Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

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Robert Drewe Grace (2005)

This novel manages, without being either dull or pretentious, to capture key aspects of the Australia I know today while traversing the entire continent and some 80,000 years of history. Even the disturbed man who until recently wandered Surry Hills and Darlinghurst shouting “NO!” at the top of his voice is in there… (I saw him last year in St Vincents when I was visiting Lord M, and suspect he may no longer be with us.) Grace is a great mirror.

Tea and Tattered Pages… “loved the fusion of all the stories, from Grace’s Icelander stalker, to her father’s hunt for bones and the memory of the relationship with Grace’s mother, as well as the tale of the run-away refugee” and so do I. She feels however that “certain aspects of it petered into nothingness”; I didn’t mind that so much, though I am of two minds about the ending…

Matilda reviewed Grace in early 2006.

In this novel, Drewe does look the current state of the Australian nation directly in the face, telling a compelling story, and dealing with such diverse subjects as: reconciliation, inner-city versus country divides, eco-tourism, refugees and government immigration policies, the history of human settlement of the Australian continent, soft crime versus hard crime, and commercialization versus conservation. It’s a big list.

In her recent review of the novel in “Overland”, Lucy Sussex thinks it’s too big, that each of the subjects warranted detailed individual treatment. I agree with the second part of that, and, in the hands of a lesser novelist than Drewe, I’d probably agree with the first part as well.

I revelled in the novel’s range of reference, surprised at how much depth there also is, given the number of issues raised. That’s why it gets into my Best Reads. It is also very enjoyable, which helps; I wouldn’t want you thinking it is just an “improving” or “politically correct” read. Far from it, though I would hope certain conservatives read it…

This may sound weird, but I hope it is never filmed. I really don’t think it would work at all well. One up for the written word in this case.

See also Robert Drewe discusses the book with Ramona Koval.

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