About the author

Jennifer Down

About the book

Judges' report

Told with a kind of conversational intimacy – inviting the reader in, rationalising, second-guessing, accounting, defending, justifying – Jennifer Down inhabits the voice of a woman who has experienced a great deal of trauma, while evoking a history of south-east Melbourne from the 1970s into the present. Down shows restraint in detailing the traumatic circumstances of her protagonist Maggie Sullivan’s history – including foster homes, child sexual abuse and drug addiction – employing a language that moves between forensic accounting and a more lyrical, authorial register (“Picture me in that summer slick, newly fifteen and in search of a hollow to fall through”). Down’s portrayal of Maggie’s joys and pains evinces an impressive degree of verisimilitude and sensitivity, and many of the other characters – Judith, a middle-aged carer, and Ned, Maggie’s one-time boyfriend – are memorably drawn. This is an ambitious novel, spanning decades and locales, that sees Down demonstrate her imaginative range and take risks following the success of her previous two books. The result is a daring and compelling work, suffused with pathos and an impressive degree of empathic vulnerability.

Further reading


“The third book from Jennifer Down is staggering in its scope, encompassing half a century of life lived by its magnetic and mystifying central character…” – Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, The Sydney Morning Herald

“Reading this book is like getting sucked up into a blanket, and when you emerge out of the cocoon, the world around you looks a bit different.” – Madeleine Gray, Sydney Review of Books

“It’s rare an author who can turn trauma into beauty.” – James Blackwell, Overland Literary Journal


Watch Jennifer Down discuss Bodies of Light on ‘Writers on Film’ via Melbourne Writers Festival

Listen to ‘At Home with Jennifer Down’ via The Garret: Writers on Writing  

Read ‘When Writing is Your Job, Researching Trauma Can Be a Workplace Hazard’ by Jennifer Down in LitHub

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