The Last Free Man and Other Stories

The Last Free Man and Other Stories

Lewis Woolston

Truth Serum Press 2019


The Last Free Man and Other Stories is the debut story collection from Alice Springs writer Lewis Woolston.

I was captivated by Woolston’s writing, a mixture of honesty and true-blue Australian-ism we don’t often see, these stories teleport the reader into the Australian outback. The outback is a place of drifters, stories, and backpackers. It’s a place you don’t stay unless you’re running from something.

Filled with stories from multiple perspectives and set roadhouses and other remote work around Alice Springs, the Nullarbor, and many other areas, Woolston has creates a picture of a quiet, nomadic life-style with the potential to make money and leave or, alternatively, live a quiet life away from the big smoke.

One of my favourite stories in this collection was ‘Driftwood’. Set across Brisbane, Perth, Mundrabilla, and Adelaide this story follows the main character and his relationship with Helen from their first meeting in Brisbane to their working and intimate lives. What I like most about this story is that is seems to give a wider picture of the characters’ lives, including Justin and Helen’s friend Louise, who are more than just supporting characters in the main characters’ easy-going love story.

Certainly, this isn’t a short story collection everyone will enjoy, like many Australian stories these might seem quite strange to some. Features such as curse words, outback slang, and drug use might be off-putting to some audiences; however, the no-fuss inclusion of these things is something I personally found comforting. Not often do you come across coarse language in a book that feels like it ought to be there. In Tim Winton’s work, certainly. But many writers do not do it well. Woolston’s inclusion of swear words throughout his stories spoke more about a cultural approach to these words and to the people; the drifters of the outback roadhouses, recovering addicts, and those who wanted to escape something.

I would recommend Woolston’s work to other readers of Australian fiction, particularly those who, like me, have not had the experience of being out there meeting eccentric personalities and learning how to maintain an awareness of what’s around you in face of Australia’s diverse and threatening wildlife.

To purchase a copy of Woolston’s book visit: https://truthserumpress.net/catalogue/fiction/the-last-free-man-and-other-stories/.

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent
S.J Morgan
Midnight Sun 2018


S.J Morgan’s Heaven Sent is a fun, easy-to-read Young Adult debut. Following Evie, an Australian sixteen-year-old with a crooked spine, the novel examines the complications of separated parents, new love, and mental illness.

This novel is home to some strong, if inconsistent, writing and I ripped through it in a matter of hours. The prologue, in particular, struck me as both vivid and wistful. There are some pacing issues that are distracting – the immediacy with which Evie trusts the boy, Gabriel, who crashed through her bedroom wall one night, feels rushed and a little bit at odds with the girl’s naturally suspicious nature. Additionally, this feels like a book deciding what it wants to be as it goes – the beginning feels like it could be a supernatural romance, but the ending is definitely an action-thriller. Morgan’s writing is capable of being both tight and engaging in either genre, but toying with both is disorientating.

However, Morgan seems to have a thumb at the pulse of the friendships of teenage girls. Evie and her best friend, Paige, demonstrate the simultaneously emotionally manipulative and caring behaviour of teenage girls, who are still determining the best way to navigate the world. Indeed, Morgan is gifted at creating some rich characters. Gabriel’s erratic and earnest attempts at ‘watching over’ Evie create a chilling atmosphere and a creeping sense of concern. Seb, Evie’s mother’s much younger boyfriend, was perfectly cast as a slimy, pathetic loser. Even Evie’s house, broken and tarp-covered, feels like an oppressive character, and the eventual move she and her mother make is a satisfying thematic event.

Evie suffers from scoliosis – a condition that warps the spine into a ‘S’. She is in the final stages of wearing a brace designed to straighten her spine. Scoliosis is an incredibly painful condition and Morgan’s depiction of it feels a little simple and easy. The brace is removed in the first half of the novel and though Evie often complains about having to wear it, there’s no complexity to the physicality of both the condition and the treatment. It feels as though the brace is removed before it can be an imposition, or narrative object.

That said, Morgan has produced a novel with a lot of heart. Heaven Sent will appeal to its teenage demographic, its pacing faults aside. To me, Morgan is an author with a considerable amount of potential and her next work will be something to keep an eye on.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay
Markus Zusak
Picador 2018


As a fan of Markus Zusak’s previous work (The Book Thief, The Messenger, and When Dogs Cry) there was no doubt in my mind I’d love Bridge of Clay when I read it. Yet Bridge of Clay raised a number of questions about the book and the evolution of Zusak’s prose style. For me, this book was a change from his others by the sheer literary feeling of the writing. If you’re unsure what I mean by “literary”, perhaps the simplest way to describe it is writing that screams writing. The first page caught me off guard, but it didn’t take long to appreciate the style and story.

