The Life to Come

By Michelle de Kretser Allen & Unwin

Set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.

Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.

Profoundly moving as well as wickedly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present. This extraordinary novel by Miles Franklin-winning author Michelle de Kretser will strike to your soul.

Michelle de Kretser

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was fourteen. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the award-winning author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, The Lost Dog and Questions of Travel, which received fourteen honours, including winning the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Judges' report

The Life to Come is a compelling work that rewards through its layered storytelling, showcasing an author at the peak of her powers. It is a novel that explores vast and varied terrain, both physical and psychological, examining many places – Sydney, Paris, Sri Lanka – and the people who move within them. The central character, Pippa, is a shamelessly ambitious young writer, who influences the lives of others through her words; the novel plays out in five parts that sweep through themes of loneliness, vanity and apathy. De Kretser asks deep questions about responsibility: to ourselves, to each other, and to our national identity. Stunning sentences, sharp social observation and biting honesty make this accomplished novel feel fresh, full and unforgettable.

Further reading


‘A thought-provoking novel of both beauty and brains.’ Kirkus Reviews

The Life to Come is an intense reading experience, marked by a sense that the very culture that Western Civilisation needs to rescue itself from egotism and pettiness is itself suffocating. De Kretser’s honesty is often funny…but not always comfortable. Her powers of description and evocation are remarkable.’ Michael McGirr, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Life to Come cements Michelle de Krester’s place as a premier writer of Australian identity, not the mythologised version – of Anzacs, battlers, and bushrangers – but the globalised reality, our culture of cosmopolitan insulation and well-meaning tactlessness.’ Beejay Silcox, Australian Book Review

‘De Kretser is an ironist without peer in contemporary Australian writing. Her instincts are subversive, her scalpel well-honed. She exposes her characters’ vanities, only to turn our sense of their thoughtlessness and self-regard inside-out so that we might sympathise with their loneliness. Her powers of social observation are as acute as her awareness of the fictions we live by.’ James Ley, Sydney Review of Books


Read more about The Life to Come in Michelle’s interview with The Guardian.

Listen to Michelle discuss The Life to Come with Sarah Kanowski on ABC’s BookPlus.

See Michelle’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery by W.H. Chong.

Learn about W.H. Chong’s process of painting Michelle’s portrait in The Daily Review.

Read more of Michelle’s work in The Monthly.