Out with Hachette April, 2022
A message to my readers …. I hope you will love this book, my break through novel …
Daisy & Woolf is the story of Daisy Simmons, the Eurasian woman in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs Dalloway, and it is the story of Mina Waters, her contemporary narrator who is writing after grief, trauma and through deep layers of colonial privilege. It’s narrative style is a fusion of poetics, historical narrative, homage and life writing.
This book unpacks the embedded racism in canonical privilege. Why have novels, and almost a century of privileged feminist and modernism research whitewashed and reduced the fictional and real lives of Eurasian women?
Cahill displays a high level of innovation and literary understanding by incorporating the perspective of the Other into hypnotic time-folds and place-shifts between 1920s London, India in the time of Gandhi, and contemporary Sydney. She fuses history and fiction, fact and dream, the visual being always present in its absorption of difference and isolation. This is a significant work which will be a major contribution to Australian Literature.” – BRIAN CASTRO
‘Her deftness and linguistic grace masks her purpose, till she reveals a shocking glimpse of the price that art can exact’ – HILARY MANTEL
‘Written with an essayist’s precision and a poet’s grace, Daisy and Woolf is a clever, lyrical, and moving meditation on the novelist’s responsibility. It is a profound comment on the stories we choose to tell, and the gaps in our choosing. Meticulously rendering Virginia Woolf’s faintly sketched, sidelined characters in full vibrant colour, Cahill’s sweeping novel traverses centuries, cultures and continents, to deftly explore how race, gender and class have the power to shape a narrative. – MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE
‘A dauntless novel of empire, and its ever-replicating costs. There are echoes of Michael Ondaatje in this novel’s lush and observant prose-craft. This is fiction at its most human and humane’ – BEEJAY SILCOX
‘The book is an argument with Woolf, which is different from a rewriting of Woolf. The story that came to matter to me was not Daisy’s but Mina’s, the ultimately triumphant struggle to write her novel out from under the weight of all that Woolf signifies. What Woolf both blocks and enables. This is a great story, a creative agon.’ – NICHOLAS JOSE
‘In luminous prose, she has brought an old world back to life. Her background as a poet is clear in her evocative and detailed descriptions of colonial India. Daisy’s voice is perfectly tuned and her story is compelling’ – MELANIE CHENG
‘By centring one of Woolf’s peripheral characters in Mrs Dalloway and giving her a fully realized life and history, Cahill demonstrates how the present phenomena of global migration, quarantine, and the social pandemics of racism, sexism, and economic precariousness were also present in the 1920s. At once critically acute and narratively rich, Daisy and Woolf shows us that there are always new ways to read the past in order to understand the present’ – PATRICK FLANERY
‘Michelle Cahill deploys poetry and history in the most powerful manner possible to write back to Virginia Woolf, and expose the colonial gaze that did not (does not) acknowledge the full humanity of others. This novel will be to Mrs Dalloway what Wide Sargasso Sea was to Jane Eyre‘ – MEENA KANDASAMY
‘Luminous. Compelling. Uncompromising. A narrative redress of the most artful kind.’ – DEBORAH PIKE
Daisy and Woolf is an outstanding contribution to the global literary canon in general, and to localised and specific canons such as Australian literature, women’s literature, and literature by people of colour (POC), to name but a few. Cahill’s ground-breaking novel, in its layered inter-textuality, in effect maps out the dialogues and traffic between these various canons, outlining the discursive politics which inform their (troubled) white histories of inclusion and exclusion, of orientalism and subordination. – ANNE BREWSTER
Michelle Cahill’s debut novel tells the story of a struggling writer, Mina, as she expands upon the often disregarded character Daisy Simmons from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Daisy & Woolf follows in the tradition of Jean Rhys’s exploration of Charlotte Brontë’s Bertha in Wide Sargasso Sea, with Cahill’s protagonist endeavouring to write Daisy as a three-dimensional character in contrast to the fleeting mentions of her given in the source material. Mina’s research takes her around the world despite her dwindling funds and increasingly precarious footing in her own life. Although written in response to Mrs Dalloway, Cahill’s novel critiques Woolf’s white feminism and the racist judgements evident in her work, and how these led her to ‘slay’ Daisy in the novel. Cahill also goes further, criticising the publishing industry at large, with Mina condemning the industry’s tendency to focus on novels such as her own as symbols of resilience, rather than simply examining characters like Daisy in their own right. In taking on the unknown world and life of Daisy from the perspective of a writer from a similar ethnic background, Cahill organically includes discussion around the pressures faced by writers of colour, and how ‘the voice of whoever speaks determines the storytelling’. Entangling the queer subtext of Mrs Dalloway with both Mina and Daisy’s lives, Daisy & Woolf also expertly parallels the nuances of Woolf’s life and work. Told in a mix of alternating epistolary and stream-of-consciousness formats, this novel will appeal to lovers of Virginia Woolf and The Hours, as well as anyone interested in the art of writing.
~ Marina Sano