If I weren’t a fan of Zusak—or if I’d read the blurb before I jumped in—this is definitely a book I would seek out and read. I am one of six children and so I’ve always been fascinated by large families in fiction and on screen (Cheaper by the Dozen, Septimus Heap, etc.). Seeing someone portray the lives of five brothers is fascinating to me. A lot of these moments and interactions just felt truly authentic and familiar. Although, my family was never quite so wild.

The story is told by Matthew, the eldest Dunbar brother, and follows the younger brother, Clay. Clay has spent his life training, but training for what? This question appears at the beginning of the novel and is repeated throughout. While the others drive, he runs. While jockeys ride horses on the nearby racecourse Clay creates his own race-course or obstacle course, complete with local tough guys charged with keeping him from completing his race. But Clay doesn’t care about winning—the only race he cared about was won and done, the family reluctantly one mule richer for it.

About a third of the way through it becomes clear that Clay’s training isn’t to win at anything, it’s simply a way to help him survive the ‘murder’. The boys, much like Justin Torre’s We the Animals, are a united front against their remaining (and absent) authority figure, their father, who they refer to as the murderer. When the murderer returns, he upsets the entire household, effectively tearing a brother away with his plea to help build a bridge. Clay makes the decision to leave Matthew, Rory, Henry, Tommy, all the animals, and his almost-girlfriend, Carey, to build a bridge with his Dad.

While the novel tells the story of Matthew, Clay, and their brothers, it also delves back into history to bring the story of their parents, Michael Dunbar and Penelope Lesciuszko.

Zusak creates a full and authentic story with his Dunbar boys and the stories of their parents. This is a book that will stir your emotions; it will call up fear and anger and grief. You will grow to adore the Iliad and Odyssey, fall in love with Carey, and wish you could know the Mistake Maker, just as I did.

For readers of The Book Thief, particularly for any readers who dislike or struggle with literary fiction; I would approach this with awareness that this is quite a large book and it may take a chapter or two to find the rhythm. Regardless, this is an utterly beautiful testament to childhood and simply being Australian. This is the story of boys, horses, and surviving whatever life has in store for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

Beneath the Mother Tree

Beneath the Mother Tree
D.M Cameron
Midnight Sun 2018


 

The island is unsettled and Ayla’s Grappa thinks the mythological Irish figure of Far Dorocha is to blame. Mosquito specialist Marise has moved her only son Riley to the secluded island after the death of her husband and his stepfather. Their arrival sends ripples through the place’s normally serene ecosystem, and adds pressure to their already fraught relationship. Ayla, lost in her own way, and Riley form a connection, which is in turn strange and familiar. D.M Cameron’s debut novel, through Midnight Sun, is a dark narrative of love, belief, and twisted family ties.

For the most part this is a narrative about strangers in a small town. Marise and Riley are interlopers to a close-knit community, and Marise in particular struggles to acclimatise to their new life. She is drawn there by a house on the edge of a marsh heavily populated by mosquitos. For Riley, this is the first chance at a ‘normal’ life – his mother is a restricting and at times abusive woman and he was not allowed to go to school or foster relationships with outsiders. When hit with the double blow of Ayla and Riley’s deepening relationship and the local council’s decision to spray Marise’s precious marsh in order to control the insect population, she is forced to use some truly dark techniques to get what she wants.

Irish mythology plays a heavy part in the events of the novel. Grappa, in an almost childish way, believes in the spirits and creatures in the stories he tells Ayla. Ayla too, see-saws on the truth of her grandfather’s stories. When the bad things begin happening on the island – animals behaving strangely, the death of beloved pets through a deadly virus cultivated by Marise in her research – Grappa is convinced the evil Far Dorocha is at work through the scientist. Indeed, Cameron creates an almost magic-realist landscape for her characters – there are many scenes where Marise dreams she is transformed into a cloud of mosquitos, only to wake and find the pet of the islander she’s been having is dead; the titular Mother Tree seems to cast a protective shelter around Ayla.

