Nikki GemmellAuthor

Nikki Gemmell is the author of thirteen novels and four works of works of non-fiction, including ShiverThe Bride Stripped BareAfterThe Ripping Tree and Dissolve. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages. She was born in Wollongong, Australia, and lived in London for many years, but has now returned home. Her distinctive writing has gained her critical acclaim in France, where she’s been described as a ‘female Jack Kerouac.’ The French literary magazine Lire included her in a list of the fifty most important writers in the world – those it believes will have a significant influence on the literature of the twenty-first century. Gemmell also pens a popular weekly column for the Weekend Australian Magazine.

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Books for Adults

1997, Harper Collins

Also known as Traversée

A young journalist, Fin, tired of the police beat at the ABC, takes on the opportunity of a lifetime when she’s offered a spot on an Antarctic expedition as the resident journalist. Over the course of a long sea voyage, Fin’s exposed to the unique dynamics of an Antarctic expedition, positioned to consider the extremely masculine, scientifically concentrated social rhythms of the ship from an outsider’s perspective. The harsh beauty of the voyage and of the icy continent makes an impact on Fin, changing her perspectives on the ‘normal’ life she lived back in Sydney. Over the course of the journey, Fin falls in love with an older man, Max, opening her up to the possibility of a relationship once they return to Australia. The ideal of their relationship comes crumbling down in the last moments of the novel, the arc of the story ultimately becoming rooted in the tragedy and the beauty of their short relationship.

Shiver explores the unique dynamics emerging from an Antarctic expedition through a new lens, creating a highly unusual, affecting romance in a deeply impactful setting.

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1998, Random House. Also known as Alice Springs

Snip Freeman is a woman in search of her father. Not the physical presence of him – she knows where he lives, in the desert out of Alice Springs – but the truth behind his abandonment of her and her mother. At the bequest of her grandmother, Snip sets out for the Centre to track him down. She is no stranger to this part of the country; she goes there regularly, drawn by the strange power of the land and by the strength of community of Aboriginal people, who provide her with a greater sense of family than her own ever has. Snip, thirty-something, has always been a loner and a wanderer. Afraid of intimacy, and preferring to direct all her energies to her painting, she moves on as soon as she feels herself growing attached to anyone. When she somehow lets herself fall in love with Dave, the guy who answers her ad for a co-driver to the Centre, she runs away from him too. With her father, Bud, Snip escapes into the desert, both of them fleeing imaginary demons. Their four-wheel-drive hits a rock and the fuel tank is punctured, and they’re stranded for days on end without adequate food or water. Then Bud disappears altogether. Dave, too, is running – after Snip.


The lesson she has to learn is that she cannot run away from herself. Nor, she discovers, does she want to repeat her father’s mistake and live only for herself. Cleave revolves around the themes of covering and discovering, revenge, the nature of affinity, and finding you place in the world. Like Shiver it is written with a high-voltage energy and is particularly strong on male/female relationships in the complex nineties. While not a sequel to Shiver, Cleave is the second in a trilogy of novels set in extreme locations, and its evocation of the desert, the use of the desert as a metaphor for human isolation, will resonate with readers everywhere.

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2001, Picador

“I was once snugged up tight within a God-fearing community in a land where the light roared and sea hurt. But here I am now, out from under the thumb of Him and in a land where the sky is so low it almost brushes the rooftops. Here I am with you, my little tummy-tucked astronaut, and with all these whisperings back in that community that I’ve killed a six foot two man.”

Lovesong is the story of Lillie Bird, a woman from a locked religious community who one day finds herself in the freedom of a strange new world, England, accused of murdering a man.

But it was here, in this land of cold, dark skies and scuffed and tumbling streets, that she had first found the pleasure and the sadness, and the love, she had for years so desperately sought.

Lovesong is at once a celebration of the human spirit and a powerful story of exile, identity and love.

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2003, Harper Collins

A woman disappears, leaving behind an incendiary diary chronicling a journey of sexual awakening. To all who knew her, she was the Good Wife: happy, devoted, content. But the diary reveals a secret self, one who’s discovered that her new marriage contains mysteries of its own. Inspired by a manuscript written by an anonymous Elizabethan woman who dared to speak of what women truly desire, she tastes for the first time the intoxicating power of knowing what she wants and how to get it. The question is, how long can she sustain a perilous double life?

In writing The Bride Stripped Bare, Nikki decided to remain anonymous so she would feel absolutely free to explore the woman’s inner world. As she writes in her afterword, “That doesn’t mean this book is a memoir; it’s many things to me, fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and fact, a quilt pieced together not only from my stories but those of my friends”. Coolly impassioned, The Bride Stripped Bare tells startling truths about love and sex. It will make you question whether it is ever entirely possible to know another person.

