Hospital, Janette Turner 1942- (Alex Juniper)

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Hospital, Janette Turner 1942- (Alex Juniper)


Born November 12, 1942, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; daughter of Adrian C. (a painter) and Elsie Turner; married Clifford G. Hospital (a professor), February 5, 1965; children: Geoffrey, Cressida. Education: University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia, B.A., 1966, D.Litt, 2003; Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, M.A., 1973; Griffith University, Australia, D.Univ., 1996. Politics: Democrat.


Home—Boston, MA; Brisbane, Australia; and Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Agent—Jill Hickson Associates, P.O. Box 271, Woollahra, New South Wales 2025, Australia; Molly Friedrich, Aaron Priest Agency, 708 3rd Ave., 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10017.


Writer and educator. High school teacher of English in Brisbane, Australia, 1963-66; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, librarian, 1967-71; Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, teaching fellow, 1971-74; teacher of English at several institutions, including St. Lawrence College 1973-82; lecturer in English literature at federal penitentiaries, Kingston, 1975-76; writer in residence at various institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA, 1985-86, 1987, 1989; University of Ottawa, Canada, 1987; University of Sydney, Australia, 1989; La Trobe University, Melbourne, University, 1989; and Boston University, Boston, fall, 1991. La Trobe University, adjunct professor of English, 1991-93; University of South Carolina, Columbia, Carolina Distinguished Professor of English, c. 2003.


Ontario graduate fellow, 1972-73; Canadian Council doctoral fellow, 1974-75; Atlantic First Citation, Atlantic Monthly, 1978; gold medal, Canadian National Magazine Awards, 1980, for travel writing; citation from Atlantic Monthly, 1982, for story "Waiting"; Seal First Novel Award, Seal Books, 1982, for The Ivory Swing; CBC Literary Prize, 1986, for short story; Fellowship of Australian Writers award, 1988, for Dislocations; Torgi award, Canadian Association for the Blind, 1988; Australian National Book Council award, 1989; Queensland Premier's Literary Award, 2003, and Davitt Award from Sisters in Crime for "best crime novel of the year by an Australian woman," both for Due Preparations for the Plague; Patrick White Award, 2003, for lifetime literary achievement; Doctor of Letters honoris causa, University of Queensland, 2003; Russell Research Award for Humanities and Social Sciences, University of South Carolina, 2003.



The Ivory Swing, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982, Dutton (New York, NY), 1983.

The Tiger in the Tiger Pit, Dutton (New York, NY), 1983.

Borderline, Dutton (New York, NY), 1985.

Charades, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

(As Alex Juniper) A Very Proper Death, Penguin (Melbourne, Australia), 1990, Scribner (New York, NY), 1991.

The Last Magician, Holt (New York, NY), 1992.

Oyster, W.W. Norton & Company (New York, NY), 1998.

Due Preparations for the Plague, Norton (New York, NY), 2003.


Dislocations, Norton (New York, NY), 1986.

Isobars, University of Queensland Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Collected Stories, 1970-1995, University of Queensland Press (Australia), 1995.

North of Nowhere, South of Loss, University of Queensland Press (Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 2003, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.


Work represented in anthologies, including CBC Anthology. Contributor of stories to magazines in Canada, the United States, England, and Australia, including the periodicals Atlantic Monthly, Canadian Forum, Commonweal, North American Review, Queen's Quarterly, Saturday Night, and Yale Review.


Janette Turner Hospital once told CA: "I have lived for extended periods in Australia, the United States, Canada, England, and India, and I am very conscious of being at ease in many countries but belonging nowhere. All my writing reflects this. My characters are always caught between worlds or between cultures or between subcultures."

"All my writing," she commented in Contemporary Novelists, "in a sense, revolves around the mediation of one culture (or subculture) to another." It is, an essayist observed in the same source, "intellectually sophisticated writing which spirals through mysteries and indeterminacies but never loosens its tug on the senses. Much of [Hospital's] work is about the borderlines of things, of art and self, of time and space." The writer went on to note: "Intellectually compelling yet fiery and dynamic, her work is baroque, elegant yet with a sensuous energy and immediacy."

