Bliss is the first novel by Australian writer Peter Carey.[1] Published in 1981, the book won that year's Miles Franklin Award.[2]

First edition (Australia)
AuthorPeter Carey
PublisherUQP (Australia)
Faber and Faber (UK)
Harper & Row (US)
Publication date
Publication placeAustralia
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages336 (first edition, hardback)
ISBN0-571-11769-4 (first edition, hardback)
Followed byIllywhacker 



Written as a dark, comic fable, the story concerns an advertising executive, Harry Joy, who briefly 'dies' of a heart attack. On being resuscitated, he realizes that the life he has previously drifted amiably through is in fact Hellliterally so to Harry. His wife is unfaithful, while his son is selling drugs, and his daughter is a communist selling herself to buy them. In one of the novel's more shocking scenes, glimpsed through a window, incest occurs.

Redemption comes in the form of Honey Barbara – a pantheist, healer and prostitute. In the words of the book's blurb "Honey is to Harry as Isis is to Osiris. Together they conquer Hell and retire to the forest where their children inherit the legend of paradise regained." But Harry must die for a second time to be truly saved.



In 1985 Bliss was adapted into a film of the same name, directed by Ray Lawrence and starring Barry Otto.[3]

Commissioned by Opera Australia, Brett Dean and Amanda Holden wrote an opera of the same name, which premiered in March 2010 at the Sydney Opera House, directed by Neil Armfield, conducted by Elgar Howarth, and featuring Peter Coleman-Wright as Harry Joy.

Tom Wright adapted in 2018 a stage version for the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, and the Belvoir, Sydney.[4]

Australian singer-songwriter James Gabriel Keogh took his stage name Vance Joy from Harry Joy's grandfather in this novel.[5]




  1. ^ "Bliss by Peter Carey". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 16 April 2024.
  2. ^ a b ""Miles Franklin prize"". The Canberra Times, 27 May 1982, p7. Retrieved 16 April 2024.
  3. ^ "Bliss (1985)". IDMB. Retrieved 16 April 2024.
  4. ^ "Review: Bliss at Malthouse Theatre" by Jess Zintschenko,, 11 May 2018
  5. ^ "Vance Joy Chose His Stage Name to 'Conjure Up a Cool Little World' for Himself", ABC News Radio, 26 March 2015
  6. ^ "Austlit — Christina Stead Prize 1982". Austlit. Retrieved 16 April 2024.
  7. ^ Prizes,

See also