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2006, Fourth Estate

The Bride Stripped Bare exposed female desire as no other book had; raw, intoxicating and breathtakingly libidinous. Now, Pleasure looks set to do the same with more secret women’s business – dealing candidly with everything from Brazilian waxes to ‘secret’ underwear, from coping with broken hearts to what makes a perfect partner (a checklist to cut out and keep), from advice on the friends who flatten you (frenemies) to the importance of empathy. Both bold and intimate, Pleasure is a book Nikki Gemmell says she looked for as a gift for a cherished friend – and never found. So she decided to write it herself. Encased in a stunning design package with beautiful feminine illustrations, this is an ideal gift for your best friend, aunt, sister or fairy godmother.

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2009, Harper Collins.

The must-read new novel from Nikki Gemmell — as provocative and as deeply felt as her international bestseller The Bride Stripped Bare. Three children wake up in a basement room. They have been drugged and taken from their beds in the middle of the night, and now they are alone. Where are their parents? Who can they trust? Their family has been betrayed to the authoritarian government that now controls Australia. Salt Cottage, their isolated home on a clifftop above the ocean, is no longer safe, the final refuge of the family betrayed. Their mother’s scientific work has put them all in danger. In order to protect them, she must let them go. She must put her faith in an old family friend – and in her children’s own resilience and courage.

The novel considers the moral, personal and political implications of scientific discovery, contrasting the questionable individual actions of the mother with the implications for a broader, innocent family unit. Searing, provocative and unputdownable, The Book of Rapture is a novel of our time that’s every bit as passionate and driven as The Bride Stripped Bare. It will compel, seduce and haunt you.

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2011, Harper Collins. Also known as Letters from an Unknown Wife.

In 2003 Nikki Gemmell created a sensation when, writing under the tag ‘Anonymous’, her novel The Bride Stripped Bare became a literary phenomenon, with its raw and unflinching depiction of female sexuality.
Now, eight years later, Gemmell returns with another tour de force, With My Body, and addresses the question of what is intimacy and whether it is ever truly possible to know another person. It is at once a manifesto of married mothers everywhere and a highly personal story of one woman’s sexual awakening.
A wife, comfortably married and with three children, is contemplating middle age along with all the constraints of motherhood. Finding herself numb and locked down in an unending cycle of school runs, laundry and meal times, she cannot at first see a way to live with honesty. Even her husband, whom she loves, has never reached the core of her. Despairing of ever finding a way through her family to her own identity, she returns to the memory of an old love affair – the consequences of which she has never resolved. She goes back to her past and confronts it, and the result is an exhilarating examination of present-day sexuality.
With My Body is exquisitely raw, emotional and bold, and deeply resonant of the classic French erotic writings of Colette, Nin and Duras – but with a modern and provocative twist.

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2012, Harper Collins, Non-Fiction

Celebrating a year of thought-provoking and fascinating columns in The Australian Weekend Magazine, Honestly is a collection of writing on a diverse range of subjects such as motherhood after 40, the end of a close friendship, the joy of a handwritten letter, connecting with nature, the necessity of tweezers, meeting the Queen and oral sex.
Including exclusive new essays, the pieces are full of frank and uplifting insights, hilarious anecdotes, and some painful yet touching truths.
Famous for her lyrical honesty and for fearlessly saying those things other women think but dare not say, Nikki’s writing connects with women everywhere

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2013, Harper Collins, Non-Fiction

A second collection of Nikki Gemmell’s thought-provoking and moving columns and essays ‘Gemmell is at the top of her game’ INSTYLE ‘Gemmell certainly knows how to be controversial’ DAILY TELEGRAPH Nikki Gemmell’s columns in THE AUSTRALIAN WEEKEND MAGAZINE have proved to be hugely popular, shrewdly observed and provocative. In PERSONALLY, she tackles a variety of subjects ranging from female bullying, tenderness, the urge to apologise and becoming an embarrassing parent, to celibacy and the tyranny of technology. Packed full of Nikki’s trademark blistering honesty, insight and humour, this collection of columns and exclusive new essays will make you nod in recognition, disagree vehemently, laugh out loud and, above all, think.

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2013, Harper Collins

Nikki Gemmell concludes the loose trilogy started with international bestsellers The Bride Stripped Bare and With My Body with this astonishing new tour de force. Under her Chanel suit and designer lingerie, Connie Carven is no longer the typical banker’s wife. Since Cliff’s dreadful skiing accident Connie has become a willing submissive to her husband’s every desire. While at first she enjoys a perverse sense of freedom within the ever-tightening bonds of her marriage, this dark and seductive passion consumes her entirely. She finds herself surrendering to an act that will forever remind her that she belongs to her husband alone – to be unlocked only by him, whenever he pleases. But it is this that awakens Connie from her slumber. In the communal garden of her Notting Hill home, she meets Mel and discovers the thrill of true intimacy. As the author of the bestselling phenomenon the Bride Stripped Bare and the exquisite With My Body, Nikki Gemmell brought erotic writing into the 21st century; she now looks back to Lady Chatterley’s Lover for inspiration. D.H. Lawrence’s celebrated tale of desire is retold for today and the deliciously provocative I Take You is a modern love story, both earthily passionate and wickedly tantalizing.

