Lynette Washington is s-o-o-o-o-o good at this. She first prepares you with just the necessary brush strokes and then really delivers. All so clever, so unexpected, so unique and the more I read, the more I want. This is addictive reading at its best.
Perhaps the cover says it all? Yes, you can begin to judge this particular book by its cover because inside and throughout all those white pages a hurricane is at work endeavouring to yank everything of life’s rationalizations into shards of disbelief.
As has become something of a trademark for Laguna, Justine’s voice forms the narrative backdrop for the book. It’s an extraordinary combination of naïve, descriptive, and poetically dense, driving the reader through a story often harrowing and dark, but always with a sense of discovery.
Wimmera is a patently Australian tour de force, following two inseparable youths, Ben and Fab and the hardships their mateship endures slipping from childhood into adulthood in the titular country town, a familiar coming-of-age story that takes a sudden, tragic turn, forever altering both their lives and their attachment to one another.
Maryanne’s own sense of self in relation to her overbearing mother and Freya’s sense of self in relation to Maryanne are handled with such richness that they give the story a great deal of depth, even as it pushes towards its inevitable outcome. The Restorer is a beautifully written and very powerful fiction that not only shines a light on the deep roots of domestic violence but also plays with the line of what remains in the face of such destruction. Sala’s story that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.
The plot moves fast, the narrative driving the reading towards its final unnerving twist. It all happens almost too quickly. James’ writing is so smooth, and the story so powerfully plotted, that its easy to miss how neatly the shifts are between the individual voices, the many delicate links between cause and effect and the parallels between adults and children as we move from one character to another, the way the reader is unwittingly drawn into the toxic culture of privilege that underpins these characters, or how subtle the thematics.
Goodwood doesn’t pursue the path of a traditional mystery novel and those looking for a heart–racing style whodunnit built around the two disappearances might be disappointed. The shock of those events is a catalyst here for deeper explorations of what lurks below the surface and how we create meaning in our lives in this tender, rich, and deeply enjoyable book.
It would be a rare reader that didn’t feel an affinity for the protagonist in Alice Pung’s charming coming-of-age story, Laurinda. The is something universal about fifteen year old Lucy Lam’s dislocation as she tries to navigate the clique-iness, the odd social mores, and the subtle bullying that takes place at Laurinda, a prestigious private school to which Lucy has received the first equity scholarship.
All three novels explore guilt and innocence, good and evil, and the individual versus the state or government, using changing tense and viewpoints. The grand conception is fairly ambitious, but Maiden handles it all smoothly and the stories read like ordinary thrillers. The binaries that charge these books are played with in all sorts of interesting ways as the characters swap positions, power matrices, emotional landscapes, and unravel the structures in which they work.
Always there’s a sense that the world is not quite fixed and that what we’re experiencing is illusory (so much smoke), and charged by scars, memories, hunger, and all that we’ve lost. The stories that make up So Much Smoke are powerful, not so much because of what happens, but because of the way they hint at how much lurks below the surface