Small Wrongs

Kate Rossmanith's Small Wrongs: How we really say sorry in love, life and law (UK & Australia, Hardie Grant Books, 2018) is a hybrid work of nonfiction combining field research, philosophy, and life writing. It is about remorse in the justice system and remorse in our everyday personal lives. What does it mean to demand an apology from someone? How can you ever tell if a person is truly sorry for what they have done?

Small Wrongs has been nominated for Australian and international literary awards, including being longlisted for the 2018 UK Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction Writing.

Praise for Small Wrongs

"A delicate inquiry that moves with grace between public and private pain." - Helen Garner, author of This House of Grief

"I love this book. Rossmanith does everything I want a nonfiction writer to do. She asks an important question, thinks with clarity and urgency on the page, and transforms that thinking into a gripping, emotional, human story. Small Wrongs is dazzling' - Claire Dederer, New York Times bestselling author and critic

"Brilliant and brave... it will change how you feel about your own life." - Ceridwen Dovey, author of In the Garden of the Fugitives

"Small Wrongs is memoir-writing at its best" - Sydney Morning Herald

“Spellbinding... Not often does a book enter a reader's life so completely." - Professor Michael Jackson, Harvard University, author of The Varieties of Temporal Experience: Travels in philosophical, historical, and ethnographic time

“Beautifully written… accessible… courageous. I have no hesitation in recommending Small Wrongs.” - European Journal of Probation

"A moving investigation into the inner-workings of remorse and forgiveness, not just as a legal concept, but a tool to opening up our common humanity. Kate is a brilliant storyteller." - Alice Pung, author of Her Father's Daughter

"Intimate, revealing, and fascinating, Rossmanith explores one of the most troubling expectations of those caught up in the criminal justice system, the performance of remorse." - Anna Krien, author of Night Games: Sex, power and sport

‘Small Wrongs is a powerful consideration of remorse, and whether we can ever truly know it when we see it. […] The central thread of this absorbing book is Rossmanith’s search for the elusive legal, moral, and personal reality of remorse.’ - Readings


Kate Rossmanith studied people for a living, and thought she understood human nature well. But in the wake of her daughter’s birth, the vulnerability and intensity of parenthood took her completely by surprise. Faced with a debilitating insomnia, she spent hours awake reflecting on her own upbringing and the unwelcome role remorse can play in even the most devoted parents’ lives.
Increasingly fascinated with the concept of remorse, she was drawn to the criminal courts, observing case after case. She talked to criminals, lawyers and judges alike, trying to answer the fundamental question: how can you know whether a person is ever truly sorry?
But it soon became clear the project was creating seismic shifts in Kate’s own life. The more she learnt, the more she saw how her relationship with her father, who for many years was a distant and often angry man, was steeped in remorse. The more she learnt, the more she saw the faultlines in her marriage, widening under the strains of parenthood. And ever present was a family history sketched across war-torn Europe, with the seeds of heartache taking root in Australia.

Small Wrongs: How we really say sorry in love, life and law  is published by Hardie Grant books in 2018 in the UK and Australia.