Dreams They Forgot

Emma Ashmere’s new short story collection Dreams They Forgot is published by Wakefield Press and was listed on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Books to Read in 2020 and Readings Australian Books to Get Excited About 2020.


Dreams They Forgot is listed on Readings Bookshop’s 100 Great Reads by Australian Women 2020. “This debut collection of beautiful short stories spans twenty years of the author’s writing life, bringing together tales of love, loss and feeling out of place.”

Emma’s ‘What I’m Reading’ article on reading Ali Smith’s new novel Summer has just been published on Meanjin blog.


“Emma Ashmere’s characters are luminescent. These stories drew me into people and worlds so vivid they practically lived on the page.”  — ANNA SPARGO-RYAN, author of The Gulf, and The Paper House.

‘Ashmere’s writing is full of quick insights and telling details. These stories move effortlessly through place and time, entering lives on the point of transgression. It’s an absolute pleasure to travel with them.’ — JENNIFER MILLS, author of Dyschronia, The Rest is Weight, and The Diamond Anchor. 

‘Stories of extraordinary range and depth. Deeply engaging and satisfying.’ — PADDY O’REILLY, author of Peripheral Vision, The End of the World, The Wonders.


Feast Festival online: Wed 11th November 6.00pm (Adel time)/ 6.30pm (Melb & Sydney time). Join Emma Ashmere chatting to Nikki Anderson, director of the Feminist Writers Festival via zoom at Adelaide’s annual Feast LGBTQIA+ Festival. It’s a free event – but you’ll need to register here.


“The tagline on the title page of Emma Ashmere’s Dreams They Forgot is ‘stories of illusion, deception and quiet rebellion’. This is an apt description of the 25 stories that unfold over the 250 pages of this collection… Ashmere’s prose is precise, almost elusive, reading at times like poetry… The deft description, compelling emotion and insightful observations of Dreams They Forgot will appeal to readers of feminist fiction and Australian realism, in particular fans of Dymphna Cusack or Fiona McGregor.” ADAM FORD, BOOKS+PUBLISHING, July 15 2020.   (See full review below)

“The stories in this strong and varied collection range across urban and rural Australia and beyond, to such touchstones of Australian travel as Bali and London, and to more exotic settings such as Borneo and regional France. Emma Ashmere’s stories are often impressionistic, never laboriously chewing on their material and trusting the intelligence of the reader to join the dots and grasp the underlying feeling. There are some excellent stories about family life, especially those told from the point of view of a semi-comprehending and bemused child or adolescent. But Ashmere’s greatest strength is in her stories of the historical past, especially in Australia. These stories acknowledge the limits of what is knowable to contemporary readers, evoking instead the unrecoverable strangeness and mystery of the past.” KERRYN GOLDSWORTHY, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD/AGE, 5 Sep 2020.

“Ashmere moves skillfully and seamlessly between eras and places… this variety is also a strength, making each story feel different from those surrounding it…  a thoughtful meditation on the things that can hold you down, and the different ways through.” ELIZABETH FLUX, THE SATURDAY PAPER, 12 Sept 2020.

“A short story collection can have much in common with a collection of poetry, where each story pivots on attention to something particular and arresting – an image, a memory, the encounters with strangeness or beauty that can occur in a life. Individual stories build delicately towards such a moment, then fall away quickly, willing a reader to engage with feeling and suggestion rather than the comprehensiveness of narrative.

Emma Ashmere’s short story collection Dreams They Forgot is subtle and evocative in this way; her stories move both on internal trajectories of revelation and in relation to each other, incrementally building a richly nuanced fabric of story, character, and pinpoints of life experience.” ROSE LUCAS, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW, 29 Nov 2020.

“Highly recommended. This is an exquisite collection of short stories. Many have a filmic quality as Ashmere introduces a scene and moves like a camera would, resting on an object or a person, and then revealing subtle nuances in gestures or words as we are led further in. The language has the expressiveness of poetry, creating pictures and interactions, leading into stories that leave us pondering long afterwards. There are also stories of historical fiction, of men scarred by war, drunken fathers, hardworn women and families struggling in poverty, stories imagined from intriguing glimpses of women’s voices buried in the archives. There will be images and descriptions that will stay with you long afterwards, just as the cover photograph suggests thoughts and imaginings; the stories can be read and enjoyed time and again. Themes: Women, Relationships, Longing, Outsiders, LGBQTI, Historical fiction. ” HELEN EDDY, READPLUS, 17 Nov 2020.

“These short stories have the compressed clarity of diamonds. From somewhere deep, Ashmere brings these small stories to the surface and sets to crafting them. Every angle and facet is laser cut and polished to perfection. Turn them slowly in your hands. Be dazzled by the light that glances and bounces off their surfaces and be drawn to the shadows that lie within.” JENNY BIRD, BYRON WRITERS FESTIVAL, NORTHERLY.

“Generally, an author’s work improves with time, but all twenty-three stories in Dreams They Forgot are of equal quality. In some collections, stories can blur together, but the diverse locations and historical periods utilised in these stories make each piece memorable.” ANNIE CONDON, READINGS MONTHLY, Sept 2020.

