Joyce Morgan

My latest book, The Countess from Kirribilli, tells the story of Australian-born writer Elizabeth von Arnim.

Joyce Morgan portrait
Joyce Morgan

Joyce Morgan is the author of three books: two about creative Australians and one about the discovery of the world’s oldest printed book. Her biography of artist Martin Sharp was long-listed in 2018 for the Stella Prize, Australia’s key award for female writers. Joyce has been a journalist for four decades in Australia, England and Hong Kong, specialising in Arts and Culture. A veteran traveller, Joyce also leads cultural tours to Asia and beyond.

"The Countess From Kirribilli" (book cover)
Elizabeth von Arnim may have been born on the shores of Sydney Harbour, but it was in Victorian London that she discovered society and society discovered her. She made her Court debut before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace, was pursued by a Prussian count and married into the formal world of the European aristocracy. It was the novels she wrote about that life that turned her into a literary sensation on both sides of the Atlantic and had her likened to Jane Austen. Her marriage to the count produced five children but little happiness. Her second marriage to Bertrand Russell’s brother was a disaster. But by then she had captivated the great literary and intellectual circles of London and Europe. She brought into her orbit the likes of Nancy Astor, Lady Maud Cunard, her cousin Katherine Mansfield and other writers such as E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham and H.G. Wells, with whom it was said she had a tempestuous affair. Elizabeth von Arnim was an extraordinary woman who lived during glamorous, exciting and changing times that spanned the innocence of Victorian Sydney and finished with the march of Hitler through Europe.
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"Martin Sharp: His Life And Times" book cover
Martin Sharp’s art was as singular as his style. He blurred the boundaries of high art and low with images of Dylan, Hendrix and naked flower children that defined an era. Along the way, the irreverent Australian was charged with obscenity and collaborated with Eric Clapton as he drew rock stars and reprobates into his world. In this richly told and beautifully written biography, Joyce Morgan captures the loneliness of a privileged childhood, the heady days of the underground magazine Oz as well as the exuberant creativity of Swinging London and beyond. Sharp pursued his quixotic dream to realise van Gogh’s Yellow House in Australia. He obsessively championed eccentric singer Tiny Tim and was haunted by Sydney’s Luna Park. Charismatic and paradoxical, he became a recluse whose phone never stopped ringing. There was no one like Martin Sharp. When he died, he was described as a stranger in a strange land who left behind a trail of stardust.
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"Journeys On The Silk Road" book cover
When a Chinese monk broke through a hidden door in 1900, he uncovered one of history’s greatest literary secrets: a 1000-year-old time capsule of life along the ancient Silk Road. Inside the chamber on the edge of the Gobi Desert, documents were piled from floor to ceiling. The gem among them was the Diamond Sutra of 868, now recognised as the world’s oldest printed book. The sutra, a key Buddhist teaching, was made more than 500 years before printing transformed European civilisation. The book’s journey – by came through treacherous deserts, by boat to London’s curious scholars, by train to evade the bombs of World War II – merges an explorer’s adventures, political intrigue and continued controversy. The words of the Diamond Sutra has inspired Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley and the Dalai Lama. Its path from East to West has coincided with the growing appeal of Buddhism in the contemporary world. As the Gutenberg Age cedes to the Google Age, the discovery of the Silk Road’s greatest treasure is an epic tale of survival, a literary investigation and an evocation of the travelling power of the book.
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