23 February 2016 | Adult Fiction

Ten Australian summer quotes

Australian summer quotes

Last week of summer, and it’s hot. Of course, being Melbourne, summer may not finish until the end of March or it could feel like winter next week. But right now, it’s summer.

Because my children’s novel is set in Melbourne in February and March, I am spending a bit of time this week to write down quick notes on summer. That sweaty patch on the back of your thin cotton dress, after you’ve been sitting in a basketball stadium for an hour. The hot heads of my kids when I collect them from school in the afternoon. The distant sound of kids’ laughter rising above the splashes from the pool. Hot pink nail polish peeking from turquoise sandals. My kids complaining about going to bed ‘when it’s still light, Mum!’ City filled with girls in barely-there strappy dresses. Boys wearing shorts of every clashable pattern imaginable. The sweet, fruity taste of homemade mango ice-cream.

I found these ten passages from books both old and new, which provide a diverse way of describing the Australian summer. I’ve added the title of the book, the author and the publication date at the very end of the post, in case you want to play a guessing game.

  1. The heat was excessive. Every window and door were open, and the balmy, almost imperceptible, zephyrs which faintly rustled the curtains and kissed our perspiration-beaded brows were rich with many scents from the wide old flower-garden, which, despite the drought, brought forth a wealth of blossom.
  2. She is putting on her new bikini that she nicked from Grace Brothers last week. She is rubbing coconut oil into her legs. She is smearing gloss on her lips.
  3. Outside, the property is yellowed and browned from summer. The only green is in the beds immediately around the house. Even the leaves on the eucalypts, the silver strinybarks and lemon scented, are dulled from the heat and the dust.
  4. I still suffered greatly from the heat, and on hot bright nights would smear my skin with citronella, take a rug, and go and lie on my back on the lawn.
  5. Will you look at us by the river! The whole restless mob of us on spread blankets in the dreamy briny sunshine skylarking and chiacking about for one day, one clear, clean, sweet day in a good world in the midst of our living.
  6. It’s almost the end of February and instead of getting cooler the weather gets more humid as the days go by. Because of the heat, the only thing I was looking forward to at Nonna’s place was the swimming pool.
  7. Saturday afternoon was the great afternoon of the week in Plymouth Street. The factory girls washed their hair and did it up in perforated aluminium curlers, put on old print dresses with sagging necklines and torn pockets, and sat on the peeling, cocoa-coloured balconies of the tenements, beating off the flies and saying: ‘Gawd, ain’t it hot!’
  8. In January days stretch out
    With lots to do and find
    We feel the sand, we tie the bait
    We swim, we play, we stay up late
    And no one seems to mind.
    A time for games and sunny weather
    Mum and Dad and us together.
  9. It’s too hot, but I like the way the heat makes my arms feel like they’re full of warm oil, and sweat runs down them in sheets soaking the sides of my singlet.
  10. Lunch was lazily discussed close to the water, after which they lay about on the bank and talked of many things. Nobody was inclined to move, for the heat, even at the river, was very great; a still, thunderous day, on which no shade could keep out the moist heat, that seemed, as Wally put it, “to get into your very bones and make them lazy.”

Did I miss any quintessential summer books? Did you match any quotes with titles or authors?





1. My brilliant career, Miles Franklin, 1901. 2. Closed for winter, Georgia Blain, 1998. 3. In the quiet, Eliza Henry Jones, 2015. 4. Tirra Lirra by the river, Jessica Anderson, 1978. 5. Cloudstreet, Tim Winton, 1991. 6. Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta, 1992. 7. The harp in the south, Ruth Park, 1948. 8. All through the year, Jane Godwin/Anna Walker, 2010. 9. All the birds singing, Evie Wyld, 2013. 10. Mates at Billabong, Mary Grant Bruce, 1911.

In conversation with Hanya Yanagihara



My childhood memories are set in summer. I’m climbing over the mullock heaps with my brothers, sister and cousins. Paddling in the lake in Bendigo with one eye on the black swan with the crooked neck! There is a freedom during this time. Less clothing, longer days, no clouds.

February 23, 2016 at 8:21 am

Karen Comer

Love your image of the black swan with the crooked neck, Pam!

February 23, 2016 at 9:07 am


Well, I could make some educated guesses! I’m never very good at remembering quotes!I think you did an excellent job of putting that list together. Of course, Tim Winton has to make an appearance there when so much of his writing takes place at the beach!

February 24, 2016 at 4:56 pm

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