The Things We Live With


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The Things We Live With is a tender cartography of grief and familial legacy, in which Gemma Nisbet elegantly explores how the maps we make—whether by story, memory, art, or artefact—inevitably fall shy of the territory.

Josephine Rowe

What are we to make of all these things around us? And what are they to make of us? Delicately, as if unpacking a box of fragile treasures, Nisbet cups in her hands and presents us with a series of relationships: with old, loved things, with her family, and her own crushable centre. They are all, it turns out, well kept in the same box. Nisbet wraps her meditations in soft words and firm intelligence, and in this wonderful, digressive and intently considered work she uncovers the tender meaning of possessions, and what it is to be possessed by them too. As a devoted keeper of objects, I read this book with recognition and envy, and anyone who inherits, hoards, abhors or adores the relics of their lives will appreciate Nisbet’s candour and contemplations.

Kate Holden

Wise, profound and with tender humour The Things We Live With expands our thinking about the power of objects to shape our sense of self, anchor our memories, and reflect our place in the world. In these superb, engrossing essays Gemma Nisbet draws us in close as she examines what we hold onto, what we let go, and the complex relationships between the tangible and intangible. A moving portrayal of grief, love, and legacy, this is a collection to treasure.

Vanessa Berry


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The Things We Live With
Gemma Nisbet

Weight 0.5 kg



220 Pages



About the Book: ‘This is how I became interested in things. In their strange pull and power; in the ways they hold on to us and we to them.’ After her father dies of cancer, Gemma Nisbet is inundated with keepsakes connected to his life by family and friends. As she becomes attuned to the ways certain items can evoke specific memories or moments, she begins to ask questions about the relationships between objects and people. Why is it so difficult to discard some artefacts and not others? Does the power exerted by precious things influence the ways we remember the past and perceive the future? As Nisbet considers her father’s life and begins to connect his experiences of mental illness with her own, she wonders whether hanging on to ‘stuff’ is ultimately a source of comfort or concern. Intimate and wide-ranging, The Things We Live With is a collection of essays about how we learn to live with the ‘things’ handed down in families which we carry throughout our lives: not only material objects, but also grief, memory, anxiety and depression. It’s about notions of home and restlessness, inheritance and belonging – and, above all, the ways we tell our stories to ourselves and other people. About the Author: Gemma Nisbet is a Western Australian-based writer whose work has appeared in Westerly, Australian Book Review and TEXT, among other publications. A former travel journalist, she recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia, teaches Creative Writing and Literary Studies at universities, and writes a weekly book reviews and interviews column for The West Australian. She lives on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja with her husband and their dog, Pickle. The Things We Live With is her first book.