During the twentieth century, Jessica Margaret Anderson was one of Australia’s best-known and most prolific authors. In addition to several novels and short stories, she also contributed work to many periodicals and wrote for film and television. Anderson, the daughter of Charles James Queale, a former stock inspector, and Alice Queale, married at an early age but divorced her first husband, Ross McGill, after only a few years. She married Leonard Culbert Anderson in 1954, but that marriage, too, ended in divorce. Anderson had one daughter, Laura Rae McGill.
Anderson received her education in public schools in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Like many Australian artists before her, Anderson once imagined that the centers of the literary world were in Europe. However, after a few years spent in London she learned that for her “Australia is inescapable.” After returning to Australia, she spent most of her life in Sydney.
Before Anderson earned and secured her literary reputation as a serious novelist, she was active in other genres. She submitted short stories to newspapers and provided dramatic scripts for radio programs, most of them adaptations of works by Henry James and Charles Dickens. Traces of James’s influence can still be detected in Anderson’s later works; in fact, Anderson, who listed James, Evelyn Waugh, and Henry Green as the authors she admires most, is often referred to as Australia’s foremost novelist of manners.
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