John Bartlett



‘Estuary’, a new novel by John Bartlett,  released in late September 2013, is ‘a story told with heart and a true sense of tenderness’ (Tony Birch author of Shadowboxing, Father’s day & Blood) .

Estuary is the story of Seth, a carpenter and his Aunt Leila, an artist who, while incarcerated in a mental hospital in Adelaide develops a deep friendship with a young Aboriginal woman, Ruby from the Coorong. Seth’s connection with his past reveals uncomfortable truths that he is forced to face. The twists of this story go beyond Seth’s personal history and symbolise the complex relationships that are being played out currently in Australia.

Sample Audio

Great Expectations’ my article published in The Age’s Good Weekend magazine on July 7 2001,  outlines the life of my musician/artist aunt which was one of the inspirations for ‘Estuary’.

See the video before you read the book

Estuary is the story of Seth, a wood carver who upon the death of his beloved aunt is driven to uncover the mystery surrounding her early life. Leila, an artist in Adelaide, incarcerated in a mental hospital, develops a deep friendship with a young Aboriginal woman from the Coorong. When Seth meets Ruby’s son Cubadgee he is forced to face some uncomfortable truths about his own life and identity. An unlikely love may just be possible.




  1. Congratulations John on a fine and moving novel.
    The imagery is clear and beautiful
    and the characters drawn with warmth and understanding.
    The meeting of cultures in the amazing setting of the Coorong
    and well as Adelaide is a delicate balance of sensitive writing.

    The unfolding of the relationship between Seth and Cubadgee
    with all its tension and affection was a finely balanced narrative –
    a surprise development and very contemporary – opening up issues
    within Indigenous culture and also between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians. The influence of the generations on each other was also well drawn out in the book.

    An easy to read novel, with a delicate storyline, set against an amazing environmental background, told with feeling and restraint.

    I agree with others – a fine Australian movie in the future.

    Well done, John. Congratulations to the publishers and for the evocative and eye catching cover.

    Maurice Shinnick

    Maurice Shinnick

    March 20, 2014

  2. Hi John.. just a short note to let you know that I have just finished
    reading “Estuary”. I noticed in the Torquay bookshop and the sales person
    reinforced that it was a good read and that she had customers who had commented positively. She was right. A terrific read; I enjoyed it. In particular there were a couple of reference points which made it even more interesting for me; Having lived in Williamstown / Newport for many years I know the area quite well and so the book had resonance. Also I know Adelaide reasonably well and went through Burra not so long ago. John, Estuary reminded me a bit of Winton; in particular “Eyrie” which I read over Christmas; having a son who lives in Fremantle and having spent time there I was able to relate to place. Another interesting thing is the reference to the story of the “Seven Sisters”. Some years ago I bought a painting called the “Seven sisters” by an indigenous artist from Kalgoorlie.
    It’s a wonderful painting. Estuary fleshed out the story. Interesting
    though that the story is told both by people in Western Australia and in the
    Anyway John, that’s all for now, once again, thanks .. Regards Paul


    March 20, 2014

  3. John, being your brother I have been over cautious to make public my thoughts on this novel in case people would think “Oh, well, what else would you expect from his brother?”
    Regardless of what others may think, here goes.

    I had already read your piece on Aunt Eulalie(Melbourne Age 17/07/2001)and was delighted by it.

    As you know, I am a reader of non-fiction, almost to the point of obsession, not the ideal outlook to begin to read a novel.

    However, when I became aware that two of your characters in Estuary were based on real-life members of our family, an aunt and our great-grandfather this piqued my interest.

    Then finally this September I read Estuary. I was thoroughly captivated by your writing style and story telling from start to finish. I was impressed too at how you knew so much about a wide range of topics in depth, moulding all the characters and fleshing them out into being real people in their own right.

    John, I salute you and your writing and await the further writings you will offer to us your appreciative readers.


    October 23, 2013

  4. I read Estuary over 2 nights; easy to do as the story kept moving along nicely interspersed with the protagonist’s thoughts and insights. I was not only entertained but also challenged and informed – a good combination making me think about the characters and issues for some several days after finishing it, which is one of the markers for me of a story well told.
    Having now read the book, I will repeat my comment from earlier, “I can see a movie coming out of this” because, although the context is Australian, issues of disadvantage, discrimination and mental health are universal.
    Great work, John.


    October 13, 2013

  5. John.
    Wow!!!! I have just finished reading Estuary. It has left me with more questions than what it answers. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book, narrative and the essence of the influence of Aunty Lil on Seth. I must admit that I read the book in three days and couldn’t put it down. Congratulations on the fantastic effort you have out into your writing, and I can only hope that the books will run off the shelves.

    John Adrian Fitzgerald

    October 12, 2013

  6. John What a superb novel, a compelling story that I found hard to put down, I waited till I got the grandchildren in bed last night then sat down and read it till the end. I am sure that this has outshone your previous novel. Your ability to take up the plight of the disadvantaged and deal with so many issues in the one story was a masterpiece. I’d love to sit down with you one day and explore the many angles you raised. It was a joy to read and I know that I will need to sit down and read it again to appreciate what you have achieved. Having travelled through the Coorong a couple of times (the first was in 1958 ) I was fascinated by the landscape and wanting to know what was behind the sand dunes and of course I never thought of the significance of the area to the traditional owners of the land. Your ability to tease the reader with little snippets of history has left me hoping that you will launch into another story. I never knew that the Chinese landed in SA and walked overland to the goldfields in Vic. The story of your grandfather is one I am sure would be interesting and of course your ability to challenge the reader on the topics of sexuality, mental health and racism are a real hope that it is widely read as it’s a great exposure of Australian life as it is.
    Ray Lowe


    October 12, 2013

  7. Thanks for details of the imminent release of your novel Estuary. I particularly enjoyed hearing your reading from the Good Weekend of your item about your aunt, artist and musician who has inspired one of the main characters in the novel. Thanks for book launch details. I plan to be at one of them and will pass on this page reference to friends I know who will be interested. Best wishes.


    August 12, 2013

  8. I can see a movie coming out of this….Can’t wait to read the book


    August 12, 2013

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