Lesley Hewitt

Call me Marlowe is the 10th novel written by Daylesford author, Catherine de Saint Phalle. It tells the story of Harold Vanek, a Czech- Australian potter and his relationships with several people in his life, including his partner, Marylou, a former Korean sex worker and Australian resident.

The novel describes the misunderstandings that arise between Marylou and Harold and then his journey to Prague where he meets several people who provide him with information and stories about their relationships with his beloved grandmother Marushka and his mother Libena. Skilfully interwoven into the novel are references to Czechoslovakia’s violent history.

Through this and Mary Lou’s experiences, the novel explores how historical trauma impacts on individual relationships throughout generations as Harold reconciles with Mary Lou and his mother. Through Harold, de Saint Phalle explores the impact on children of migrants who feel a connection to both their ancestral homeland and Australia, and how that plays out in their identity. Through the female characters, Mary Lou, and Marushka, Harold’s grandmother we explore how the trauma experienced by women as a result of sexual violence also resonates thorough out their loves and relationships.

De Saint Phalle has skilfully woven the history of the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia post Second World war and the Russian and WARSAW Pact armies invasion of the country in August 1968 and its impact on the lives and relationships of the Czech people into the book. It is a salient reminder to the reader of how ordinary people’s loves are impacted by such events and how these impacts continue for the next generations.

Catherine de Saint Phalle was a recent guest on Hepburn Community Radio’s (88.0FM) monthly book review (9.30am on the first Thursday of the month) and provided generous insights into her writing process.

De Saint Phalle moved to Daylesford just before the pandemic started and finished Call Me Marlowe in Daylesford. She now lives between Daylesford and Brunswick and is working on several projects, including her next novel which will focus on the story of her grandmother. De Saint Phalle is a generous and engaging writer and a welcome addition to our community.

Call me Marlowe by Catherine de Saint Phalle is available at Paradise Bookshop in Vincent Street Daylesford.

Call me Marlowe, Catherine de Saint Phalle
Publisher: Transit Lounge
ISBN: 9780645565324
Paperback: 304pp
RRP: $32.99
Published: 1 May 2023


Lesley Hewitt is a Daylesford resident and elected councillor for Birch Ward. She does a regular book review segment on Hepburn Community Radio.