Along with the Irish mythology, Cameron tries to include some Indigenous history and culture. For me, this was of the book’s biggest problem. Cameron’s fictional island, like most of Australia, contains a deeply colonial history and the site of a mass murder of Indigenous peoples is a reoccurring image and theme. However, this examination of Australia’s colonial violence feels heavy-handed and uneven as the novel only has two Indigenous characters – a teenage girl who studies on the mainland and has no narrative weight, and a wise-woman who also carries no real narrative importance. Given the importance placed on the Aboriginal mythology, it would have been beneficial to have an Indigenous voice to weigh in on the events of the novel. Instead, the weight of this piece of the island’s violent history is mostly carried by Ayla – a white character. Ayla spends much of the novel coming to terms with the massacre but given the lack of Indigenous voice I wasn’t sure what Cameron was trying to achieve with its inclusion.

The character of Marise was one of the novel’s short-comings for me. As the novel’s primary antagonist, she is a ruthless and possessive woman, who will do anything to get what she wants. However, her portrayal at times felt a little too cartoon villain-like. There was a lack of clarity in her machinations that made it hard to understand or empathise with her. Often the menace of an antagonist comes from their internal logic, twisted though it may be, and Marise’s internal logic was a little too murky.

However, Beneath the Mother Tree is also home to some moments of genuine sweetness. The sweetly awkward budding relationship between Ayla and Riley was a treat to read. The same could be said of the relationship between Grappa and his granddaughter. Ayla has a deep love of the Irish folklore and it shapes her entire character. Cameron also managed to capture the insidious, insular nature of small towns with some skill.

 

2.5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

Meet Your Local NaNoWriMo MLs (Adelaide)

Recently, Tulpa Magazine sat down with Alexander Barratt, Caitlin O’Callaghan and Simone Corletto, Adelaide’s municipal liaisons for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). They talked about their personal experiences writing 50,000 words in a month, and gave some advice for aspiring writers looking to try NaNoWriMo for the first time this November.

 

How long have you been doing NaNoWriMo?

Simone: I think I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for about six years. I’ve completed five times, I’ve won five times.

Alex: This will be my sixth time with in the Adelaide NaNoWriMo community. The first two I just tried it by myself. So this will be my eighth time and I’ve won it three times.

Caitlin: I am reasonably certain I joined the NaNoWriMo website a couple of days before Alex. I didn’t properly compete until last year, when I won Camp NaNo and then NaNoWriMo, because I didn’t know anyone and I was too scared to do it by myself.

 

What made you start doing NaNoWriMo and what keeps you coming back?

Simone: I heard about NaNoWriMo like nine years ago but it was during my science degree so I had exams during November, which meant I could never do it. I’ve always loved writing since high school and when I started (studying) creative writing I was like, ‘this is the year, I’m gonna actually do NaNo’. It was like a really great way to meet other writers and the write-ins were so fantastic for focus and getting so much done. I was able to write more than I’d written in the entire year leading up to NaNoWriMo, so yeah, I just fell in love with the atmosphere and the people.

Alex: I first heard about it online somewhere. I honestly don’t remember where. Why do I keep coming back? I think the people. I wrote 15,000 words in my first NaNo in the Adelaide community and that’s more than I had ever written ever before on anything. And then I just kept coming back. The following year I won, so I got my 50,000 and kept going.

Caitlin: Yeah, definitely the people is what keeps me going. I think I found a link to NaNo somewhere online and then proceeded to freak out and not do it for the next seven years. I met some really cool people out one night and they said, ‘you should do Camp NaNoWriMo’, and I was like ‘what’s that?’. And yeah, here I am.

 

As Municipal Liaisons (MLs), what do you do?

Simone: We basically run and organise a lot of the events leading up to and during November and also a little bit afterwards. We’re kind of like the social secretaries of the community. I’ve just started doing it this year and so far it’s been a lot of brainstorming dates, finding times when we’re free.

Alex: This is my third year being an ML. It’s mainly organising events, having opportunities for people to get together and write and engage with each other in the real world. Making sure the regional forum stays civil, and any other digital platforms that we may be running for the region. Having lots of different events, write-ins, plot-ins, and social events to keep people sane during NaNo, because it is stressful at times.

Caitlin: A lot of emails, and pretty much what the others have said, where we’re there to organise things and keep them running.

 

Adelaide has a pretty strong NaNoWriMo community, what are its best features?

