AWW2013 – Book 24
Adult Contemporary Novel
This was a short novel (maybe more of a novella) telling the story of the curious teenager, Allie, her somewhat reclusive aunt Julia and the story of Allie’s mother, Mae, who has gone missing, presumed drowned in Sydney Harbour. There’s not a huge amount of actual story here; although things happen, they don’t seem to happen fast and there isn’t a lot of happenings. Instead we get images, of the small northern New South Wales community which Julia lives in and takes Allie back to; of the family members who remain in Allie and Julia’s diminished family; of the life that Allie and Mae had been living for so long; and the history which haunts Julia no matter how hard she tries to let things grow over it.
At the heart of this novella is the concept of family. How do we make family when we get a choice? Who do we include in our family? How do we remove thos parts of our family which haunt us or scare us. There’s also the idea of history – the history which people see on the outside and the history which is hidden by those who might see it.
The whole book is centred around the darkness and strength of water. Mae is a strong swimmer who often heads out on Sydney Harbour for a swim at night, before going missing in the dark waters. There’s a lot of talk about water, in the form of flooding, holding people where they are or as something which needs to be overcome and defeated. Then there’s the tears that fall, or threaten to fall – the salt rain.
It really is an interesting read, though some of the ‘shocking’ parts feel a little muted -almost like you’ve got your head under water and can’t hear them properly. The sense of place, and the vivid descriptions of setting throughout make it worth reading alone!