Five Bells

3 ratings 4 stars

Winner of the Kibble Literary Award, Shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Prize for Fiction, the Adelaide Festival Award for Literature, The ALS Gold Medal, the Barbara Jefferiss Prize and the Indies Award.

Book Setting: Sydney, Australia
Five Bells, Gail Jones

Winner of the Kibble Literary Award, Shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Prize for Fiction, the Adelaide Festival Award for Literature, The ALS Gold Medal, the Barbara Jefferiss Prize and the Indies Award.

On a radiant day in Sydney, four people converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Each of the four is haunted by memories of the past: Ellie is preoccupied by her experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China's Cultural Revolution. Told over the course of a single Saturday, Five Bells describes vividly four lives which chime and resonate. By night-time, when Sydney is drenched in a rainstorm, each life has been transformed.

Available Formats

  • Paperback
    $19.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781864710830
    Published: 01/02/2012
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
    Extent: 224 pages
  • Trade Paperback
    $29.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781864710601
    Published: 01/02/2011
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
    Extent: 224 pages
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781742749884
    Published: 03/03/2014
    Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
    Extent: 224 pages
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"Jones paints the connections that bind us, the power of place, and the random encounters that can change the course of our lives. An elegant literary meditation on time and chance." - Publisher's Weekly

"Gail Jones is already recognised as one of the best novelists at work in Australia. Everything about her new fiction, Five Bells, from the evocative title to a cover image of Circular Quay painted in tinted steam, speaks of thrillingly expanded ambition. Describing one day in the lives of four different visitors to the tourist hub and historical Omphalos of European Australia, Jones sets out to reimagine Kenneth Slessor's great poem for the present, using a combination of steely intelligence and delicate prose." - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

"Set on one Sydney day around the iconic harbour, Five Bells captures life’s rhythms and resonances in the intersecting stories of four characters, each on journeys around the city. On this day memories overwhelm, family bonds assert themselves, and the reading of a book harks back to the days of revolution and violence. What especially distinguishes this novel is the character Pei Xing’s gentle yet powerful capacity for forgiveness and her simple human dignity that offsets suffering. This novel shows how life can be slow and predictable, yet also fleeting and fragile." - Judges citation, Barbara Jefferis Award 2012

"Thoughtful, intelligent and intensely lyrical." - Jem Poster, The Guardian

"This is a story peopled by achingly real characters, memorably related in delicate, ornate prose, and throbbing with loss. Death comes to claim us all, it seems to say, so enjoy the transient glory of life while you can." - The Independent

"Five Bells is a taut, intricately organised short novel that yet gives the impression of expansiveness. It moves with the confidence and mastery that marks Jones as one of the most distinguished of a vintage bunch of contemporary novelists." - Peter Pierce, The Sydney Morning Herald

"Jones is one of our greatest writers. For her enormous wisdom and insight as well as the shimmering intensity of her descriptive language." - Alice Nelson, The West Australian

"Long after finishing Five Bells, I am still thinking about the lives of these four characters, the pasts that haunt them and the different directions they embark on at the novel's brilliant ending." - Fiona McGregor

"A luminous, finely crafted, sometimes jubilant, sometimes sad novel about time and art, history and loss, resilience and redemption, it is, as we have come to expect from Gail Jones as beguiling as it is provocative. A novel that reaches beyond the glittering surface of Sydney, to capture the rippling patterns of a wider human history with singular beauty and power." - Bron Sibree, The Canberra Times

"Five Bells is a brilliant work, both explicitly Australian and insistently cosmopolitan. This new novel establishes Gail Jones as one of Australia's finest authors. She strives for moments when words draw pause; throughout Five Bells this is her magnificent achievement. In the midst of pandemonium, traffic and tourist hordes gazing at icons, Jones gives us individuals who are achingly alive, filled with apprehensions of beauty, love and mortality." - Stella Clarke, The Australian

Gail Jones

Gail Jones

Gail Jones is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams Of Speaking, Sorry and Five Bells. Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, her prizes include the WA Premier's Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal. She has also been shortlisted for international awards, including the IMPAC and the Prix Femina. Her fiction has been translated into nine languages.