An Unsettled Spirit: The Life and Frontier Fiction of Edith Lyttleton

Terry Sturm

‘Sturm has done a wonderful job. This book is packed full of detail about Edith Lyttleton, who wrote under the pen name G B Lancaster. Her family, her truly appalling mother, . . . her brilliant career as an author, her travels and her publishing history. It is also a wonderful gender history and work of book history.’ – Lydia Wevers, NZ Books


Edith Lyttleton, under the name of G. B. Lancaster, wrote over a dozen novels and some 250 short stories, mostly narratives of romance and adventure set in the remote back country of New Zealand, Australia and Canada. She was New Zealand’s most widely read author overseas in the first half of the twentieth century, reaching millions of readers. She topped bestseller lists in the United States for six months in 1933 and was awarded the Australian Gold Medal for Literature in the same year. Writing first from her family’s Canterbury sheep station and in the face of fierce parental opposition, she later travelled widely, researching her stories in the Yukon, Nova Scotia and Tasmania. She never married and, with her sister, devoted many years to the needs of her mother. Her middle age was peripatetic and lonely but produced the four phenomenally successful epic novels for which she was best known.

In this critical biography Terry Sturm gives a fascinating account of the harsh experience of a gifted woman writer forced to earn her own living but struggling to move beyond the limits of potboilers to more serious work. In their wide range of settings her stories confront the legacy of colonialism in a way that questions the pieties of empire and makes her work of real contemporary interest.



Terry Sturm (1941–2009) was for many years professor of English at The University of Auckland, New Zealand and a leading critic and scholar of New Zealand and Australian writing. He edited The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature (1991, 1998) and was chairman of the New Zealand Literary Fund Advisory Committee and later the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council’s Literature committee.

Shortlisted for Montana Book Awards 2004


June 2003, 224 x 158 mm, 320 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869402945, $49.99