Blanche d'Alpuget in 2011
|Born||Josephine Blanche d'Alpuget
3 January 1944
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Known for||Novelist, biographer|
|Spouse(s)||Anthony Pratt (1965–1979/80)
Bob Hawke (1995–present)
D'Alpuget is the only child of Josephine Curgenven and Louis Albert Poincare d'Alpuget (1915–2006), journalist, author, blue water yachtsman and champion boxer. Her great-aunt, Blanche d'Alpuget, after whom she was named, was a pioneer woman journalist in Sydney and a patron of artists. Her father was a sports and feature writer and also news editor of a Sydney newspaper, The Sun.
D'Alpuget attended SCEGGS (Darlinghurst) and briefly the University of Sydney, before running away from home following a fight with her father. She worked at The Sun's rival newspaper, The Daily Mirror, then moved to Indonesia at the age of 22 with her first husband, Tony Pratt, whom she had married in 1965. She and Pratt have a son, Louis, an artist and sculptor and a co-founder of Mungo, a Sydney artists' colony. While in Indonesia, d'Alpuget worked in the Australian Embassy's news and information bureau; later she was a volunteer worker in the National Museum of Indonesia, leading a team that recatalogued the oriental ceramic collection of Chinese export ware. She was the world's youngest member of the famous English-founded Oriental Ceramic Society. After spending four years in Indonesia, d'Alpuget lived for a year in Malaysia. She travelled widely, and to remote areas, in both countries.
In 1973 she returned to Australia and became active in the women's movement. She began writing in 1974, inspired by her experiences in South East Asia. She has won a number of literary awards for both fiction and non-fiction including, in 1987, the inaugural Australasian Prize for Commonwealth Literature. She first met Bob Hawke in Jakarta, in 1970. They met again in 1976 when she interviewed him for a biography she was writing on Sir Richard Kirby. This meeting led to a long and sporadic love affair which eventually culminated in their marriage in 1995. D'Alpuget and Pratt had divorced in 1986. Between 1979 and 1982 d'Alpuget researched and wrote a biography of Hawke.
In 1995 she joined the board of Robert J. Hawke & Associates, a business consultancy primarily focussed on China. For fifteen years d'Alpuget abandoned her career as a writer and travelled the world with her new husband, visiting not only capital cities but remote areas of China, Inner Mongolia, Moldova, Easter Island, Palau, Kazakhstan, the North West Frontier of Pakistan and the Antarctic peninsula. She returned to writing in 2008.
In 2013 she released her latest novel, The Young Lion. It is set in the 12th century and is the first part of a quartet about the House of Plantagenet. The book focuses on Henry II and his union with Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was Queen of France and subsequently became Queen of England. The Young Lion has received favourable reviews. Geraldine Doogue said "this is exuberant story-telling history, full of sex, passion and politics." while Stephanie Dowrick notes that "few writers are both earthy and erudite, Blanche d'Alpuget is. Her narrative is so fresh and energetic you will swear she's bringing us a first-hand account." The magazine Books + Publishing made similar comments stating that "Blanche d’Alpuget’s first historical fiction novel comes as a breath of fresh air as she introduces readers to Henry II and the beginning of the House of Plantagenet. D’Alpuget offers readers a well-researched history of her subject, which of course incorporates the required affairs, plots and intrigues that we have come to expect from any historical novel about royalty and life at court."
Her works include:
- Mediator: A Biography of Sir Richard Kirby (1977)
- Monkeys in the Dark (1980)
- Turtle Beach (1981)
- Robert J. Hawke: a biography (1982)
- Winter in Jerusalem (1986)
- Lust (an essay, 1992)
- White Eye (1993)
- On Longing (essay, 2008)
- Hawke: The Prime Minister (2010)
- The Young Lion (2013)
Her essays, Lust, which dealt with paedophilia, and On Longing, caused controversy.
All d'Alpuget's novels have been translated into other languages.
Memberships (current and former)
- Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
- International PEN (Sydney Centre)
- Australian Labor Party
- Oral History Association of Australia (president of Australian Capital Territory branch, 1980–1981)
- Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Australian Society of Authors, 1990–1991
- Women’s Electoral Lobby
- Commissioner of the Australian Film Commission, 1986–1991
- Chair of Australian Society of Authors, 1991
- Board member of the Arts Advocacy Centre
- Co-patron Australia – China Friendship Society (NSW Branch), since 2003
- Goodwill Ambassador of Austcare, 1989–1995
- Patron of Inala, since 2000 (a Rudolf Steiner organisation supporting individuals with disabilities)
Achievements and awards
- 1980 – Sydney PEN Golden Jubilee award for Fiction
- 1981 – NSW Premier's Award for Non-Fiction
- 1982 and 1983 – Braille Book of the Year Award
- 1982 – The Age Novel of the Year Award for Turtle Beach
- 1982 – South Australian Government's Award for Fiction
- 1987 – Inaugural Commonwealth Award for Literature – Australasian Division
- Freeman's Journal (Sydney) 25 September 1924, p. 20. Online reference http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/123254477?
- Blanche D'Alpuget interview with Peter Thompson on Talking Heads, 27 October 2008. Online reference http://www.abc.net.au/tv/talkingheads/txt/s2396039.htm
- "Four Dimensions of genius – Louis Pratt". Online reference http://www.backyardopera.com/four-dimensions-of-genius---louis-pratt.html#.Ui_qmyFAqpp
- Jane Finemore "The Young Lion Media Release" HarperCollins
- Books+Publishing, Vol. 93, No. 1, July 2013: 24–28