The latest addition to my website is Thea Astley‘s Drylands, her last novel written when she was seventy-four. It is a bitter novel, whose main theme is how standards have fallen in Australia, with rampart sexism and brutality towards women, racism, corrupt politicians, wanton vandalism, the loss of a reading culture and a hard life for the poor, the aborigines and half-castes, the unconventional and women. Janet Deakin, a widow, who runs the local newsagent’s in the remote and small town of Drylands, has decided to write a book called A Book for the World’s Last Reader, which is the subtitle of Astley’s novel. We follow the stories of people in Drylands, particularly the ordinary people who are struggling to cope. Women are routinely beaten and abused. The young people tend to be rude and violent. Men, when they are not abusing women, are drinking and watching sports on TV. People’s dreams are shattered by life, by circumstances and by the cruelty of others. It is not a pretty picture and a sad legacy for Astley to leave.