Publishing Success for Faculty of Arts Alumna
27 September 2010
Despite only being published in September, alumna Elisabeth Storrs' first book, The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome (Pier 9 / Murdoch Books) has already been listed as Good Reading Magazine's Fiction Book of the Month.
Set in 406BC, The Wedding Shroud is a sensual tale that follows the life of Caecilia, a young Roman girl who is married to an Etruscan nobleman from Veii to seal a truce between the two enemy cities. Caecilia's eyes are opened to the hedonistic Etruscan culture, where she is confronted with new freedoms in a civilisation of mysticism and decadence.
The novel paints a vividly realized picture of the unique Etruscan culture whilst exploring the place of women in the ancient world, and themes of fidelity and sexual abandon, tolerance and prejudice.
Inspiring this lush portrayal of ancient life was Storrs' discovery a decade ago of a captivating sculpture of an Etruscan husband and wife caught in an affectionate embrace on a C6th BC sarcophagus, which she later saw in the Louvre.
Storrs was blown away by this image as it kindled a fascination in her for Etruscan culture, which celebrated married love at a time when couples were rarely depicted together in such an intimate way.
"I knew from my reading that women of the ancient world were rarely commemorated in funerary art," says Storrs.
"They were also only given one name; that of their father's in feminine form."
Storrs believes the cultural disparity between Ancient Rome and the Etruscan Veii, an enlightened civilisation that afforded education, independence and sexual freedom to its women, was a central tension she explored in the novel.
"These cities lay only twelve miles apart across the Tiber River and it intrigued me that just by crossing a strip of water you could travel from the equivalent of the Dark Ages into a something similar to the Renaissance."
Storrs graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts in 1981 and achieved a degree in Law in 1983.
With a major in English and previous studies in Classics, Ancient History, Ancient Greek and Latin, the move to craft her own rendering of ancient life was a natural progression for the first-time author.
"I already had a passion for researching legends, myths and ancient history," she says.
"My law degree provided me with a profession but it was my arts degree that gave me a true education."
Before penning the novel, Storrs worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer, senior executive and company secretary. It took ten years to complete her book, which she first began writing during disciplined four-hour weekly timeslots while running her consultancy firm and raising a family.
Storrs has signed a contract with Pier 9 Murdoch Books to compile the sequel to The Wedding Shroud, which is due to be published in 2012.