Praise for The Winter Road


Judges’ comments: “Kate Holden’s exposition of an environmental officer’s murder on a lonely road is part thriller and part meditation on Australia’s landscape, culture and politics as legacies of its settler past. Drawing together true crime, history and botany at the place where journalism and literature meet, this is an extraordinary work of storytelling.”



“Compellingly told, shattering in its reverberations, The Winter Road is a story for our times — a battle that is being fought the world over as we try to find a better way of managing the land and respecting the forces of nature that sustain us.” –Isabella Tree, custodian of Knepp Estate and author of Wilding.

“Kate Holden finds the epic thread in this crime and weaves a quintessential Australian story.” —Chloe Hooper, author of The Tall Man and The Arsonist.

‘A gripping account of our land, and our selves.’ —Tara June Winch, author of The Yield.

“Beautifully written, meticulously researched, carefully plotted and seamlessly stitched.” — Charles Massy, farmer and author of The Call of the Reed Warbler. “This book is a major contribution to the canon of Australian land and social history: a bedfellow with Francis Ratcliffe, W. E. H. Stanner, Tim Flannery, Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe […] Its power in explosing a hidden, supperating sore in the psyche of our nation.”

“An agonising and powerful parable.” — Tom Griffiths, author of Forests of Ash: An Environmental History. “Holden brilliantly telescopes centuries of history and law into fatal conversations at a farm gate. As one man stalks another on a winter road, the whole psyche of modern Australian settlement comes under trial. An enthralling and disturbing tale told with deep insight and compassion.”

“Ecological, humane and grounding.” — Anna Krien, author of Into The Woods and Night Games.

“There is a type of true crime book that surpasses others in the genre due to its literary merit and unique approach to the subject. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation are all excellent examples. Now we have a new addition to the list – The Winter Road, the long-awaited return to a full-length book by Australian writer Kate Holden. […] The Winter Road takes the horrific crime at Talga Lane as the starting point to a larger examination of Australia’s relationship with the land, and the crimes, conflicts and dilemmas it has produced ever since European invasion. It is also the starting point of many questions. […] Holden explores these issues through her meticulous research; including references to Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, Charles Massy’s Call of the Reed Warbler, the work of artist Shaun Tan and marine biologist Daniel Pauly’s fascinating ‘shifting baseline syndrome’. After I had finished The Winter Road, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted, but it was worth it. This is essential reading by one of Australia’s finest nonfiction writers.” — Amanda Rayner, Readings newsletter review

“In The Winter Road, Holden, who writes regularly for The Saturday Paper, relates with empathy and intelligence a dramatic and complex story, which has deep links to the past and profound implications for the future. This is a tale of brigalow and big personalities, fence lines and bottom lines, carbon and kangaroos, to which the author applies both microscope and telescope. With one hand, she guides us expertly through the thick tangle of contentious legislation, inconsistent enforcement, confusing administrative restructures, and long-running legal cases – the bureaucratic scrub that is an inescapable part of this narrative landscape. With the other, she applies the filters of philosophy, history and aesthetics to tease out larger lessons. The genius of the book, which, as a model of reconstructive journalism places Holden alongside Chloe Hooper and Anna Krien, lies in Holden’s ability to apply her intense intellectuality to a topic that, in the most literal of senses, is so down to earth.” — Linda Jaivin, review in The Saturday Paper, June 2021

“…The Winter Road, her phenomenal and sweeping study of genocide, environmental destruction and the heritage of our national agricultural enterprise.[…] “It has been a revelation of place, identity and history,” she writes of her work in her acknowledgments. It will be the same for anyone who picks up this book.” — Jessie Tu, author of A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing, review in Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, July 2021

“Holden is an excellent writer and weaves these different elements together beautifully in The Winter Road, moving from the Turner-Turnbull story to its historical and philosophical context with intelligence and panache. Her metaphors seem to emerge fully formed from the rich land at the centre of the tragedy.[…] Nothing in the story she tells was predictable. But in teasing out its historical elements, Holden has given it the texture of tragedy, while also re- calling us to the tragic elements within Australia’s history.” — Richard King, review in The Weekend Australian, May 2021.

“Kate Holden forges a sanctuary for contemplation in The Winter Road, which raises questions about our relationships and responsibili-ties on this continent. Combining essay with reportage, and drawing on the work of philosophers and historians, Holden’s book transcends true crime.[…] The Winter Road, told with stripped-back eloquence, relies on judicious selection of de-tails and dialogue recorded in official documents such as logbooks, police interviews, and court transcripts. […] While readers won’t find a metaphor in this careful narrative, Holden writes with more freedom in the reflective sections. Here she can spend half a page tracing a creek on Google Maps, where its meandering ‘wobbles the composure of fencelines’. With intellectual openness and generosity, Holden explores a history of environmental governance, from the ‘decade of en-vironmentalism’ in the 1860s, when settlers and experts were alarmed at the scale of devastation, to questions about our future in the Anthropocene. An idea, she writes, ‘may wriggle under the fence of resolve and, once broken into clear ground, make havoc’. Her sensitive approach honours the loss and pain suffered by people and the brigalow forest.Holden’s book will bring public attention to an issue that is fraught and ongoing.” — Cameron Muir, author of The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress: An environmental history and co-editor of Living with the Anthropocene: Love, loss and hope in the face of environmental crisis, review in Australian Book Review, July 2021

“Kate Holden’s The Winter Road is a very full-on book. It is vividly-written and meticulously researched. […] If you are interested in true crime, history, the Australian landscape, the environment, then I would recommend giving The Winter Road a read.” — Callum J. Jones, Tasmanian Times Book Review.

Comments are closed.