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What Was Left

by Eleanor Limprecht

Shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal 2014.

When Rachel is pregnant with Lola, she imagines motherhood will involve pushing her sleeping infant in a pram through sun-dappled parks, suffused with the purest love she has ever felt. Then she gives birth to a screaming, colicky child in a country far from home. Feeling isolated and unsupported, she is plagued with thoughts of hurting her daughter.

This is the story of what happens next.

‘Lola is angry. Lola is hungry. Lola spits the dummy that Rachel offers up, screams louder. A man in a suit walking past gives her a look. A shut-up-your-baby kind of look.

“Oh Lola,” Rachel says, and grits her teeth to the hard slats of the bench, the painful pull of Lola’s mouth. She blinks away the watery world. Above, the currawong starts up again. That eerie, weary echoing song.

Lola doesn’t look up, just works her jaw, her mouth, one hand rested on Rachel’s chest. Her fingers are as wide as they will spread, as if to say, you – all of this – everything – mine.’

What they’re saying…

  • “Limprecht’s story deftly arranges big themes – ambition, activism, infidelity and obsession – against a rush of backdrops as Rachel takes flight: India, Israel, Switzerland and beyond. There are flashes of love’s different versions, bound up with the damage we do to ourselves and to others. And there are sharp observations: Rachel’s sense that she ‘could do anything she chose to do… unless you have children'; a single father’s sense that while he’s lauded for rearing his child, ‘how many single mothers are doing the same thing?'” Ashley Hay, The Australian
  • “It does what fiction does best, daring its reader to imagine what it is like to be someone society has long trained us to malign as the near-evil other.” Melbourne Review
  • “One of the best debut novels I have read in a long time… What Was Left is a riveting novel that examines ideas of motherhood, identity and the lies people tell to protect each other..” Readings Monthly
  • “The elegant structure of this bildungsroman incorporates six countries and four sets of parents, Limprecht is in tight control of these narratives… the novel’s ideas flourish.” Australian Book Review
  • “Limprecht’s first novel is a richly textured book about the strengths and limitations of family bonds.” Thuy On, Sun Herald
  • “A beautiful and moving account of the fierce and complex love parents have for their children.” Debra Adelaide
  • “An exceptionally talented writer, Limprecht is one to watch.” Books + Publishing
  • “Confronting and yet deeply human… a refreshingly honest and compelling portrait of motherhood, loss and abandonment.” Monica Dux
  • “An original, compelling novel driven by the premise of a passionate, broken woman desperate to save herself. I could not put this novel down.” Poppy Gee
  • Author Details: Eleanor Limprecht was born in Washington DC in 1977 and grew up in the United States, Germany and Pakistan. She now lives in Sydney, where she is studying for a Doctorate of Creative Arts at UTS. Her journalism and book reviews have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian and The Sun-Herald. This is her first novel.