Book Details

What Empty Things Are These

In 1860's Britain there is nothing unusual in a man beating his wife or impregnating the servant girls. When George Hadley's aggression triggers a stroke and coma, his wife discovers all she thinks of as hers is to pass to her ten-year-old son Toby. Facing impoverishment, Adelaide seems as powerless as her ladies' maid, Sobriety.        

Beyond the petit-point work of the parlour and the strictures of religion and social expectation, these two women of different class remake the rules and go out to discover what lies beneath the drapes and tassels of Victorian Britain. They learn that life is urgent, exciting… but cheap. Each undergoes a loss of innocence, as well as a few unexpected adventures into alleyways, a tunnel and a séance, while becoming aware of the dark and heart-rendingly abusive underside of respectable English society.

What Empty Things Are These is about what happens to women who look into the face of this newly industrialised and technological, and still patriarchal, age. Change is everywhere. Some, such as Adelaide and Sobriety, walk toward it, while others, such as the Hadley's housekeeper Mrs Staynes, are terrified by it. Contradiction, fraud and farce abound. Spiritualists prey on those left behind by these strident times; women are encased in clothing that imply both modesty and sexuality; wealth flows to the powerful who prey upon the weak. Adelaide and Sobriety, in their way, show us that every era has secrets that must be uncovered for real social progress.

Author Details

JL Crozier
Australian Judy (Judith) Crozier has been writing for much of her life – from the dramatic thirty-page epic written at the age of 12 (reversing her friends' names so as to give a suitable foreign feel to her characters) to now. In between, she has been a journalist and an award-winning short story writer. She has also been a community worker, local government representative, a creative writing teacher, a singing teacher and a blues singer, an editor of journals and a proof-reader for seven years of the Victoria Government Gazette, in the State of Victoria, Australia. ‘I believe you can get less for murder,' she laughs. Judy had a lot of time to read as a child, living an isolated life in Vietnam of the 60s, where her father was attached to the Australian Embassy in Saigon. She attended a French convent there. By the time her family left, she had read her way through the entire children's section of the British Council Library and halfway through the adult section, beginning with Thackeray and Dickens. She was born in Malaya and also lived in Burma as a small child, where her father was a mining engineer. Her short stories have won awards in competitions in Australia, in Ireland (online) and in the US (also online). For the past few years she has concentrated on novel-writing, having completed a Master of Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. This involved intensive research as well as the first chapters of her novel based in Victorian London. ‘It was a time of enormous change and contradiction, exciting and terrifying for a woman – such as my main character – whose future looks pretty uncertain,' says Judy. ‘Life in burgeoning London is urgent, exciting… and cheap.' Judy now lives in France, where she took herself in 2015 to be closer to the world and for new experiences. She found her perfect village in the south and can now practice the French she first learned as a child in Vietnam.