Hospital's first novel, The Ivory Swing, tells the story of a university professor's wife who goes with her husband and children to India for a year and wrestles during that time with the questions of love and marriage, and of freedom—both her own and what the concept means in another culture. Christopher Schemering, writing in Washington Post Book World, described it as "a disturbing meditation on the clash of cultures and the rebellion and feminine rage in each." Gail Pearce, writing for Quill and Quire, called The Ivory Swing "compelling and enjoyable reading" and reported that "the plot is well constructed [and] the characters are plausible and sympathetic."

The Tiger in the Tiger Pit, Hospital's second novel, derives its name from T.S. Eliot's "Lines for an Old Man," the author told CA. The story centers on the members of the unhappy, patriarchal Carpenter family, who, as Judith Fitzgerald noted in Books in Canada, "display a perverse tendency for chaos." Clare Colvin, in a review for Books and Bookmen, remarked that Hospital "portrays the claustrophobic web of family relationships with perception."

Hospital's fascination with borders is obvious not only in the title of her third novel, Borderline, but in its plot as well, in which a couple help an injured South American woman who is attempting to cross the border between the United States and Canada. In the New York Times Book Review, Cheri Fein labeled Hospital's third novel "by far her most complex and disturbing." M.G. Vassanji observed in Books in Canada that Borderline contains "echoes … of Conrad, parallels in theme and form with Renaissance art, allusions to Indian mythology" and interpreted the borderline of the title as "a metaphor for other barriers," particularly in interpersonal relationships. Writing in Saturday Night, Elspeth Cameron called Borderline "a coup" in which Hospital "brings to the fore political issues that seemed slight and redundant in her first two novels (though not in some of her stories), and through symbolic parallels integrates their startling relevance with her almost existentialist musings on the nature of reality, perception, and art."

Hospital's novel Charades, in the words of New York Times Book Review writer Ron Loewinsohn, "manages to combine images from our Judeo-Christian myth of origin—the Garden of Eden story—with metaphors and concepts from quantum physics and cosmology" in the tale of a young Australian graduate student who seeks to piece together her sketchy past during an affair she initiates with a professor of cosmology. She does this by entertaining her lover, a la Scheherazade, with nightly stories—her guesses about her past, her parents, her life—and by the end has woven together an incomplete but acceptable truth for herself. Linda Barrett Osborne, writing in Washington Post Book World, described Hospital's prose in Charades as "clever and lyrical, and her characterization superb," and Alan Cheuse, writing for the Chicago Tribune, praised the novel's "mixture of intelligence and sensuality, idea and deeply felt drama."

The Last Magician begins with strong Dantean allusions that foreshadow the hellish Sydney catacombs that house the Quarry, an area of destitution and depravity. This is where the "last magician," photographer and filmmaker Charlie Chang, and other characters go in search of Cat, the lost figure around whom the story revolves. The first of Hospital's novels to be set wholly in Australia, where the author has tended to spend more and more of her time through the years, garnered praise from major review journals. In the opinion of Aamer Hussein in Times Literary Supplement, The Last Magician surpassed "even the excellent Borderline, and should establish [Hospital] as one of the most powerful and innovative writers in English today."

Hussein found the book "unashamedly dense with ideas: reflections on the art of photography collide with meditations on science; Taoist citations … intertwine with a critique of contemporary literary norms (many of which Hospital challenges and brilliantly contravenes)." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Edward Hower lauded Hospital for knowing "how to cast a spell that makes us as eager as her narrator to uncover the truth," and added that Hospital "fills her novel with evocative settings, characters we care deeply about and language that is entrancingly lyrical." In Washington Post Book World, Carol Anshaw criticized Hospital's lapses into overwrought writing but acknowledged that risk as inherent in "trying to pull off a highwire act." However, Anshaw added: "The up-side of the author's full-tilt style is that, when the prose and ideas of this book resonate against each other, the result is passages of stunning clarity and beauty."

