turtle beachPublished: 1981

Judith Wilkes, an ambitious journalist, leaves her husband and two sons in Australia and goes to Malaysia to report on the international refugee crisis. Ten years earlier, Malaysia provided Judith with her first major career success, but also with a personal disaster that she would like to forget.

While on assignment Judith encounters Minou, the manipulative young French-Vietnamese wife of a high-ranking Australian diplomat. Minou is desperate to rescue her children from Saigon, who were left behind when she fled. Judith also begins a romance with the enigmatic Indian scholar Kanan. These new loyalties throw her headlong into dramatic personal and professional dilemmas.

It is on the East Malaysian coast, where the giant turtles gather to lay their eggs, that the conflict reaches its tragic, brutal climax.

Winner of the Age Book of the Year Award, the South Australian Government's Award for Literature, the PEN Golden Jubilee Award and the Braille Book of the Year Award.


'Blanche d'Alpuget writes with a grace and suspenseful wizardry that recall Simeonon, but her precise intelligence and knowledge of the contemporary world is distinctly her own. Turtle Beach: East Malaysia in the wake of Vietnam.'
-Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Black Tickets

'[In Turtle Beach] Australian novelist d'Alpuget explores the themes of female freedom (largely sexual) and inescapable dependence - writing crisply, intelligently, with the story breezed along on a colorful, full extended fan of Malaysia's sights and cultural complexities.'
-Kirkus Reviews

'In Blanche d'Alpuget we have a novelist of wit and high intelligence....'
-Christopher Koch, author of The Year Living Dangerously

'Turtle Beach is a novel whose assurance and virtues give constant shocks of pleasure. It is intelligent and passionate. It is thoughtfully structured and energetically written. It is strengthened by a symbolism that is never obtrusive, and its comic and sometimes cynical surface is never at odds with the undercurrent and final overflow of tragedy.'
-The Age


This novel grew out of my horror at what I saw as Australia's moral turpitude towards the IndoChinese refugee crisis that followed the fall of South Vietnam to the communist north. Our government had enthusiastically followed America into the Vietnam war.When it was lost, Australians were inclined to refuse to take the refugees that our foreign policy had helped to their desperate plight. In Australia, Brian Johns, head of Penguin Books, bought the novel. He decided that it would be Penguin's first time for publishing straight up in paperback, rather than the usual two step of hard-cover, then paper. It was a good decision. The book sold well immediately. Brian was a very jolly publisher, full of laughter and jokes. Physically he resembled a bear that grew more rotund the more honey it ate. He was always keen to take me to lunch, not a-deux, like Peter Ryan (who only enjoyed conversation 'between four eyes'), but with a bunch of people who spent the meal trying to out-do each other with witticisms. His personality was the warmest I ever encountered in publishing. He was erudite and thoughtful and tremendous fun to work with. 

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