Love, loss and rewriting a classic with Kyra Geddes

the story thief

In her debut novel The Story Thief, Kyra Geddes explores the untold stories of female visionaries of post-colonial Australia through the eyes of her fierce protagonist Lillian.


When Lillian reads Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife at school, she is convinced that the story is based on her own family’s history. This belief, and her search for the truth, follows her throughout a life marked by historical events such as women’s suffrage and the two world wars. 

Just like her protagonist, Kyra first came across The Drover’s Wife during her studies and it immediately bothered her that the author chose to leave his hardworking heroine – and indeed, both of her daughters – unnamed, whilst naming the sons and even the family dog.


Kyra Geddes ©Uber Photography

Kyra believed it “begged for a feminist retelling”, and so started crafting a manuscript that would take her a decade to finish. “It is a lifelong apprenticeship to be writing a novel, although you do learn on the job,” she says. 

Going back to university to study creative writing was one of many steps Kyra took to complete her book. With almost no background knowledge of Australian post-colonial history, she started tackling The Story Thief with years of research. Following the mantra ‘The greatest truths are found in fiction rather than in history books’, she read all the novels she could get her hands on that were written during the time period her manuscript was set in. At the same time she delved into first-hand historical accounts from archival books, old newspapers and many original articles from the era. 

The Story Thief, published by Affirm Press, tells a tale of love and loss, mothers and daughters, and Lillian’s coming of age, while simultaneously painting a realistic picture of Australian life in the early 1900s. Although it is first and foremost a historical novel, it follows timeless themes, such as the power of storytelling. “With my novel I wanted to celebrate storytelling,” Kyra explains, “And the fact that we all have a right to tell a story in whatever way suits us, and that by telling it in our own way, it becomes our own.” 

Although The Story Thief is obviously based on Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife, with Kyra’s historically accurate retelling, it becomes a carefully crafted continuation of the famous short story, illuminating some of the flaws and negative effects of literature during that time, especially upon the way women were once regarded, and their place in society. 

If you enjoyed this bookish story, make sure to check out this article on the book Vegemite: The true story of the man who invented an Australian icon!

Featured image: Walter Withers, ‘The Drover’, 1912, oil on canvas.

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