Listen to Maree’s talk about Parramatta Girls Home to staff at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on February 17th, 2011.

Read an article written by Maree and published in the November 2010 issue of  Australian PEN Magazine  – you will find it on page 12 in the online PDF version of the magazine.

Listen to Valerie Khoo at the Sydney Writers’ Centre interviewing Maree about her work as a writer.

Ramona Koval talks to Maree on The Book Show, ABC Radio National

Read about Maree’s work as a writer and creative writing teacher on HER CIRCLE EZINE

Richard Aedy interviews Judy Divargue and Maree Giles about their experience inside Parramatta Girls’ Home on Life Matters, ABC Radio National


New Internationalist, Sept, 2001 by Peter Whittaker

by Maree Giles (Virago, ISBN 860498868)

Maree Giles’s publishers describe her first novel Invisible Thread as ‘semi-autobiographical’ and ‘based on a true story’ – neither of which is necessarily a recommendation, as such phrases are often used to deflect criticism or excuse poor writing. Happily, with this moving and emotionally involving debut, no such preemptive hype is necessary.

It is 1970 and 14-year-old Ellen Russell decides to move in with her older boyfriend, the druggy surfer Robbie. Her weak and unstable mother is unable to cope and the Australian state, Fighting a rearguard action against hippiedom and free love, declares Ellen guilty of being ‘neglected and exposed to moral danger’. She is sentenced to nine months at the Gunyah Training School for Girls, aptly described by its inmates as hell on earth.

At Gunyah, even when it is discovered that Ellen is pregnant, there is no respite from the harsh and punitive regime administered by the sadistic officers. When her baby Alicia is born she is immediately removed and Ellen is coerced and duped into signing adoption papers.

On her release, she embarks on a personal crusade to regain her daughter and, aided by an alcoholic gynaecologist turned backstreet abortionist, she discovers the shocking truth about the secret state-sanctioned trade in babies.

This is a gritty and unflinching book with a strong narrative pull and a well-drawn and likeable central character. Ellen’s struggle to transcend her troubled upbringing and disastrous surroundings is told with honesty, integrity and the authentic tang of firsthand experience.

Author’s note: Most people who have now read Invisible Thread are aware that it is based on a real girls’ home in Australia, the Parramatta Girls’ Training School west of Sydney. I changed the name to Gunyah in the novel in case of legal repercussions. Gunyah is Aboriginal for “shelter”.  Now that the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made a national apology to the girls – now adults – who passed through the Home and many other similar institutions, including orphanages, I wish to make it clear that Gunyah is a fictitious name. All events in Invisible Thread are based on facts drawn from my own experience and other former Parramatta girls I knew at the Home. I am currently adapting the story into a film script and writing a series of poems about the Home titled The Parramatta Poems, the first of which can be read here

Customer Reviews on AMAZON:-

5.0 out of 5 stars The brutal truth, 22 Sep 2010
By Ayla (UK) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Invisible Thread (Paperback)

When Maree Giles contacted me via my Adoption Africa website to find out if the biological mothers on my database had experienced what she subsequently wrote about in “The Invisible Thread”, I never dreamed that I’d be reading such a brutally truthful, yet beautifully written book. The story Maree relates was experienced by so many young girls in the 60s and 70s, and I’ve shared those experiences with “real, live” women who still feel the pain and anguish of the loss of their babies.
This book is frequently not comfortable to read, but Maree has written it with sensitivity and empathy and her gritty descriptive narrative grips the reader from page One. Thoroughly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read from cover to cover, 26 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Invisible Thread (Paperback)

This is an incredible story about a teenage girl’s struggle to keep her baby and the evil people supposedly caring for her, who take advantage of her situation and steal her baby for the adoption market. She uncovers a production-line scheme run by all sorts of nasty characters, from social workers and nuns to nurses, doctors and the police, who conspire to persuade her she is incapable of bringing up her own child. She is not offered any support, and the waiting family who live in the country become the prime concern of those involved in securing Ellen’s baby for adoption. Ellen’s story is the tip of the iceberg – thousands of girls like her went through similar nightmares in Australia in what we all now know as ‘the stolen white baby scandal’. We also know it happened because it saved the government thousands in benefit payments. We also know the problem was not confined to Australia – the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Sth. Africa,the United States have all been affected. Ellen’s story proves beyond doubt that the removal of a baby from its natural mother is barbaric and wrong. If a mother wants to keep her baby, whatever her age, she should be offered support, advice, encouragement. Ellen is a great character, strong, intelligent, determined. This book is a real page-turner, all the more so becaue it is based on real events.

5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book in one sitting – fantastic!, 28 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Invisible Thread (Paperback)

You only have to read the first page of this story to be hooked. I couldn’t put it down. It’s amazing to discover that Ellen’s story happened as recently as 1970, and that her tale is one that affected thousands of young pregnant girls. A gripping story that unfolds in unexpected ways and keeps up the suspense from chapter to chapter. I put it down, and then read it again. I look forward to the next book from this exciting new author and highly recommend it for a good summer read.

5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read – intensely vivid and moving, 9 Jan 2002
By Mrs. E. C. Young “lizyounguk” (London) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Invisible Thread (Paperback)

Whatever your age or background, while reading this novel you’ll be fourteen year old Ellen, pregnant or newly delivered, at a time when a girl in ‘moral danger’ could be shut up in an institution. Here she could be beaten, bullied, called a dirty little slut, because it was all Ellen’s fault for allowing ‘filthy things’ to be done to her.
This is an intense and powerfully moving novel, a shudderingly evocative account of what it was like to be an innocent girl whose life would never be the same again. Maree Giles’ writing is so vivid I could smell the Dettol, feel the scratchy sheets in the bare, prison-like dormitory she had to sleep in. This book is a reminder of how recently Victorian hypocrisy and double standards still applied to unwed pregnancy. It was always the girl’s fault, and if those appointed to ‘care’ for her were closet sadists, nobody cared.
This book will stay with me for a long time; I can’t wait to read Maree Giles’ next novel.

Under the Green Moon – Reviews

‘Giles’ fluid style and genuine storytelling talent lends itself beautifully to this Australian version of To Kill a Mocking Bird’ – IRELAND ON SUNDAY

Customer review on AMAZON:-

5.0 out of 5 stars A Book To Remember, 3 Nov 2004
By Chloe (England) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Under the Green Moon (Hardcover)

This book had me in tears, even when i wasn’t reading it!Fantastically written, this storyline was extremely gripping. I will remember the title and author forever. Definitely one book to buy, I could read it over and over again.

‘Compellingly written, this will move many readers’ – PUBLISHING NEWS