Skip Navigation

Submitted Literature

Queen of the Tambourine

By Jane Gardam


Interesting and cleverly written novel which takes notions of the unreliable narrator to the extreme in terms of unwell Eliza’s narrative, told through a series of letters to friend Joan.  Eliza’s illness emerges slowly and subtly throughout until the end of the novel when reader is led to question the validity and existence of all events and people in the novel.  An increasingly manic tone to the language, including subtly placed neologisms and clanging, mirrors Eliza’s descent.   

Key Themes:

  • Anxiety
  • Obsessions
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

41 - “He sipped the whiskey, then set it down on the gold and glass table and looked at it.  Through the glass, on the floor, lay one of the joyous earrings of Christmas with its hook squashed in.  I felt tears coming.

‘Please be absolutely truthful, Charles. I’ve always tried to be truthful.’

‘He says….He’s afraid….He thinks that you are changed.’


‘Well, you have become strange.’


‘Well, your obsessions.’


‘With everything.  The Hospice.  The Road.  Joan, of course. The dog.’

‘The dog?  I’m obsessive about the dog?’

‘And religion.  And the way you’re always analysing and observing - and lecturing.  Talking about things outside your sphere.  Politics, for instance. and talking so much.’ […]

‘It’s - I’m sorry, Eliza - it’s the way you make a fool of yourself now.  He says that you have crumbled.  Nobody now would dream you had been to university.’”

 45 - “ ‘All Charles said about me is true.  I am a fool.  I’m erratic.  It seems I am unstable.  I behave unpredictably, bossily, shallowly and my mind has no abiding place.  I have insufficient to do after all the busy years and an urge to do nothing.  I look a freak - no interest in getting up in the morning. I haven’t bought any clothes for years.  I look like a voluntary worker, an agnostic, a Good Works freak, a municipal counsellor, a sick-visitor unpaid, and I don’t care.’”

Reference: Jane, Gardam. 1991. Queen of the Tambourine. London: Abacus, 2004


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009