Oli’s rebirth is rooted in connection, where she feels herself a part of the ocean; a part of the Earth, and connected to the other women with her. It’s an antidote to violence and the kind of toxic masculinity that is destroying our species. Below Deck is a rich, powerful, and wonderful novel full of exquisite writing, important themes, and powerfully realised textures.
The streets of Melbourne are vividly alive in this work, and nowhere more so than in its description of the natural world around the city, from Royal Park where Trevor walks Gordon to the steel carriages tram, the graffitied buildings or the flora and fauna that is everywhere in flashes of beauty.
However true to fact and corroborated by photos and drawings, memoir is always subject to recreation, to one-sided perception, rewriting, and recasting. It is always both true and fictive, and like dreams, pieced together from a grab-bag of images and turned into stories that reflect the themes being explored. The Age of Fibs picks up on this uncertainty beautifully and works with it, allowing for openness, complexity, and fragmentation, while still keeping the coherency of the story intact.
So much of what makes the present tense of the novel possible comes down to luck, small acts of kindness, and the often random connections that take place. The book is beautifully written, poetic throughout and very moving. There is a lyrical richness and cadence which creates immediacy.
Brandi’s prose is consistently beautiful, and the story itself remains compelling and fast paced. The rip metaphor is repeated like a refrain throughout the book, and creates a strong connection between the reader and the protagonist. The Rip is an intense, important read, shining a light on an area that has not been the subject of much art, and encouraging deep empathy, understanding and engagement.
There is also an inherent indeterminacy or multiplicity in the way the story unfolds, so that it is both a domestic story, with sumptuously described meals, personal care/tenderness, tea taking, and small acts of kindness that include buying teddies and dolls and supportive talk between friends, as well as being a story of international espionage involving great acts of big evil: arms dealing, drug dealing, government complicity, murder, and looming war.
Chang’s cool precise descriptions, reminiscent of her great American contemporary Jane Bowles, are spiked by preternatural attentiveness to light and colour, as in an early scene when Julie walks in the campus grounds where, ‘The sun had baked the red flowers in the blue ceramic flower pots, and had transformed them into little black fists, and had bleached the sea to a faded blue, like old blue linen drenched in sweat.‘
Bridge of Clay is a beautiful, complex book full of subtlety, metaphor, and human connection. It’s a story of many things, not just a child’s attempt to document the loss and redemption of his family, though that is the driving plot line. It’s also about the nature and power of language and to that extent there is a meta-fictional quality to the work.
A Biography of a Chance Miracle is a collection of stories that appear unnoteworthy at first glance, but swell and fill the imagination as one reads them. The final twist is both perfectly surreal and perfectly logical in a book whose hero’s stubborn faith—in herself, if nothing else—is nothing short of magic.
Though Before We Died is a fictional story, full of intrigue, mystery, and a driving plot that makes it very readable, it is also built around real events as described in the prologue, particularly the catastrophic impact of the rubber boom on some areas of the Amazon, ecologically and in terms of the impacts on the native tribes. The book also confronts issues like racism, exploitation, slavery, and rampant colonialisation, seamlessly integrating the universal into this particular story in a way that feels natural