Monica Elizabeth Knight Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Elizabeth Jolley was born Monica Elizabeth Knight on June 4, 1923, in Birmingham, England, and was raised in a largely German-speaking household. Her British father met her Austrian mother in Vienna in 1919. Although her father was a schoolteacher, Jolley and her younger sister were educated at home by a succession of French and Austrian governesses and by a series of “wireless lessons,” radio lectures on specialized subjects. At age eleven Jolley was sent to a Quaker boarding school near Banbury Oxon. At seventeen she began training as a nurse at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, completing her training in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham from 1943 to 1946. In 1959 she moved to Western Australia with her husband Leonard Jolley, a university librarian, and with their three children they settled in Perth and for a while lived on a small farm.

Jolley’s first public recognition came from radio. Six of her radio plays were produced, and many short stories appeared before the publication of her first novel, Palomino, in 1980. Her work began attracting attention in the mid-1960’s, and by the early 1980’s she emerged as one of Australia’s leading authors.

In the 1970’s Jolley joined the faculty at Curtin University, in Perth, Western Australia, where she is professor of creative writing and writer-in-residence. When designing its largest theater complex, the university chose to honor Jolley by naming it for her.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Elizabeth Jolley was born Monica Elizabeth Knight in Birmingham, England, on June 4, 1923. Her mother, an Austrian aristocrat, had married a young Englishman who had been disowned by his father because of his pacifist convictions. Privately educated for some years, Elizabeth and her sister were then sent to a Quaker school. Later, she was trained as a nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and served in that capacity during World War II.

In 1959, she moved to Western Australia with her husband, Leonard Jolley, a university librarian, and their three children. After the move, Jolley worked at various jobs, and in 1962 she began to write. Eventually she became a tutor at the Fremantle Arts Centre and writer-in-residence in the School of English at the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Later she was also writer-in-residence at Western Australian College of Advanced Education, Nedlands.

Leonard Jolley, who had been an invalid for some time, died in 1994. In the summer of 1996, bushfires that swept the area destroyed the orchard and goose farm that the family had established at Wooroloo and that had inspired Jolley’s Diary of a Weekend Farmer (1993). On February 13, 2007, Elizabeth Jolley died in a Perth nursing home at the age of eighty-three.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Monica Elizabeth Jolley was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, on June 4, 1923. Her mother, Margarethe von Fehr, had been teaching in Vienna when she met Charles Knight, a science teacher and Quaker relief worker, just after World War I. The couple moved to England, where Elizabeth and her sister were born and lived in the industrial Midlands area. The fact that her father had been imprisoned during the war for refusing to fight, strongly influenced Jolley’s values, as did her early schooling, first at home and later at a Quaker boarding school near Oxford.

Jolley trained as a nurse at St. Thomas Hospital in London and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. She worked at various hospitals, including an orthopedic hospital during World War II. She married Leonard Jolley, a librarian, and in 1959 the couple and their three children immigrated to Australia, where Leonard helped to establish the library of the University of Western Australia in Perth. Jolley had been writing since childhood, and as an adult she worked as a real estate agent, domestic worker, lecturer, and tutor and conducted writing workshops in prisons and community centers. She also raised geese and cultivated a small orchard.

Jolley’s first published works were short stories, collected in Five Acre Virgin, and Other Stories in 1976 and in The Travelling Entertainer, and Other Stories in 1979. With the publication in 1980 of her first novel, Palomino, Jolley won recognition as a novelist of unusual originality and unconventional tragicomedy. She published many other novels between 1981 and 2001, including Miss Peabody’s Inheritance (1983), Foxybaby (1985), The Well (1986), The Sugar Mother (1988), Cabin Fever (1990), The Orchard Thieves (1995), and An Innocent Gentleman (2001).

Central Mischief: Elizabeth Jolley on Writing, Her Past, and Herself, a collection of her essays and other nonfiction writing, appeared in 1992. In addition to numerous awards for stories and for a radio drama, Jolley won the Western Australian Week Awards, was named senior fellow of the Literature Board of the Australia Council, received the South Wales Premier’s Prize for fiction, earned an Australian Bicentennial Authority National Literary Commission to write The Sugar Mother, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Western Australia Institute of Technology. She died on February 13, 2007.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Monica Elizabeth Jolley is considered one of Western Australia’s most important writers. Born in England of an English father and an Austrian mother, she was brought up in a German-speaking household and educated first at home and then at Friends’ School, a Quaker boarding school in Sibford, Oxfordshire. She completed orthopedic nursing training at St. Thomas Hospital, London, in 1943 and three years later the general nursing training at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. In 1959 she moved to Western Australia with her husband and their three children.

For the next twenty years Jolley worked as a nurse, a door-to-door salesperson, a flying domestic, and, after 1974, a part-time tutor at Western Australia’s Fremantle Arts Center. During this period she wrote much but published very little, and what she published attracted little attention until the publication in 1976 of her first book, Five Acre Virgin, and Other Stories, a collection of short stories written during the sixteen preceding years. Five Acre Virgin, and Other Stories is important because it reveals both Jolley’s preoccupation with certain themes and her ability to handle those themes realistically and with original, often bizarre, humor. The publication of Five Acre Virgin, and Other Stories marked a turning point in Jolley’s writing career, after which Jolley became increasingly prolific. With her third novel, Mr. Scobie’s Riddle, she...

(The entire section is 594 words.)