Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers
Distributed by: Consortium/Perseus Book Sales & Distribution
ISBN: 978-0-7145-3148-9
Price: $15.95
Original Trade Paperback: 310 pages
Publication Date: September 2008
Trim Size: 8.5 x 5.5

Feather Man
Rhyll McMaster

'Feather Man is at once both unflinching and poetic. McMaster's unique perspective illuminates the hidden corners of the lives she portrays.'

Catherine O'Flynn, author of What Was Lost
Book Description

Set in Brisbane, Australia, during the stultifying 1950s, and moving to the grubby London of the 1970s, Feather Man is about Sooky, who, ignored by her parents, is encouraged to make herself scarce and visit Lionel, the farmer next door—there, an incident will take place that will impact the rest of her life.

Against the backdrop of rural Australia and the London art world, McMaster meticulously paints the landscapes of Sooky's internal and external worlds through a narrator that brings to mind Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Following Sooky from her neglected childhood to womanhood and her entry into the art world, the book combines comedy with emotional intensity. When Sooky's attraction to Redmond leads her to London, her past follows her into the future in a deadly confrontation.


  • A Pick of the week at (The Boston Globe)
  • A September Indie Next List pick from the American Booksellers Association
  • Winner, the Barbara Jefferis Literary Award
  • Winner, University of Technology, Sydney, Glenda Adams Award for New Writing
  • Short-listed for the Australian Literary Society's Gold Medal Award

About the Author

Rhyll McMaster, born 1947, started writing poetry while a child. Washing the Money won the Victorian Premier's Prize and the Grace Leven Prize. Her poems have been broadcast on national radio and television, in Australia. Feather Man is her first novel.


Sooky's unflinching eye and sense of humor imbue the book with complexity and vitality. It's clear that McMaster is a poet.

Forward Magazine

A striking work...McMaster's insights, by turns moving and mordant, are always wise, and if the unraveling of Sooky's life is profoundly unsettling, it is all the more satisfying when she learns how to ravel it back together. This is literature that sticks to the bones.

—Lynn Stegner, Author of Because a Fire Was in My Head

"Rhyll McMaster has struck gold with her debut novel of betrayal and loss...This is a stunning, dark story with tight, controlled prose. Unforgettable. Five Stars"

Goodreading Magazine, June, 2007

"Let me say that Rhyll McMaster is an extraordinary writer. Her prose is dazzling, poetic and thought-provoking, and this is literary fiction at its best... I have likened Rhyll McMaster to Margaret Atwood. Atwood is brilliant, but in my view McMaster is even better. Feather Man has quite rightly won literary prizes in Australia and my money is on Feather Man making the Booker Prize longlist here."

Vulpes Libris

"McMaster achieves many brilliant effects...a tour de force of vivid and surprising imagery and allusion....Her eye for detail, for recognizing the exceptional in the most mundane of things, illuminates these pages. The seedy ordinariness of life in London is superbly conveyed."

—Andrew Riemer in The Sydney Morning Herald

"I think [Feather Man] is quite wonderful. Beautifully written. Engrossing and utterly involving and is does something new"

—Maureen Freely, Author of Unforgettable and The Other Rebecca

"Rhyll McMaster tosses us in at the deep end...enlivened by a genuine mystery, a slender but powerful narrative thread....It's a masterstroke...she makes this novel so much more than a simple story: in the clever patterns of imagery, the brilliant descriptions, the narrative structure and the understanding—more and more absent from contemporary fiction—that a good novel has something to say about the world."

—Kerryn Goldsworthy in The Australian

"...a novel which explores the impact of childhood sexual abuse on adult life...a brutal tale, but an exquisite read, full of the most satisfying psychological truths."

—Ramona Koval, The Book Show, ABC Radio National

"...a well-structured and accomplished character-driven work...a flowing, subtle and rewarding read."

Australian Bookseller and Publisher

"...I think it would be a good choice for book clubs as there can be different reactions both to the adventures and the structure of the story."

—Eve Abbey, Abbey's Bookshop Newsletter, Issue #215

" exhilarating and absorbing work of prose..."

—Catherine Freyne, Producer, The Book Show, ABC Radio National

"McMaster is interested in the fragility of identity and the dynamics of personal power. This superb first novel is beautifully written but not for the a class of its own."

—Christina Hill, Australian Book Review

"...a novel about privacy, about an experience so secret and so traumatically internalized that its effects go on reverberating long after the child victim has grown up. In tracing Sooky's progress from a traumatized suburban childhood to the beginnings of a successful international career as an artist, McMaster charts the emotional complexities of dependence, loyalty, cruelty and betrayal..."

—Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Australian Literary Review

"Feather Man is boldly original and self-assured. The narrative voice is darkly witty, but beguilingly honest. Nothing is sugar-coated here...Sooky is the consummate loner, albeit a girl with guts and a sense of irony"

The Courier-Mail

"A highly original first novel..."

The Daily Telegraph

"In Feather Man Rhyll McMaster has written a love-letter to the physical landscape of Brisbane. The intimate and panoramic are in equally sharp focus: the beauty and mastery of each is undeniable."

—Karen James, co-producer/presenter OzWrite, National Community Radio Network book program

"The writing is impeccable...and the descriptions are truly memorable and repellent. Like Sooky, this is not a scene we can easily leave behind. The descriptions of the art she creates are particularly vivid: confessional and sometimes surreal...a coming-of-age novel, and a story of an emergent artist."

The Canberra Times

This beautifully written and disturbing Australian coming of age novel grabbed me from the first page. Sooky struggles to overcome her difficult childhood, with a father who abandoned the family, an emotionally distant mother and abuse by the one person to whom she felt close. The effects of this childhood are powerfully portrayed as Sooky moves from relationship to relationship and from Brisbane to London. It is her growing sense of herself as an artist which balances the pain.

—Nancy Felton, Broadside Bookshop