IRIS

Iris(2022) novel

     Sergeant Lillian Armfield leans forward.
     What about Black Ada’s, Webber? I know you two went there. What sort of people go there?
     Iris smiles.
     The sort of people you coppers like to bash.

     In late 1932, Iris Webber arrives in Sydney looking for work but it’s the Great Depression and there are few jobs for women at the best of times. She makes her way as best she can, a scam here, a shoplift there, busking with an accordion. And she knows how to use a gun.
     When Iris meets young sex worker Maisie Matthews, her world turns upside-down. But what options are there in a world where even on the margins, queer desire is harshly punished? The only way forward is paved with violence.
     Intelligent, fierce, a woman far ahead of her time, Iris navigates these mean streets with a growing awareness not just of herself, but also of the system enclosing her: narrow, corrupt, brutally prejudiced. Yet there is still pleasure, sometimes even transcendence.

PRAISE FOR IRIS
‘The story of Iris had to be told and McGregor has produced the roughest but most invaluable diamond.’
– Tony Birch

‘Honestly, I am dazzled. The evocation of 1930s Sydney – the sly-grog trade, the criminalisation of the marginalised, the slums – is visceral and immediate and relevant. It’s a stunner.’
– Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and Devotion

‘Using scant public records, Fiona Kelly McGregor has composed an entire world. Iris becomes a complex nuanced consciousness, a bearer of experience, thought, feeling, yearnings. This book partakes in a rich tradition of great urban, world-making writings: we might think of Isaac Babel’s Odessa stories, Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March, E L Doctorow’s Ragtime or the Cromwell novels of Hilary Mantel. There’s a magical conjuring up here, a dream-building of people, place and things. Iris to me is not just a great urban novel, but maybe the best Australian city novel ever.’
– Peter Doyle, bestselling author of City of shadows and Crooks like us

‘This is wonderful – a vivid, arresting voice and amazing sense of time, place and dimension on the page. Utterly gripping. Love it.’
– Lucy Treloar, author of Salt Creek and Wolfe Island

‘McGregor’s novel is a portrait of a woman who is poor and clever, angry and passionate, courageous and loyal. Her life is circumscribed by poverty and struggle. Yet she is no victim. She is a woman of verve and spirit, who grasps the pleasures that life offers her, and lashes out when her freedom is threatened. Iris is an in-depth character study, as well as a vivid and panoramic recreation of a place and time.’
The Times