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2017, Harper Collins, Non-Fiction

What does it mean to be Australian? When expatriate novelist Nikki Gemmell had her three children in London, she chose to give them Aussie citizenship over British.
Why You Are Australian is a treatise about what it means to be Australian. Honest, moving, provocative, uplifting – an exile’s story, a mother’s story, an Australian’s story.

From the sun and surf of the coast to the gum trees and red sands of the continent’s Centre, Australia has stayed in the writer’s psyche despite her years in exile. Observing her children growing up in a crowded metropolis, she recalls her own, much more carefree childhood. What do the children know of the land of their parents and grandparents – and are her own memories realistic? She decides to take them on an experimental Australian journey to introduce them to her country – she takes them out of their London school and puts them into a local primary two hours north of Sydney. But can you ever go home again? With characteristic candour, Nikki Gemmell looks at what it means to be Australian – in the past and right now.

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2017, Harper Collins, Non-fiction

An elderly woman is found dead by builders, in her favourite armchair, in front of the television. As the police officers knock on her daughter’s front door and inform her of her mother’s death, they take her inside and pull out their notebooks to record what the anguished daughter is saying. ‘Has Mum done something wrong?’ she asks, bewildered. ‘Have I?’

Elayn Gemmell killed herself secretly and suddenly, and it broke her family.
Once a successful model photographed by Max Dupain and Laurence Le Guay, Elayn Gemmell felt herself to be a left-behind older woman, facing a future of uncertainty and fear, invisible without her beauty or independence, and dealing with chronic pain and an addiction to painkillers. Her relationship with her daughter Nikki – herself a busy working woman with four children – was complicated, at times fraught and she hated to ‘be a bother’.

After examines in painfully honest detail a situation facing many elderly and chronically ill people around the world. Not given the choice to do what they really want to do legally, these people are compelled to make decisions alone, leaving behind devastating legal and emotional consequences.

The shock of dealing with her mother’s self-euthanisation was compounded when Nikki Gemmell was pulled into the police investigation that swiftly followed. She discovered Elayn had been liaising with Philip Nitschke, a prominent pro-euthanisation figure, and had imported the illegal euthanasia drug Nembutal from Mexico. Perhaps Elayn thought her secrecy would legally and emotionally protect her children – but in fact her family struggled to cope. Nikki questioned every aspect of her own life, ultimately leading to her having a breakdown.
In After Nikki Gemmell questions her mother’s actions and asks if they should be celebrated as an act of empowerment and control, or condemned for the emotional havoc they wrecked across her stunned family. Was her death a final act of independence or an act of despair? After examines myriad issues around a highly contentious subject, and from a uniquely personal perspective

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2020, Hachette Press, Non-fiction/Essay

Nikki Gemmell writes on the power of quiet in today’s shouty world. Quiet comes as a shock in these troubled times.

Quietism means ‘devotional contemplation and abandonment of the will … a calm acceptance of things as they are’. Gemmell makes the case for why quiet is steadily gaining ground in this noisy age: Why we need it now more than ever. How to glean quiet, hold on to it, and work within it.

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2021, Harper Collins

Early 1800s. Thomasina Trelora is on her way to the colonies. Her fate: to be married to a clergyman she’s never met. As the Australian coastline comes into view a storm wrecks the ship and leaves her lying on the rocks, near death. She’s saved by an Aboriginal man who carries her to the door of a grand European house, Willowbrae.
Tom is now free to be whoever she wants to be and a whole new life opens up to her. But as she’s drawn deeper into the intriguing life of this grand estate, she discovers that things aren’t quite as they seem. She stumbles across a horrifying secret at the heart of this world of colonial decorum – and realises she may have exchanged one kind of prison for another.

To enquire about the rights to The Ripping Tree, click here

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2021, Hachette, Memoir

This story of a writer finding her voice, struggling to have a room of her own, is the story of ALL women finding space for themselves against the ‘very important men’ in their lives. It’s the story of every woman’s life.

Having lived through the humiliation and bewildering complexity of heartbreak in her twenties, Nikki Gemmell eventually resurfaced, reclaimed space for herself and found her voice. Decades later she has written a deeply personal, profoundly intimate reflection on love and female creativity, and what happens when the two collide in a man’s world.

Dissolve is a conversation. A conversation with the young women of Gemmell’s teenage daughter’s generation, and of course with men.

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