Reidy, Sue

Reidy, Sue

In Brief

Sue Reidy writes fiction that focuses on female identity and spirituality. She has written short stories and novels and has won prizes, awards and the 2000 Buddle Finlay Sargeson Writers Fellowship. Her first short story collection was set in South East Asia, defying notions of realism with often humorous results. Her first novel was set in the context of 1960s New Zealand Catholicism. Reidy has also worked as a practitioner and teacher of design and illustration.


Reidy, Sue (1955– ), is a fiction writer distinctive for her complex treatment of female identity and spirituality.

Born in Invercargill and trained in graphic design at Wellington Polytechnic, she has worked as a practitioner and teacher of design and illustration, providing the illustrations for her own stories.

She won the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Award in 1985 for her story ‘Alexandra and the Lion’. The short stories in Modettes (1988) are set primarily in South-East Asia, defying notions of realism by shifting between reality, dream and fantasy with an often humorous directness of tone. The tensions within feminism and other modern ideals are also challengingly presented, for instance between natural sexual impulse and resentment of gender roles, or between correct received opinions about other cultures and the damage actually inflicted by intruders, however well intentioned. Asian belief systems are portrayed with unusual inwardness.

The novel The Visitation (1996) is also concerned with spirituality and responsibility, this time in the context of 1960s New Zealand Catholicism. Its two-sisters story sets the traditional mythology of the Virgin Mary against the antipodean context, as modern Catholicism frustrates a message delivered by divine vision.
The novel is again at times magic realist, at times humorous, and often enriched by strong visual and musical senses. It is published by the English Black Swan company.



For many years Sue Reidy was well-known as a graphic designer, art director, illustrator and design tutor. During this time she designed hundreds of New Zealand’s book jackets and her illustrations were reproduced in leading magazines. She is now a full-time writer, dividing her time between fiction and poetry writing, corporate writing and painting.

In 1987, Reidy received the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award. Many of her short stories have been broadcast on National Radio and appeared in the Listener, Metro, the Sunday Star Times and the Australian Women’s Weekly, as well as in several anthologies, including Penguin 25 New Fiction 1998, The Penguin Book of Contemporary Short Stories 1989, Wee Girls: An International Collection of Irish Women’s Writing and Good-bye to Romance, to mention a few. She was runner-up in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Award in 1995.

Her poetry has appeared in Landfall, JAAM, Bravado and the Listener.

Her first novel, The Visitation, was published internationally in 1996 and shortlisted in the fiction section of the 1997 Montana NZ Book Awards. The novel was described by Kirkus Reviews (US) as 'a wickedly funny, laugh-out-loud first novel...' and 'an offbeat, surprisingly entertaining look at Catholic girlhood, by a writer with a predator's eye for comic detail'. In the US Library Journal – 'The Virgin's evolution into a leader of the women's rights movement is forced but rollickingly funny in parts; the novel is also a deeply serious look at the fraught journey to self-knowledge, teen sexual experimentation, and the spiritual lives of girls and women.'

Four Ways to Become a Woman (2000), Reidy’s second novel, was published by Transworld in Britain, and by Random House in Australia and New Zealand. It charts a friendship between four women that has survived since their convent days. Once they had believed they could do anything they wanted. Now, rapidly approaching forty, they are having to take stock.

According to Wellington’s Evening Post, in Four Ways to be a Woman 'Sue Reidy captures perfectly the self-flagellating internal monologue of the modern woman. These characters are in constant and amusing debate with themselves over the gap between how they ought to be and how they are.'

Sue Reidy was awarded a 2000 Buddle Finlay Sargeson Writers Fellowship.

Reidy's third novel L'Amore Secondo Miranda, is being published by Newton Compton Editori, Italy, in 2010. It is a redemptive novel about two misfits seeking self-determination in different ways and whose lives mysteriously connect. The novel paints a sensitive and sympathetic portrait of a young transsexual and an underground world that most of us barely comprehend.


Updated January 2017.