Comparing Hospital's novels with the short stories in her second collection, Isobars, Hussein noted that the latter "collide with, and diverge from, her novels, finish- ing incomplete phrases, casting light on distant corners, indicating new projects." In the New York Times Book Review, Richard Burgin found the prose in these stories "too feverish and preachy" at times and the irony "too heavy-handed." He concluded, however, that "much more often [Hospital is] able to fuse her disparate talents and concerns to create an original, convincing vision of our struggles with ourselves and others, and with our memories and dreams."

Hospital took on the pseudonym of Alex Juniper for her mystery-thriller A Very Proper Death. Working as a real estate broker in Boston, Marni Verstak has a complicated life. She is hiding the existence of her son Matthew from his homosexual father, Anderson Thorpe, III, who is dying of AIDS. However, Marni receives a mysterious phone call saying that Matthew is dead, a statement that almost comes true when Matthew is nearly killed later in a mysterious car wreck. In the meantime, the renovator of a house that Marni owns in a drug-infested neighborhood is killed on the job. When Anderson is also found murdered, Marni is the main suspect after police discover that she was hiding Matthew. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "embroils her heroine in a suspenseful and complex plot."

In her novel Oyster, Hospital tells the story of Outer Maroo, a remote town in the Australian outback, and a charlatan named Oyster. When Oyster arrives in Outer Maroo, the town is largely populated by opal miners and religious fanatics, and he establishes an apocalyptic-driven cult and even sways the rough miners in his favor by offering to tell them where they can find a large amount of precious opals. However, when two parents looking for their missing children also come to town, the townspeople are unaware that their presence will lead toward their own personal Armageddon. The story is told after-the-fact by a young girl who got caught up in the cult. Bill Ott, writing in Booklist, called Oyster "a genuinely hypnotic novel." This critique was generally upheld by numerous other critics. A contributor to the Economist referred to the novel as "highly readable." In her review in People, Emily Mitchell commented that the author "writes with brilliance and originality." Several reviewers also noted the author's ability to produce a good mystery with literary overtones. Carolyn Bliss writing in World Literature Today, referred to the novel as "an old-fashioned page-turner which offers up an intriguing mystery."

Due Preparations for the Plague revolves around a 1987 terrorist hijacking of an Air France plane that results in the death of the young Lowell Hawthorne's mother. As an adult, Lowell has never gotten over his mother's death, and this has led to his failed marriage and his being the single father of two young children. Eventually, Samantha, the child of another person who died in the hijacking, convinces Lowell that the true story of the hijacking has been classified by the government. When Lowell uncovers evidence that Samantha may be right the two set out to discover what the government is hiding. As noted by most reviewers, the novel is not a typical thriller but instead focuses on the horrors of terrorism and how people must confront their fears about it. "Much of this novel is excruciatingly painful … but the pain is never gratuitous or sensationalistic," Ott wrote in Booklist.

Due Preparations for the Plague generally received widespread praise from critics, especially for the author's literary approach to the thriller genre. For example, a Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the novel as "strong stuff: an accomplished fusion of doomsday thriller and mordant morality play." Another reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly noted that the author's "sophisticated psychological thriller offers a thought-provoking glimpse of the sociopolitical intricacies of the individuals and organizations that track terrorism, as well as of the enduring personal struggles of those left behind after an attack."

Hospital's short-story collection North of Nowhere, South of Loss presents a wide range of characters in various circumstances that reveal how their interior lives are bound together by their memories and, more often than not, confused remembrances. For example, in the story "For Mr Voss or Occupant," a woman renting a house receives mysterious mail and is eventually confused with the house's former tenant, a case of mistaken identity that has deadly consequences. Many of the stories, however, focus on Philippa and Brian, whose long-distance friendship is followed until Brian eventually succumbs to mental illness and death in the final story about the two friends titled "Night Train."

