Longlisted for the 2023 Stella Prize

Iris – Fiona Kelly McGregor

Fiction · Pan Macmillan

iris fiona kelly mcgregor

About the Book

In late 1932, Iris Webber arrives in Sydney looking for work but it’s the Great Depression and there are few jobs for women at the best of times. She makes her way as best she can, a scam here, a shoplift there, busking with an accordion. And she knows how to use a gun.

When Iris meets young sex worker Maisie Matthews, everything changes. But what options are there in a world where even on the margins, queer desire is harshly punished? The only way forward is paved with violence.

Whip smart, fierce, a woman far ahead of her time, Iris navigates these mean streets with a growing awareness not just of herself, but also of the system enclosing her: narrow, corrupt, brutally prejudiced. Yet there is still pleasure, sometimes even transcendence.

Based on actual events, narrated in gritty lyrical prose, Iris is a teeming social portrait of schemers, gangsters, goodtime girls and sly-groggers; a vivid resurrection of a city buried in the sands of time.

“McGregor’s Iris is a bold example of literary craft that demonstrates a profound historical understanding of place and time.”

– 2023 Stella Prize Judges

Fiona Kelly McGregor

About the Author

Fiona Kelly McGregpr

Fiona Kelly McGregor has published eight books, including Indelible Ink, which won the Age Book of the Year and was shortlisted for several other awards; Strange Museums, the memoir of a performance art tour through Poland; the short story collection Suck My Toes / Dirt, which won the Steele Rudd Award; and the underground classic chemical palace. Her most recent titles are the essay collection Buried Not Dead, shortlisted for the VPLA and the genre-busting photo-essay A Novel Idea. McGregor is also known for a large repertoire of performance art and event curation, and contributes regularly to The Saturday PaperSydney Review of Books and The Monthly, to name a few. When in Sydney, she lives and works on Gadigal land.

Further Reading


“A brawling, picaresque book by one of our foremost cartographers of settler Sydney.” Declan Fry, The Sydney Morning Herald

Iris is an in-depth character study, as well as a vivid and panoramic recreation of a place and time.” Susan Sheridan, The Conversation

“An exhilarating squeezebox of a novel.” Felicity Plunkett, The Australian Book Review


Read an interview with Fiona Kelly McGregor on Words Without Borders

Judges’ Report

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