My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Beyond knowing that it is shortlisted for the 2105 Stella Prize, I knew nothing of this work.
I deliberately didn't read the blurb or go looking for reviews. I want to have as few preconceived notions about what I am about to read as possible. I want to allow for the possibility of being surprised.
I was captivated on page one.
Structurally, this work of fiction is interesting. It is not a novel. It is divided into three sections, the first and the last being sets of short stories, the middle being a novella.
"Heat" is the first section and explores a single family from many points of view. It is heat fanned by wind. Part fable, part imagined documentary; I enjoyed this section immensely. The slow and unflinching unfolding of layers of family history was hugely satisfying.
The second section, "Water", is near future speculative fiction exploring issues of colonialism. It is infused with a sense of historical de ja vu, and hasan urgent pace.
The third section, "Light", is the least optimistic of the three sections. There is truth here. The stories are not without emotion, but difficult themes of belonging and the desire to escape are explored without overt judgement.
Smoothly written and eminently readable, all of the stories show a steady, honest gaze. Indigenous and queer voices should be heard more often. I look forward to reading more of van Neerven's work.
This is the sixth book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers' Challenge 2015. I have completed the challenge I set myself, but there are oh so many more to read.
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