ABOUT Magdalena Ball

Magdalena Ball
Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, C More...



Freya and James Archer live the high life in a luxury home in Sydney's poshest suburb, with money, matching Jags, two beautiful teenage kids ... and they couldn't be more despondent. James wakes weeping each morning, dreading the pressures of a long and grueling work day ahead, and Freya is struggling with her foundering real estate career. Global recession is biting in Australia, and the Archers are afraid. In a desperate bid for happiness and security they shed the fragile trappings of success and cruise over into the slow lane to take an unmapped turn-off on a country road and live off the land in a remote old farmhouse on the peaceful southern island of Tasmania. But is this an end to their old misery or the beginning of an even greater one?

“How to live well has always been the question. Perhaps even more so in our complex modern world. Black Cow is a novel of our time. We follow the characters through all the compromises, adjustments and hard choices that must be made in order to live a life of wholeness and integrity. This is a life affirming story.” Judy Johnson

“Most people don’t simply wake up one morning and realize that they’ve veered away from their ideals and set themselves squarely in the middle of the path leading back to them. In reality such an awakening is gradual, fueled by series of seemingly disconnected incidents; and the road back, if one can even get there, is more like a game of Giant Steps than a straight trajectory. Black Cow examines the possibility of lifestyle change through the actions of the Archer family. Fast-paced, gorgeously-written and stunningly perceptive, Black Cow is not only a great read; it is a timely and important one.” Joan Schweighardt

“Magdalena Ball is a remarkable wordsmith. Her prose hovers above your skin like ‘need’ and never drifts away. Her latest novel, Black Cow, is yet another masterpiece which I will keep treasured on my bookshelf. The characters in this story are on the hunt for happiness, for refuge, clawing their way through the stark reality of unfulfilling wealth, corporate hierarchies, fatigue, stress-related illnesses, and family neglect. Ball’s seamless exploration of the faulty human-condition and the urgent notion that money means success is brilliantly interwoven with the gentle quietness of unconditional love, invoking sighs and gasps and the sudden realization that life is so much more than what we are conditioned to expect. Life is precious, and small enough to cradle in the palm of a baby’s hand. Jessica Bell

“The Archer family lives The success lie. Black Cow is a brilliant expose of the life behind corporate success. James has to force himself to become the ‘iceman’ to function as the CEO of the company; Freya, his wife, leaves behind her scientific career to become a real estate agent to people with lives as shallow as her own has become; their children possess every gadget young teens could want, except quality time with their parents. In their attempt to rescue themselves before the family disintegrates totally, the members of the Archer family move from the affluent Eastern suburbs of Sydney to rural Tasmania, where they learn many hard lessons about life and how to be a family.” Jan Mitchell

“The prose style is brilliant. It is clever and insightful in describing and personalizing the angst of the modern world. Classic…it reminds me of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in its ability to capture the moment in history in a personal way.” Doug Osborne

“A tightly written documentary of one family’s epiphany and move from rampant consumerism to sustainable lifestyle.” Linda Cockburn

“Excellent, professional and polished…capturing that claustrophobic feeling of being trapped and not knowing where to turn.  This is a gripping yarn that will appeal to a wide group of readers.” Lisa Heidke

“Magdalena Ball has set a new standard, maybe initiated a new genre. Her Black Cow isn’t for the Beat Generation; it’s for this millennium’s fast-track generation. Black Cow captures the mind-freezing pace of this digital age before coming up with the most hopeful ending possible ” Carolyn Howard-Johnson

“I think we all can relate to James and Freya. The story is beautifully written, and so well-portrayed and with believable characters and beautiful description…in short, I cared. I like the dirt motif and the ‘black cow’ motif. Even though it was a very dark comic portrayal, I was riveted and I felt teary-eyed at the end in a good way.” Kristin Johnson

“Being wealthy isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Who knew there is so much stress involved in trying to stay on top. A big house, matching Jags in the driveway, kids in private school, designer clothes, and all of the latest tech gadgets couldn’t keep this family happy. Maybe a move to the Tasmanian bush was the answer. Magdalena Ball writes so vividly that my own shoulders tensed as I followed the Archer family’s struggles and I looked for ways to simplify my life. Gradually my tension lessened as I followed the family to Tasmania, as I inhaled the wonderful scent of blooming flowers, and stroked the black cow. A good read for everyone.” Janet S. Gould

“In this cunningly crafted novel Magdalena Ball takes us to the heart of a family floundering on the brink of self destruction. And it is truly a destruction of self we are watching in painful clarity…Ball peels back the layers of the relationship as she brings Freya and James back from the brink of their own carefully scripted disaster, giving hope in change to sustainable solutions for their lives, both environmental and emotional. It is a hope we cannot help but savour. A hope that compels us to re-examine our own lives and seek meaning, and the courage to sacrifice in order to live without compromise, or regret. To check the compass of our own yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.” Linda Brooks

“Black Cow is to be commended for its realism and its honesty. It’s not a thrill ride, not an entertainment to divert us momentarily from the challenges of daily living, but a meditation on how life should be lived, on what we value and what we don’t…All this said, they could well make a movie out of Black Cow, and I’d buy a ticket.” Gerald Everett Jones

Black Cow is an open-eyed take on mid-life crisis and the need to redefine who we are and why the heck we are here anyway. She pulls no punches. Her no-holds-barred approach leaves you feeling like a Peeping Tom who looked over the shoulders of her characters into their inner sanctums and watched them sink, swim and drag themselves ashore spitting weed. This is an honest-to-goodness, warts-and-all, voyage into an unchartered sea change for which Magdalena is to be roundly congratulated!” Jennifer McCrae-Poulter

“Magdalena Ball writes with insightful realism, but there is beauty and passion and hope woven into the words, as well… Black Cow is an intelligent, deeply reflective story of a family who reaches its deepest lows, then transcends the expected norm to reconnect with the earth and each other in a joyful, satisfying adventure.” Aaron Paul Lazar

“Magdalena Ball’s skill as an explorer and cartographer of interior landscapes draws us deep inside the lives of an ambitious and successful Sydney couple, the Archers. We are engrossed with Freya and James and their two teenagers  from the first page as they desperately struggle to keep up in the “rat race.” Ball writes in a clear, flowing style marked by her poet’s ear for the brilliant image, and we are carried along as James and Freya make the impossible decision to leave their affluent city life and escape to what they hope will be a self-sustaining farm life in rural Tasmania.  But as the old adage goes, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and James continues to compulsively over-work and over-drink, while Freya is unable to break free of her craving for material things. Yet transform they do, as every surprising turn of Ball’s story reveals hidden facets and strengths  in James, Freya and their two children as the family finds new values and meaning in their new life.” Ruhama Veltfort