Simone: I’ve been told that Adelaide has a really great writing community in general. There’s a lot of people that are really passionate about writing and writing professionally, and even writing just for fun. I think things like the Writer’s Centre, and also just NaNoWriMo, is such a big hand at bringing people together. And you know, the more people there are, the funner it is. I feel like we’re good at the people side and cause we’re a small ML team, we’re good at mobilising. Some larger regions may have a lot more area to cover, so it’s hard to bring everyone in to the one place, whereas Adelaide’s fairly centralised. Unless you’re living very far out north or south it’s probably easy to get to the city. I feel that helps.

Alex: I agree. Adelaide’s relatively small so it allows us to keep people in the region. I know of people who have left the physical region, but they’re still in our digital region and they contribute from elsewhere, because they still love the community.

Simone: We do try to keep a digital presence as much as we can for the more remote NaNoers, with the live chat and stuff. And we’re doing virtual write-ins as well this year. So people can watch a live-stream and chat in the comments, in partnership with the YA Jungle.

Caitlin: And we don’t judge what you’re going to write. If you want to write and you’ve got the passion for it we’re here to support you with that. If someone wants to write fan fiction, we’re here for that. As long as you’ve got the drive and the passion for words, we want to support. We’re not going to be like, ‘ugh, that’s not real writing’. Because all writing is real writing. And we’d rather promote the love for that instead of trying to pigeonhole people or turn them away.

Simone: In fact, the weirder you write, probably the better it is, the more fun you’ll have. Don’t feel like you have to be super literary. We had a weird chicken erotica in space going on. It was hilarious. If it’s a weird idea, go for it.

 

What are the benefits of being part of a writing community?

(In unison): Accountability.

Caitlin: The accountability. When I was writing by myself there was no one there to be like, ‘you should finish that’. Except my mum. Having friends who write and knowing other people who write. When you’re having a bad writing day they’ll suggest other ways to do it, or they’ll celebrate the day you wrote 5000 words in two hours. It’s good to know you’re not alone.

Alex: A couple of years ago I was sort of mentoring someone. This was, I think, my second year involved in the community, and it was her first year. She wrote 9000 words on the last day just to finish the 50,000. We were cheering her all the way. It’s why I decided to become an ML. Just so I could help other people get through that, or suggest ways through things.

Simone: Yeah, I think it’s one of the best bits because you’re all achieving the same thing regardless of your skill level. We’re all cheerleaders for each other. We want everyone to do the best they can. And I think everyone’s got a really positive attitude towards it, so even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, any words you do in NaNoWriMo is words you didn’t have before. That’s still an achievement and we’ll still celebrate you. But if you want that extra cheer squad to get you over the line we’ll also do that. Everyone’s just really community minded.

 

What are your thoughts on being writers in Adelaide, as opposed to one of the ‘big’ cities like Melbourne or Sydney?

Simone: I feel like we’re a lot more genre friendly. I know there’s a big literary scene in Melbourne and I think not everyone is into that, and that’s okay. I think people feel more free to just write the things they truly enjoy, regardless of how crazy they are.

Alex: I’ve never really written with the intention of publishing anything. I have literally never finished any work of fiction that I’ve done in the last ten years. So, I write for fun. I enjoy doing NaNo, I don’t normally write much throughout the rest of the year, other than occasionally trying Camp NaNos. I save all my creativity for NaNo and then fill the month. So when it comes to other places, I don’t know.

Caitlin: One of the really good things about the size of Adelaide versus somewhere like Melbourne or Sydney, is that there is a focus on the arts within the state. The writers aren’t really gatekeepers. You can talk to any other South Australian author, whether you’re published or not, and they’re happy to talk to you. They’re happy to share their experiences and they’re not going to tell you that you can’t do it.They’re all really welcoming, which is lovely.

 

Any advice for newcomers/prospective NaNo’ers this year?

Alex: First of all, work out if you’re a planner or a pantser. Or a plantser, if you’re a hybrid. Because, if you’re a planner and you haven’t planned, you may find it difficult. I did.

Simone: Just remember that the only real rule in NaNoWriMo is that you have to write 50,000 words during the month of NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t mean that if you get really keen for your idea that you can’t start beforehand and count the words from that point. That’s okay. If you handwrite, that’s okay. It’s your own work, you can do whatever you want. Sure, the intention is to start a novel, but if you’d rather write the next 50,000 words of a thing that you’re working on, or fan fiction, like that’s all fine. It’s okay. Write what you want to write. As long as it’s the numbers in the timeframe.

