Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction

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Candy: A novel of Love and Addiction
Author Luke Davies
Country Australia
Language English
Genre Romance, Drama
Publisher Ballantine Books
Publication date
16 June 1998
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 304 pp (Paperback edition)
ISBN 0-345-42387-9 (paperback edition)
OCLC 37947403
823 21
LC Class PR9619.3.D29 C36 1998

Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction (1998) is a novel by Luke Davies.


Davies has admitted the novel is based on his experiences as a heroin addict in the 1980s,[1] the "worst years" being 1984 to 1990.[2] Sydney and Melbourne were the epicentres of a "severe" heroin problem during this period.[3] Davies has also emphasised that the novel is "fiction rather than memoir".[1]

Following the release of the film based on the book, also called Candy (2006), Melbourne painter Megan Bannister was identified as the woman who is portrayed as Candy in the novel. She and Davies were married for six years during the 1980s and confirms that key events in the film (and novel) really did happen except that "living it was 50,000 times worse".[1]

Davies put the story together over the course of the early 90's, stating in interviews that "chapters were written separately and out of sequence".[2] The first edition was published on 16 June 1998.[citation needed]

Plot introduction[edit]

In Luke Davies' Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction, the unnamed narrator falls in love with Candy, who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle and his love of heroin. Hooked as much on one another as they are on the drug, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, self-destruction, and despair.

Plot summary[edit]

As with the movie version, the book is divided into three sections, excluding the prologue and epilogue - Part one: Invincibility, Part two: The Kingdom of Momentum, and Part three: The Momentum of Change. In the beginning, everything seems perfect for the unnamed narrator and Candy,(the name for both the girl and the drug); things are new and exciting. Of course, in both relationships and addiction, things do not remain so perfect or beautiful. Candy is introduced to heroin very gradually by snorting it, but soon she decides she wants to try it his (the narrator's) way. This excites him, as he believes it means she doesn't want "second best", and they truly are "soul mates". Candy nearly dies of an overdose, but it does not prevent her from wanting to do increasingly more.

Eventually, the mounting hunger leads to the pair's making horrible choices to feed their addiction. When they try to get money by pawning a necklace, Candy is offered a very small amount, but the pawnbroker thinks they can "work something out", and Candy has sex with him for a pitiful sum. The narrator regrets this action, but he also recognizes it has helped the couple hold off the demons of withdrawal another day. From there work in a brothel, as an escort, and as a finally street prostitute becomes part of daily life. They try to get clean several times, and Candy does in fact get detoxed early in the story, but that lasts a very short time. After their attempts they "reward" themselves with a "blast", figuring it isn't really a bad idea after how far they have come. In one of their attempts to achieve normal lives, they get married and - in the narrator's words - "Obviously it was a big dope weekend. You want to be relaxed at your own wedding". Candy and the narrator really do seem to love each other, but the big question is: is it only a heroin-fueled illusion?

They continue on their path of disaster through very high "ups" and extremely low "downs". An unexpected pregnancy gives them a reason to get clean, but they fail yet again, and Candy prematurely delivers a baby boy who lives only seconds. Soon afterward, Candy tires of earning all the couple's money, while both parties share all the dope, and the narrator feels like he is less of a man for allowing her to do what she does to make the money. When a friend Candy knew in the past comes back from the US, the couple feels as if their prayers have been answered. Casper is a chemistry genius and makes his own "Yellow Jesus". He is convinced to sell the recipe and give cooking lessons. Suddenly, Candy only has to work when they need the cash for chemicals and equipment, and the narrator can keep them in all the heroin they need with extra to sell. There are a few disasters, including a watered down batch and a fellow user with worse veins than the narrator's, spraying blood around the flat when his detachable head syringe blows off after he pierces his carotid artery trying to shoot up.

Finally, the couple decides to give methadone a try, and things start to look better, for a while anyway. They move to the country thinking another fresh start is what they need, but it goes very wrong. They begin fighting more and Candy begins acting strangely. After she has an affair with a neighbor who deals pot, things fall apart. The narrator leaves and stays with an old friend whom he angers, and gets kicked out after two days. The narrator then begins his own affair but is soon called by Candy's father. Candy has had a full nervous breakdown and is hospitalised. The narrator makes his way home to find a very changed and very delusional Candy. After she is released they try one more time, but the narrator breaks the rules after running into Casper. Candy leaves the narrator, and shortly afterward Casper is caught making heroin. His employer sends him to rehab but Casper leaves, knowing that action marks the end of his career. Casper then gets antidepressants and alcohol, goes to his lab, cooks one last batch, and commits suicide. The narrator goes into rehab and gets sober. He sees Candy the first chance he is allowed to, and she tells him she knows they have to end. They have to stay apart to be clean.


Candy is an intense, and at times taxing, exploration of the heroin addiction shared by a young couple deeply in love. Beyond being a love story with a cautionary tale about drug addiction, Candy looks at the human need for escapism. Through the main character's relationship we see the self-deceptions that addicts use to justify their rapid degradation, both morally and physically, in attempting to maintain their growing drug habits.[4][5]

Davies says: "... the character Candy is a two-dimensional approximation of the narrator's desires, obsessions and his inability to see the truth at any deep level".[2] In the second part of the book, as the narrator and Candy meet tragedy through the loss of their unborn child and Candy's mental breakdown, the story explores the themes of guilt, loss, and self-awareness.[5]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation, also called Candy (2006), stars Heath Ledger as Dan, Abbie Cornish as Candy, Geoffrey Rush as Casper, Noni Hazlehurst as Mrs. Wyatt, and Tony Martin as Mr. Wyatt. It was directed by Neil Armfield and produced by Emile Sherman and Margaret Fink.

Release details[edit]

The book was also published in France (Editions Heloise d'Ormesson), Germany (Droemer-Knaur), Greece, Israel, and Spain (Editions Planeta).[citation needed]

The subtitle, "A Novel of Love and Addiction", was only used in the American edition; elsewhere the book is only called Candy. There is also an essential difference between the American edition and all the others: in the US edition, the opening chapter "Example of Good Times" runs for only a page, then the chapter repeats and continues as the final chapter in the book. Davies has stated publicly he regrets agreeing to this change, and the Australian edition should be taken as the definitive one.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Maddox, Garry (June 17, 2006). "A story of survival: meet the real Candy". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  2. ^ a b c Maddox, Garry (May 4, 2006). "Candy man: an author's journey from page to screen". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  3. ^ Kaya, Yalçin; Tugai, Yuliya; Filar, Jerzy; Agrawal, Manju; Ali, Robert; Gowing, Linda; Cooke, Richard (29 February 2004). "Heroin users in Australia: population trends". Drug and Alcohol Review. 23 (1): 107–116. doi:10.1080/09595230410001645600. 
  4. ^ Ng, Gabriel. "Candy - Luke Davies (Review)". Writer on Writer Action. 
  5. ^ a b Ball, Magdalena. "A review of Candy by Luke Davies". The Compulsive Reader. Retrieved 6 October 2012.