Dr Belinda Castles

BA Hons (Nottingham), MA (Manchester), DCA (Western Sydney)
Lecturer in Creative Writing

A20 - John Woolley Building
The University of Sydney

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Biographical details

Belinda Castles is the award-winning author of four novels, including Hannah and Emil and The River Baptists. She has studied and taught in the UK and Australia, recently returning to Sydney from a period as lecturer in creative writing and director of the MA in creative writing at the University of Exeter.

She is currently working on a creative writing guide based on close readings of Australian fiction and a novel on literary envy. Her forthcoming novel Bluebottle is set on the northern beaches of Sydney and explores the repercussions of an event in a family’s history. Her most recent novel, Hannah and Emil, was based on the lives of her grandfather, a German refugee and internee in Australian wartime camps and grandmother, a Russian-Jewish interpreter raised in the West End of London.

Research interests

  • Place in fiction
  • Family memory in fiction, including traumatic histories
  • Craft aspects of writing
  • Contemporary Australian fiction
  • Sydney literature
  • Walking and writing

Teaching and supervision


  • Creative Writing (fiction)
  • Literary Culture - Sydney


  • Fiction projects, in particular those with an emphasis on place and/ or memory

Current projects

  • Bluebottle (a novel) - to be published by Allen & Unwin in June 2018
  • Creative writing guide based on contemporary Australian fiction

Awards and honours

  • Asher Literary Award 2013
  • Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist 2008
  • Australian/ Vogel Literary Award 2006

In the media

Critical reception:

Hannah and Emil

  • Sydney Morning Herald
    Peter Pierce, October 2012
    ‘This is an ambitious novel that keeps its focus on the here and now, on the hard-to-manage particulars of daily life. The sentimentality to which its form and events could have succumbed is altogether avoided for a clear-eyed, absorbing and intelligent account.’
  • The Australian
    Lucy Clark, August 2012
    ‘The most gripping passages of Hannah & Emil involve the fearsome prospect of Emil losing his young son, Hans, to the terrible ideology of Nazism and here Castles writes with great poignancy about the corruption of innocents.’

The River Baptists

  • The Australian Literary Review
    Debra Adelaide, October 03, 2007
    ‘The stories of [the characters] eventually intersect as they unfold in a beautifully structured manner that allows intense and even shocking dramas to develop, but never produces sensationalism.’
    ‘Castles exploits deep and telling silences in her story, and portrays people intensely connected to place and land…’
  • Australian Book Review
    Kate McFadyen, September 2007
    ‘The persistent symbolism of baptism and rebirth is delicately handled, from the title of the novel to the final pages. Castles uses the quietness of the river, its distinctive hidden waterholes and inlets, to great effect…The dramatic backdrop at once feeds the symbolic world of the novel, diluting it with its immensity and the comparative smallness of human concerns.’

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