Caitlin: Have fun. Don’t worry about the quality of your words, it’s the quantity. I remember the first few times I got paralysed by fear because I was like, ‘oh this sentence isn’t good enough, it’s a terrible sentence’. Yes, it was a terrible sentence, but just get the words down. Don’t worry about how polished they are, just get them down and you can fix them later.

Alex: If you get stuck just write ‘ninjas attack’ and write the ninjas attacking. And then keep writing. Don’t stop writing when you hit the wall. Just keep writing. Find something to write about.

Simone: You don’t have to be chronological either. If there are scenes you’re looking forward to, and you’re really struggling where you currently are, just skip ahead. Making things in order is what the next draft is for.

Caitlin: Working full time you can still write a novel, you just do have to prioritise your writing over your TV watching, or whatever the vice you’ve got. But you can do it, you may just need to rearrange something for a month.

 

What are the best places to write in Adelaide?

Simone: I think my favourite is Cibo Espresso on Rundle street. It’s really great because upstairs it’s usually pretty quiet and there are power points so you can plug in your laptop. They don’t care how long you stay as long as you buy a couple of coffees. It’s my favourite place to go. Plus it’s pretty close to buses and car parking.

Alex: In 2014 I made a plan to myself to write in as many places outside of my house as possible. I wrote in fifteen other places other than my house, including various write-ins. I found that writing in parks is kind of fun. I did a day when I went to Bonython Park and just sat there on a bench. And somehow connected to the Adelaide free Wi-Fi. I assume there was like a router in the tree, because I was literally under a tree nowhere near anything that looked like a router. I quite like writing in parks, if it’s a nice day.

Caitlin: I’ve done a surprising amount of writing in either cafes or bars. By myself– because it’s not sad when you have a beer and a book. Basically, I find anywhere with a bit of background noise, I find the ambient noise is very productive.

 

Anything you want to add?

Simone: Join the local group. We’re really friendly and we’ll try to connect with you any way we can. Online or in person.

Alex: If you ever wanted to write something, just start.

 


Logo Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Background image by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

Thanks to Alex, Caitlin and Simone for taking the time to speak to us.

 

Alexander Barratt

You can find Alex on Instagram

 

Caitlin O’Callaghan

You can find Caitlin on Twitter and Instagram

 

Simone Corletto

You can find Simone on Twitter and Instagram. You can also read her Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo here.

 

If you would like to get involved with NaNoWriMo in Adelaide you can connect and find out about upcoming events on the Australia :: Adelaide region page (https://nanowrimo.org/regions/australia-adelaide).

Interview conducted and transcribed by Lisandra Linde

‘Bob’s Truth’ By Emmica Lore

Bob was a goldfish. He lived in a fancy house with all the fancy trimmings – coloured pebbles, a deep-sea diver blowing bubbles and an ocean view. Bob was happy. Until he was not. Staring into the world beyond had Bob thinking about the meaning of life. Enter existential crisis.

He had always admired pelicans – they were imposing yet graceful (well that might be a stretch) and had the freedom to discover new lands and wistfully watch the creatures below.

It was morning, or maybe afternoon (how the hell would Bob know? He’s a goldfish) when an idea arrived. An epiphany. A light-bulb moment. An irrational thought from inhaling too many oxygen filled bubbles. Are bubbles filled with oxygen? Whatever science, who made you the boss of everything?

It was in that moment that Bob hatched a daring plan.

He was quite a fit-fish and it didn’t take long for him to achieve his goal. Plop! Bob had thrust himself out of the tank and was now lying belly-side on the carpet. He flapped about instinctively.

“Hmmm…well this sucks”.

As his last breath was drawn, the flapping stopped.

Bob’s soul rose from his tiny neon body and floated outside above a sandy shore. He could see a sleeping bird, no, a dead bird. Then, Bob had another epiphany. Wiggling his tail and using all of his fit-fish-soul muscles he drove downwards and into the chest of the stiff creature. Opening his eyes, the world seemed sharper and brighter. The smell of salt filled his nostrils and tickled his tongue.

Bob was now a pelican.

He stretched out his wings, pressed his webbed feet into the sand and savoured his breath as he inhaled real air for the very first time.

Bob flew from the beach to the jetty. From the jetty to the river. He discovered new lands and wistfully watched the creatures below. Bob was happy. Until he was not.

You see Bob was now a pelican and what do pelicans eat? He just couldn’t bring himself to dine on his fishy friends and so eventually Bob died of starvation.

