Marion Halligan (Allen & Unwin) 2015, 291pp, RRP $29.99
Halligan’s latest novel is often gorgeously written and melancholically moving, and yet there’s something a little precious and even (dare it be said?) pretentious here.
A study of pain, mortality, messily extended families and the unknowable nature of others, we begin with the death of lawyer William at a local pool, and then follow what happens as the many people to whom he is connected react. And there is a wife, two former wives and a child from each marriage, as well as a possible secret lover and others, and each of these characters has a section devoted to them and the sometimes oddly extraneous details of their lives, especially when doctoral student Ferdie starts going on about George Eliot’s Middlemarch and how he uses it to get women into bed, and we wonder if all of this is really going anywhere.
A mystery and psychodramatic study of grief in the sense that its characters are seeking elusive truths and confronting their pain, this is certainly an unusual novel in that it’s so obsessed with tangents and detours and unexpected diversions. Just like life, you might say – and Halligan obviously hopes that you will.
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