Ashley Hay books
Ashley Hay


The Railwayman's WifeThe Railwayman’s Wife

Allen & Unwin, April 2013
Allen & Unwin UK, January 2014

In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can sometimes be to tell them apart. It’s a story of life, loss, and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

It’s a story that will break your heart with hope.

“A beautiful, dreamy, melancholy book.” 
—Gail Jones, author of Five Bells

“An extraordinary light falls on every page of this tender and gripping story.” 
—Belinda Castles, author of Hannah and Emil

“The Railwayman’s Wife illuminates the deepest places of the human heart.” 
—Debra Adelaide, author of The Household Guide to Dying

The Body in the CloudsThe Body in the Clouds

Allen & Unwin, September 2010

What if you looked up at just the right moment and saw – out of the corner of your eye – something unexpected? What if it was something so marvellous, so extraordinary, that it transformed time and space forever?

The Body in the Clouds tells the story of one extraordinary moment – a man falling from the sky, and surviving – and of three men who see it, in different ways and different times, as they stand on the same piece of land. An astronomer in the late 1700s, a bridgeworker in the 1930s, an emigrated banker returning home in the early 21st century: all three are transformed by the one magical moment.

The Body in the Clouds explores the stories we tell to define who and where we are. It’s about the stories we’ll tell for the people we love. And it’s about our secret longing to be up in the air.

• Longlisted for the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
• Nominated for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first novel in the south-east Asia and Pacific Region
• Nominated for the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing in the 2011 NSW Premier's Literary Awards
• Shortlisted for the Fiction category of the 2010 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.

Museum: The Macleays, Their Collections, and the Search for Order 

Cambridge University Press, 2007

Museum is a sumptuous showcase of Australia’s natural history. It tells of some of the remarkable people who collected and studied it, and of their legacy, the Macleay Museum.

When the first British people arrived on Australia’s shores at the end of the eighteenth century, it was not only the potential of new territory that tantalised them, but also the extraordinary living things that they found here. European collectors clamoured for a kangaroo, a parakeet, a waratah, and ship after ship sailed north loaded with Australian specimens.

The most serious collector to make his own trip to the Antipodes arrived in 1826. His name was Alexander Macleay, and over the next seven decades he and his family accumulated from Australia and beyond an astonishingly diverse collection of specimens.

Museum throws open the doors of a rich and rare collection, captured in the exquisite images of Robyn Stacey. It reclaims the stories of those specimens and those obsessions, revealing a unique and passionate chapter in Australia’s history.

Robyn Stacey’s work is represented by Stills Gallery.



Cambridge University Press, 2004

This stunning book of photographs by Robyn Stacey, one of this country's finest photographers, is the first of its kind. Stacey, along with essayist, Ashley Hay, throws open the closed doors of the National Herbarium of New South Wales at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, to reveal the secret history of Australia's flora. Herbarium tells fascinating stories about the nature of collecting, those who collected, what they collected and when, and also provides the scientific background to each of the specimens. A list of botanical notes provides a unique link between the specimens and their collectors. The exquisite photographs of the botanical specimens – some extremely rare – comprise a collection of extraordinary beauty.

Robyn Stacey’s work is represented by Stills Gallery.


GumGum: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions
Duffy & Snellgrove, 2002

No matter where you look in Australia you're more than likely to see a eucalyptus tree. Scrawny or majestic, smooth as pearl or rough as a pub brawl, they have defined a continent for thousands of years, and still shape our imagination.

Indigenous Australians have long woven myths about the abilities of the eucalyptus. Since Australia was colonised, botanists have battled for more than two hundred years in a race to count, classify and own the species. This is the story of that battle and of other eucalyptographers – explorers, poets, painters, foresters, conservationists, scientists (and engine drivers) – who have been obsessed by them, championing their powers. Gum trees have promised to cure malaria, solve the drainage problems that had defeated the Roman emperors, forest the Sahara and divine gold.

Gum is about a magical, mythical, medicinal tree. More than that, it's the story of new worlds, strange people and big ideas.


The SecretThe Secret: The Strange Marriage of Annabelle Milbanke & Lord Byron 

Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000

Everyone wanted to be Lord Byron's wife: he was London's most famous poet and its most desirably notorious lover. On January 2, 1815, he married Miss Annabella Milbanke, a young lady with handsome prospects, good connections, and admirable ankles. Fifty-four weeks later, a scant month after the birth of their first child, she left him and his house and went home to her parents. She never saw her husband again. She never spoke to her husband again. After months of shot-firing, and with London flooded with every possible nasty rumour about why his wife had left him, they both signed a Deed of Separation, and Byron left England. How long would Lady Byron hold a grudge? For the rest of her life — and beyond. And at the base of it all was her secret, that hidden and unspeakable thing festering under her decision to leave.

She never stopped thinking about it, never stopped talking about it, and never revealed the horror and enormity of whatever it was. It defined her, more than anything else she ever did. And it defined Byron — not as the country’s leading poet — but as someone about whom it was possible to say anything and everything. And have it believed. If you tell a story once — completely, up-front, and with nothing murky or obscured — it is set and known, definitive. If you tell a story with a secret at its core, it can change and turn and morph with every new reader, every new age.

This is the story of the Byrons’ strange and scandalous marriage, all fifty-four weeks of it, and everything that it is possible to turn it into. This is Lady Byron’s guide to revenge and retribution, and the story of why Lord Byron and Miss Annabella Milbanke should never have married each other in the first place.