I was the prodigal daughter, off on an adventure aged 19, shedding one life for another, leaving my large, extended, all-enveloping, Jewish family behind.  By the time I reached 50, when so many of them had gone, I began to feel I owed them an incalculable debt, for the love they’d bestowed on me and the riches they bequeathed.  I don’t mean riches in the ordinary sense, but the richness of the culture I’d been born and nurtured in, all but forgotten in my Australian sojourn.

The book is composed of fragments, as more and more bits of that past life came rushing back to me.  Their faces, what I could recapture of their stories, the intonations of the Yiddish they spoke, opened up a past as much mine as their own.  Numbers, as in the book of the Old Testament, the Jewish prayer ‘number my days’ and the Kabbala are symbolic elements in the glue that holds the story together, as is the Fibonacci Sequence.

Sapphires, published in 1995, won the ACT Book of the Year award, was short-listed for others, and long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin prize.


“Dowse’s stories reveal the human condition with honesty, humour and poetry, but she achieves something even more extraordinary. This book takes for granted material which is exclusively feminine in its source in precisely the way writing has, throughout recorded history, extrapolated from the “he” to all of humanity. Dowse rescues women’s experience from the marginal, without the aggression, wishful thinking or transparent grappling with the place of gender in literature which is usual in self-consciously feminist writing.” Sydney Morning Herald

Drawing on the Yiddish tradition of story-telling, the award-winning Sapphires is constructed of thirteen interlinked stories that tell of journeys in the lives of the descendants of Ruchel Kozminsky who left Russia in the 1890s—Miriam, Bernice, Janet, Alice and most centrally Evelyn, a Sydney-based television comedy writer. A haunting, evocative and often funny account of love, family and belonging.”

“Sara Dowse has a strong sense of the storyteller’s craft.  Her best stories (and this book has many of them) give the impression of having been written intuitively.  The words are always just right and the reader is drawn along by the expectation that something important will happen.  When the end of the story is reached you are left with the strong impression of having participated in an event of great, indefinable richness.” 

Canberra Times

“Sapphires is a craftily intelligent, emotionally assured and lucidly writeen with an unassuming assertiveness… Dowse also has a rare gift in describing the clutter of things that bump or grace ordinary living. She can write with acuity about both love and a lump in the mattress.” The Age

Sara Dowse the author and artist


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