“Ashmere has curated this collection in a way which makes it read almost like a novel… Many characters seem to be echoes of each other (or maybe the same person?)… Her prose sits lightly on the page, remaining poetic without forgoing narrative drive. Like a caricaturist, she can evoke a full person with just a few strokes of the pen… If you are yet to discover the short story, then this collection might just persuade you. And if you are already a convert, then Ashmere will no doubt delight and engage.” TRACEY KORSTEN, GLAM ADELAIDE, 25 Nov 2020.


Two sisters await the tidal wave predicted for 1970s Adelaide after Premier Don Dunstan decriminalises homosexuality. An interstate family drive is complicated by the father’s memory of sighting UFOs. Two women drive from Melbourne to Sydney to see the Harbour Bridge before it’s finished. An isolated family tries to weather climate change as the Doomsday Clock ticks.

Emma Ashmere’s stories explore illusion, deception and acts of quiet rebellion. Diverse characters travel high and low roads through time and place – from a grand 1860s Adelaide music hall to a dilapidated 1980s London squat, from a modern Melbourne hospital to the 1950s Maralinga test site, to an English Language School in Hastings to the 1990s diamond mines of Borneo.

Undercut with longing and unbelonging, absurdity and tragedy, thwarted plans and fortuitous serendipity, each story offers glimpses into the dreams, limitations, gains and losses of fragmented families, loners and lovers, survivors and misfits, as they piece together a place for themselves in the imperfect mosaic of the natural and unnatural world.

The short stories in Dreams They Forgot have been  shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Award, 2019 Newcastle Short Story Award, 2018 Overland NUW Fair Australia Prize, and the 2001 Age Short Story Competition. Emma’s critically acclaimed debut novel, The Floating Garden, was shortlisted for the Most Underrated Book Award 2016.


The photograph on the cover ‘Lynne and Carol, 1962’ is the work of the late Melbourne feminist photographer Sue Ford.  See more of her stunning work archived here.  Thank you to the estate of Sue Ford for kindly granting permission to use her work.


Q&A with the Feminist Writers Festival about writing Dreams They Forgot

Catch A Passing Thought – On writing short stories for Dreams They Forgot.

Author Talk with Theresa Smith Writes.

Chatting to Pamela Cook and Kel Butler on the W4W podcast.


The tagline on the title page of Emma Ashmere’s Dreams They Forgot is ‘stories of illusion, deception and quiet rebellion’. This is an apt description of the 25 stories that unfold over the 250 pages of this collection. Ashmere’s protagonists each use these three strategies in various ways, some subtly and some overtly, to respond to dangerous or indifferent circumstances. From the woman who poisons her drunkard boyfriend with daffodils to the girl who picks out swear words in her chenille bedspread, these responses vary in their efficacy. Ashmere’s prose is precise, almost elusive, reading at times like poetry. It drills down into certain details while leaving others out entirely. This invites the reader to complete the picture by tying together the story elements that Ashmere has chosen to share. These are stories that can provoke a sense of dread in the reader, particularly if read in a single sitting. There is also a current of anger throughout, one justified by the understanding that the traumas and troubles Ashmere’s largely female protagonists face arise out of society’s indifference and antagonism toward them because they are female. The deft description, compelling emotion and insightful observations of Dreams They Forgot will appeal to readers of feminist fiction and Australian realism, in particular fans of Dymphna Cusack or Fiona McGregor.— ADAM FORD, BOOKS+PUBLISHING, July 15 2020.   

More about DREAMS THEY FORGOT here. And in the InDaily.

Where to buy (RRP AUD $24.95)

Find DREAMS THEY FORGOT at your local bookshop or online:

Wakefield Press (Adelaide)

Abbey’s Bookshop (Sydney)

Avid Reader (Brisbane)

Bookroom at Byron (Northern NSW)

Booktopia (Online)

Gleebooks (Sydney)

Readings (Melbourne)

Imprints Bookshop (Adelaide)

Jeffrey’s Books (Melbourne)

Lismore Book Warehouse (Northern NSW)

Matilda Bookshop (Adelaide Hills)

Ravens Parlour (Barossa Valley)

Riverbend Books (Brisbane)

Wheelers Books (Online)

Dymocks Books (Online)

*Also e-book available 1 Sept. Please note – prices vary on Book Depository,  Fishpond,  Amazon etc.*


*Book Depository



“Beautifully detailed… finely crafted…an elegy for the forgotten….a subversive counter-history to the tumult of rapid progress.”

“Evocatively portrays both the difficulties and the sense of promise in the post-war era … at times it reminded me of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.”

“A beautiful meditation on grief, guilt, and regret.”

“This captivating debut… teems with charlatans, eccentrics and those doing it tough in a time of hardship and prejudice. Yet Ashmere weaves a sense of hope and redemption as her characters seek to rediscover their true selves.”
ADVERTISER (four stars)

Emma Ashmere’s short stories have been widely published including in The Age, Commonwealth Writers Magazine adda, Griffith Review, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction, Sleepers Almanac, and on three Brisbane billboards for #8wordstory. She was shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, 2019 Newcastle Short Story Prize, 2018 Overland/NUW Fair Australia Prize and 2001 Age Short Story Award. Her debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 Small Press Network MUBA prize. Her short story collection Dreams They Forgot will be published on 1 September 2020 by Wakefield Press.