AUTHOR FEATURE: Wendy Scarfe revisits the past

Wendy Scarfe

It has been more than half a century since Wendy Scarfe and her husband Allan  lived and worked for three years in an Indian village during the 1960s. Now Wendy is looking back to a time in her life that impacted her profoundly.

Post written by Poppy Nwosu.

A Mouthful of Petals, Wendy and Allan Scarfe‘India and Bombay again after four years absence.

I had almost forgotten the light, which gave the sea the smooth sheen of an iridescent pearl.

Friends met the ship and we hugged each other.’

Excerpt from Wendy Scarfe’s 2019 epilogue in the revised edition of A Mouthful of Petals.




In 1960, Wendy and Allan Scarfe, two dedicated but far from solemn young Australian teachers, travelled to the remote village of Sokhodeora in Bihar, India. By the time they left three years later, the Scarfes would never be the same again.

The experience resulted in the non-fiction book A Mouthful of Petals, first published in 1967 to much acclaim, being described by Andrew Hewitt, Oxfam Australia Executive Director, as ‘both inspiring but also distressing’ and ‘deeply imbued with a sense of humanity’.


Three generations have been born since A Mouthful of Petals was first published. And sadly Allan Scarfe, co-author and husband, passed away in 2016.

Now at 86 years old, Wendy Scarfe has worked alongside Wakefield Press to publish a new edition of this incredible story, which includes an account of Wendy Scarfe’s return trip to Sokhodeora during a famine in the late 1960s.

This new edition acts as both a tribute to Wendy’s past and to her late husband, and looks at how those who live in Bihar state fare in the early twenty-first century.

A Mouthful of Petals, Wendy and Allan Scarfe

Often the presence of children was pleasant but sometimes they were a nuisance. One of their misdeeds was to steal the
hibiscus flowers.
They stole them to eat.
We would catch them with guilty, apprehensive expressions
and a mouthful of petals, the ends protruding and then disappearing between their lips like the wings of beetles and insects in the mouths of the almost transparent lizards on our house walls.
But it was a tragic kind of misdemeanour, which symbolised for us the way in which hunger and poverty consumed the efforts people made to create beauty in their lives.

A Mouthful of Petals, Wendy and Allan Scarfe

A Mouthful of Petals spins a unique narrative that will fascinate today’s readers just as much as it did readers more than half a century ago. With beautiful writing and gritty insight, this is a moving look at 1960s India.

To find out more about  A Mouthful of Petals, visit our website. And remember, the best way to show your support for writers, poets, publishers and booksellers is to buy books!

Support Wakefield Press by buying our beautiful books!  Visit our website or contact us on 08 8352 4455 for more information, or to purchase a book (or three!). We can post your purchase to your doorstep!

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