingly revealing.

Reviewed by Anne Green



Amanda Lohrey authorAmanda Lohrey lives in Tasmania and writes fiction and non-fiction. She has taught at the University of Tasmania, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Queensland. Amanda is a regular contributor to the Monthly magazine and a former senior fellow of the Australia Council’s Literature Board.

She received the 2012 Patrick White Award. The Labyrinth (2021), her eighth work of fiction, won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, a Prime Minister’s Literary Award, a Tasmanian Literary Award and the Voss Literary Prize.

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