And that is why you should never leave your fish bowl.

Or maybe it’s be happy with who you are?? Yeah, let’s go with that.

 


Words by Emmica Lore.

red skirtEmmica Lore is a creative person. She is a writer, poet and avid op-shopper who also makes art from time to time. Emmica is interested in sustainable style, philosophy, politics, art, feminism, whimsy and nature. You can find her on Instagram @emmicalorecreative

‘Bob’s Truth’ has also appeared on Lore’s website https://www.emmicalore.com/ and was previously featured in an exhibition.

 

Photo by Julieann Ragojo on Unsplash.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holly Ringland

Harper Collins 2018


I picked up The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart shortly after its release, and since then I’ve read it not just once, but twice. This is something that is highly unusual for me, particularly in such a short period. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland’s bestselling debut novel, has been out since March and since then the rights have been sold to a number of countries internationally.

Ringland takes her readers on a journey through Alice’s harrowing life and her healing process. Wounded by secrets and lies, Alice truly comes into her own when she is allowed to live her life as herself, exploring her talent for writing, embracing her family, and preparing for her next journey.

The novel’s opening is dedicated to Alice’s childhood among the sugar canes with her mother, her father, and her little deaf dog Toby. Her mother was loving and unfortunately prone to periods of depression, but her father was volatile; Alice liked it better when he wasn’t there. Toby was just Toby, her first and best friend. But beneath this basic information we see something more sinister. We see this in the bruises on Agnes, Alice’s pregnant mother, or Alice never going into town, even for school. After a fire on their property destroys everything, Alice is left orphaned of both parents, her baby-brother and her speech.

Terrified and unable to protest, Alice is taken by her absent grandmother to her new home at Thornfield. Alice makes a life there with the women on the flower farm and the boy next door, Oggi. She grows up among the flowers with June, Twig, and Candy Baby, but Alice has always wanted something more. She longs to get away. It’s only when Oggi and Alice decide to run away to Bulgaria together that Alice’s life once again takes a dramatic turn. Oggi leaves for Bulgaria without her and without even an explanation. Furious and confused, Alice does the only thing she can: she continues her work at Thornfield.

Alice was never meant to stay at Thornfield, and while June and the others only ever wanted to protect her, she kept Alice in the dark for her entire life. Truths have a way of slipping out and it is the truth of Oggi’s disappearance that drives Alice out into a night of torrential rain as flood threatens the flower farm. It is time for Alice to move on.

Alice is eager to live on her own and quickly finds that while finding her feet she will inevitably make mistakes along the way. When she meets Dylan, Alice is unable to stop thinking about him and as their relationship blossoms she misses the all-too-familiar warning signs that should have encouraged her to run. Instead she finds fault with herself, as many tend to do. It is only with the help of her friends and her family that Alice finds her way forward again, this time moving towards the truth and light that has always hidden behind the secrets and lies.

There is a lot of beautiful, floral language throughout the piece which some readers might criticise. However, I would say that it is important to the novel being a very poignant work to give both the reader time to process not just the story, but how they relate to the work.

The novel addresses several heavy issues including: child and domestic abuse, illegal immigration, conservation, alcoholism, and the treatment of Indigenous Australians and their culture. Not only does this work of fiction have a healing element, but  encourages readers to consider these issues and their complexities.

The story revolves around all those things that remain unsaid. In life, it is impossible for June to admit why she never knew Alice prior to her parent’s death. As June never reveals this secret, Alice cannot deal with the guilt heavy on her heart over her parent’s deaths. Alice’s life is filled with unsaid things and it takes their revelation for her healing to begin.

Nature is presented as crucial to the healing process in a very unobtrusive way. Alice is always running for the ocean or the river, identifying flowers, going for walks, or tending to the farm. She is very in touch with the land, often remarking during her time in the dessert about the red earth and the dunes. This lends the novel an element of tranquillity as the reader must slow down and take it all in.

Ringland’s debut novel is unlike any other I’ve read before, taking the Victorian language of flowers and presenting it in an Australian context is a nice touch, drawing readers not just into the story but to the natural world around them. Set across the Australian landscape this novel demonstrates the diversity of our country and focuses on its beauty.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved it the first time and I loved it the second time. I would highly recommend it, particularly if you’re agitated as the language is very calming, the story engaging, and the introduction to floriography fascinating.

 


4.5/5 stars

Words by Kayla Gaskell