Dr Elizabeth Ellison is a lecturer in Creative Industries at Central Queensland University in Noosa, Australia. She has a special interest in Australian beaches, Australian writing, literature, film and television, and also postgraduate education. 

The coastal memoir

An investigation of landscape in the nonfiction of Robert Drewe and Tim Winton

The inclusion of memoir in an experienced author’s oeuvre is interesting although not uncommon. Memoir often reveals much about a writer: their childhood, their memories, their motivations to pursue their chosen career pathway. Interestingly, in the case of two prominent Australian authors, the memoir allows for a passionate investigation of landscape and how it permeates through their lives and their writing. In this article, I explore two examples of writers who have been inspired — openly and explicitly — by the beach: Tim Winton and Robert Drewe. Both are from Western Australia and both are fascinated and influenced by the coastal landscape. This is also apparent in their fiction in which characters use the beach as a touchstone or comfort. Winton and Drewe have written five memoirs between them, ranging from 1993 to 2016. Both authors make clear that these works are inspired by their relationship with landscape — particularly coastal landscapes on the western coast of Australia. By investigating these two authors’ works of memoir — both bound by their ongoing appreciation and inspiration of Australian landscape — this article examines how these coastal memoirs reveal how landscape can represent notions of national identity. The Australian coast acts as both a space of awe and solace in Winton’s work while being inevitably intertwined in ‘memories and murder’ in the memoirs of Drewe.