Thomas Keneally Author’s Talk at Better Read than Dead Bookshop Newtown


As a first time writer I felt very privileged to be making this video about my upcoming Memoir “A Spanish Love Affair”.  I would like to thank the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts and the Thomas Keneally Library for their assistance.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Thomas Keneally Library, it is the oldest lending library in Australia, opening in 1833.  It is situated at 280 Pitt Street and as well as a fabulous collection of books and reading spaces,  has a beautiful coffee shop for members.

Thank you also to YoungPhil Jang for his encouragement and for filming this video.


I would also like to thank the Better Read Than Dead Bookshop in Newtown for allowing us to film this video at their premises.

I started playing tennis at 7 – mainly on the loam court in the backyard of our home at Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches – death matches between my brother John Alexander, who went on to become World Number 4, and I, who hovered somewhere between 60 and 80.  It was a bit hard to tell exactly because there were no computer rankings at that time.  Ours were hard fought, volatile matches.  My father sat on the umpire stand trying to keep peace.

I won my first tournament at 11 – the N.S.W. Hardcourt Championships at Canterbury Bankstown and went on to win many Junior and Country long weekend tournaments during my teenage years.

Narrowly avoiding an early marriage to my “country cousin” fiancée, at 18 I left Australia to play on the glamorous European Tennis Circuit.  Between 1967 and 1973 I played in Wimbledon twice and won 30 singles and 25 doubles tournaments. However I must confess, unlike my brother, I ‘majored in the minors’ – preferring to play tournaments in beautiful, interesting and exotic locations rather than in the top tournaments.

My Memoir is written in two narratives.  One in the form of vignettes which I’ve placed between each chapter – snippets of my idyllic childhood growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  This all changed when I was 11 and was sexually abused by my 19 year old tennis coach.

This is how it started:-   “I’m in love”

My tennis coach and I go for a walk on the beach.  There’s no-one else around.  He takes my hand and squeezes it.  Shivers go up my arm.  He touches my shoulder.  Electric shocks race around my body.  He pulls me towards him.  His body is hard.  I can feel every part of him.  He kisses me.  My whole body trembles.  I desperately want something to happen but don’t know what it is.  I turn my face towards him and smile.

The main narrative follows my journey from Narrabeen, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, to playing on the centre court at Wimbledon, in Monte Carlo, Casa Blanca, St Moritz, the Italian Riviera, Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian and Rome as well as behind the Iron Curtain in the then Yugoslavia and Romania, totally oblivious of the dictators Tito, Ceausescu as I was of Franco in Spain.

to be continued…..





The Alexander Family

I find the recent controversy about dual citizenship which has disrupted the normal business of parliament in a country where we are all immigrants,  even the aboriginal people (although they do have 50,000 years under their belts) ridiculous.  I have felt it more keenly than most due to my personal involvement with my brother, John Alexander,  having to resign from parliament because there is a distinct possibility that he may be a dual citizen, our father having arrived in Australia aged 4, 106 years ago.

You may be interested to read an excerpt from “A Spanish Love Affair”.

Chapter 2



When it comes to parents, my siblings and I won the lottery. Mum told me that when she and Dad decided to get married, the only thing they both really wanted was to have a happy family. Both had experienced difficult childhoods.


Dad’s side of the family had arrived in Australia in 1911. My grandfather, John Alexander had been transferred here with Burt, Boulton and Harward, London timber merchants. Florence May, my grandmother, had studied piano at the London Conservatorium of Music. Later she had worked as a secretary at Burt, Boulton and Harward’s London office, which is where  the couple had met. They came to Australia with their three young sons, Jack 6, my father, Gilbert 4 and James 2 .

They were an ill-matched pair. Grandfather John  was a dapper man who had his suits made in Saville Row and his shoes sent out from Italy. He managed to avoid the domestic scene as much as possible by taking extended overseas business trips to England and America. Florence, who no doubt found herself in a cultural wilderness in Sydney, was left to keep the home fires burning, for which from all accounts, she was totally unsuited and very unhappy. Her fourth child, Robert was born five months after they arrived in Australia. From then on , she spent most of her time in bed, I believe to avoid any further patter of little feet, until her husband died suddenly one afternoon, of a heart attack at the age of 44, after a game of golf. Dad and his brothers were mainly brought up by an English nanny they all loved dearly. Florence, who was one of ten children, must have been very lonely here in Australia. Although Grandfather John managed to flit back and forth to England on a regular basis, she only managed to go back much later when her youngest son, Robert, attended Harrow College.



Synchronicity – An Amazing Coincidence

I love everything about Spain – the people, the way of life, the music, the wonderful food and wine, the magnificent landscape, the beautiful buildings, both old and new, the bridges, ancient Roman to spectacular modern structures spanning lush valleys replete with the engineer’s name emblazoned at each end, the art – everything – except for bull fighting – it is definitely not for me.

I am soft-hearted when it comes to animals. In fact, I gave up eating meat as a young girl when Mum, who was a country girl, told me that the little lambs gambolling around the fields and the sad-eyed calves peering at me from behind the fence would soon be gracing my dinner plate. I told her they would not, and they never have. Continue reading Synchronicity – An Amazing Coincidence

Writing Secrets

Patti Miller, my first writing teacher, in a recent interview with Wendy Harmer on 7.02 AM, said that writing a Memoir is like walking nude down the street.   This feels very much the case for me. I wonder sometimes if I’ve made a mistake writing about what happened. I seem to have an urgent need to share my story. As we see on television everyday people who experience trauma seem to have a need to speak out.

I’ve kept my story a secret for over 50 years and it’s taken me 10 years to write it.

I’m good at keeping secrets. I learnt to keep them from an early age. Continue reading Writing Secrets

A Spanish Love Story

Welcome to my Website. I am so excited about this first step into social media as a writer. I hope you will make visiting me a regular habit and recommend it to your friends. Not only will I keep you updated with my progress in self-publishing “A Spanish Love Affair”, I will put blogs, snippets from my book and photos to pique your interest. I will also let you know when and where I’ll be launching my book and speaking about it.

Writing “A Spanish Love Affair” has been a long haul – it’s taken me 10 years. I sometimes compare myself to Geoffrey Smart, the artist, who couldn’t help dabbing at his paintings on exhibition much to their current owners’ horror, decades after he’d sold them. I could keep dabbing myself. But the time has come.

Over the past year I have been submitting my manuscript to publishers – albeit without success. I’m 68. Time is running out.  So I decided that I would bite the bullet and self-publish. Continue reading A Spanish Love Story