What Else We've Been Reading
The joint winner of this year's Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. We read a gorgeous review that described the book as a "polyphonic choir of women, singing a song of life in dissonances and harmonies!" Contemporary and yet offering a new history, this is the kind of literature that can change your life!
Anna Krien recently mentioned in an interview that a "lot of Australian literature is written in a...vacuum and doesn’t seem to cover the pervasive effects of politics or media". As a journalist and novelist, her writing explicitly reflects the times that we live in with a potent political skew. The diversity of voices, landscapes and social issues in Act of Grace is astounding. Krien has managed to jam so much into a single novel (domestic violence, Stolen Generation dislocation, PTSD, the Iraq War, prostitution, foetal alcohol syndrome, the list goes on) and, for the most part, pulls it off seamlessly. Based predominantly in Melbourne bu with scenes in Perth, the Northern Territory, Iraq and America, the novel is told in four parts that gradually become interwoven. In this way it was a little reminiscent of The Slap. An ambitious study of intergenerational trauma, cultural appropriation and identity that gives the reader a lot to think about!
We'll start by admitting that there was a lot in this book that went over our heads, simple agnostic atheists that we are, but that did not get in the way of a good story. Taking as its subject nothing less than events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church, Damascus is based around the gospels and letters of St Paul, and focusing on characters one and two generations on from the death of Christ, as well as Paul (Saul) himself. The book explores the same themes that have always obsessed Tsiolkas: class, religion, masculinity, patriarchy, colonisation, refugees; the ways in which nations, societies, communities, families and individuals are united and divided - it's all here, the contemporary and urgent questions, perennial concerns made vivid and visceral. Probably not your next beach read but one to consider if you're feeling adventurous.