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An aging but handsome university professor, Edwin Page, is married to Cecilia, a much younger woman who is an obstetrician and a gynaecologist. (He was attracted to her in the first place by all the mysterious things she knew about the human body.) When the childless Cecilia goes away for a year's study leave, Edwin finds himself more and more in the company of Leila and her mother who live next door. Leila's mother is a very good cook, and Leila, it turns out, is perfectly willing to be a surrogate mother...The Sugar Mother explores, with humour and sympathy characteristic of Elizabeth Jolley, the way the many little impacts of distance, separation and change can gather force and take one to where one never thought to go. It is a story of self deception and of hopes, perhaps secret hopes.
Elizabeth Jolley was one of Australia's most celebrated writers, with a formidable international reputation. She was recognised in Australia with an AO for services to literature and was awarded Honorary Doctorates from Curtin University (1986); Macquarie (1995), Queensland (1997) and The University of New South Wales (2000). Born in England in 1923, she was brought up in a strict, German-speaking household and attended a Quaker boarding school. She became a nurse, married Leonard Jolley and with three children moved to Western Australia in 1959. In 1974 she started teaching creative writing at Fremantle Arts Centre. Although she wrote all her life, it was not until she was in her fifties that her books started to receive the recognition they deserved. She won The Age Book of the Year Award on three separate occasions (for Mr Scobie's Riddle, My Father's Moon and The Georges' Wife) and she won the Miles Franklin Award for The Well, as well as many other awards. Her last two novels published by Penguin were An Accommodating Spouse (1999) and An Innocent Gentleman (2001). Her non-fiction collection, Learning to Dance was published in 2006. Elizabeth Jolley died in 2007.