Misha Stone, writing in Booklist, referred to the short-story collection as "riveting" and also noted that the author's "characters are continually in search of a homeland they may never return to" again. Other critics praised the collection even more profusely, including Kellie Gillespie, who wrote in the Library Journal that the author has "set a new standard for the short story genre that will be hard to surpass." A Kirkus Reviews contributor summed up a review by noting: "Stylistically demanding, sometimes overly so, but unforgettable. This woman can write."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 42, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987.

Contemporary Novelists, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 6th edition, 1996.


Antipodes, May 15, 2003, "Patrick White Award," p. 1618; June, 2004, Richard Carr, "‘Just Enough Religion to Make Us Hate’: The Case of Tourmaline and Oyster," p. 9, and Nathanael O'Reilly, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 88.

Booklist, March 15, 1998, Bill Ott, review of Oyster, p. 1203; May 15, 2003, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 1618; January 1, 2004, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 776; August, 2004, Misha Stone, review of North of Nowhere, South of Loss, p. 1899.

Books and Bookmen, August, 1984, Clare Colvin, review of The Tiger in the Tiger Pit, pp. 33-34.

Books in Canada, November 9, 1983, Judith Fitzgerald, review of The Tiger in the Tiger Pit, p. 33; January-February, 1986, M.G. Vassanji, review of Borderline, p. 27.

Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1989, Alan Cheuse, review of Charades.

Economist, July 11, 1998, review of Oyster, p. S17.

Entertainment Weekly, July 18, 2003, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 81.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 629; August 1, 2004, review of North of Nowhere, South of Loss, p. 705.

Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Lawrence Rungren, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 166; August, 2004, Kellie Gillespie, review of North of Nowhere, South of Loss, p. 72.

New York Times Book Review, April 15, 1984, Mona Simpson, review of The Tiger in the Tiger Pit, p. 22; September 1, 1985, Cheri Fein, review of Borderline, p. 8; December 25, 1988, p. 9; March 12, 1989, Ron Loewinsohn, review of Charades, p. 14; May 6, 1990, p. 38; September 29, 1991, Richard Burgin, review of Isobars, p. 18; September 13, 1992, Edward Hower, review of The Last Magician, p. 15; September 7, 2003, Richard Eder, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 29.

People, March 30, 1998, Emily Mitchell, review of Oyster, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, May 17, 1991, review of A Very Proper Death, p. 57; January 12, 1998, review of Oyster, p. 44; June 2, 2003, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 32; October 18, 2004, review of North of Nowhere, South of Loss, p. 49.

Quill and Quire, October, 1982, Gail Pearce, review of The Ivory Swing, p. 31.

Saturday Night, April, 1986, Elspeth Cameron, review of Borderline, pp. 57-59.

Time, April 6, 1998, John Skow, review of Oyster, p. 77.

Times Literary Supplement, July 3, 1992, Aamer Hussein, review of The Last Magician, p. 25; October 29, 1993, review of The Ivory Swing, p. 22.

Washington Post Book World, June 5, 1983, Christopher Schemering, review of The Ivory Swing, p. 10; February 26, 1989, Linda Barrett Osborne, review of Charades, p. 8; August 30, 1992, Carol Anshaw, review of The Last Magician, p. 8.

World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, Carolyn Bliss, review of Oyster, p. 861; May-August, 2004, Carolyn Bliss, review of Due Preparations for the Plague, p. 78.

ONLINE, (January 23, 2006), Gordon Hauptfleisch, review of Due Preparations for the Plague.

Janette Turner Hospital Home Page, (April 4, 2007).

PopMatters, (June 10, 2003), Nikki Tranter, review of Due Preparations for the Plague.

University of Queensland Alumni Web site, (April 4, 2007), "Dr. Janette Turner Hospital, Acclaimed Author."

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Hospital, Janette Turner 1942- (Alex Juniper)

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