Journalist and former ABC broadcaster Sian Prior has been writing opinion pieces on the topic of shyness for many years. Her memoir Shy crystallises her years of analysis into a fascinating meditation on how temperament can shape a person’s life. Expanded from her 2009 Meanjin essay on the same topic, Prior’s memoir delves deeper into the psychology behind timidness. Combining interviews with experts in the field and reflections on Prior’s own fluctuating battles with shyness in her childhood and adult life, Shy functions as both great memoir and self-help. It’s inevitable that one of the most-talked-about elements of Shy will be Sian’s brief excursions into the breakdown of her long-term relationship with popular musician Paul Kelly (Kelly is never explicitly named, but enough clues are given). Ultimately, the book isn’t about him, it’s about her, and every other person to have ever felt crippled by social anxiety. Shy could be viewed as a more intimate companion piece to US author Susan Cain’s 2012 international bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking. Shy is further proof there’s quite a lot to say about being quiet.
Emily Laidlaw is the online editor at Kill Your Darlings. This review first appeared in Issue 2, 2014 of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.