‘Of all the books I have ever read about people on a desert isle, The Cautious Amorist is by far the most scandalous.’ Thus wrote reviewer Harry Hansen in the New York World-Telegram when Norman Lindsay’s novel was published in the USA by Grosset and Dunlap, as no Australian publisher would touch it. 

The Cautious Amorist explores the sexual tension between three men and one young woman stranded on a desert island in the South Pacific, and was the first for which Lindsay also drew the illustrations, many of which include his favourite subject, nudity. First published in New York, then in London in 1934, the novel was banned in Australia until 1953 on the grounds of indecency and blasphemy.

Lindsay shows himself to be a talented, inventive and – given his time – daring writer. The narrative is compelling, the dialogue fluent, and much about the characters’ interactions is as believable today as it was when it was written. Sadie in particular is very much a modern woman, and takes no hostages as she swims, fights and loves with her enforced companions. The line drawings show an aspect of Lindsay’s art which is fast, loose and energetic, perfectly matching his lively story-telling.

The Cautious Amorist was adapted for the screen in 1953 as Our Girl Friday, a British film starring Joan Collins, George Cole, Kenneth More and Robertson Hare.

A free online copy of the 1938 edition of The Cautious Amorist is available at the Internet Archive, here.