Mem­o­ries, dreams and the de­cay of a utopia

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - James Bradley

ALTHOUGH the lit­er­a­ture con­cerned with imag­i­nary utopias is ex­ten­sive, the list of nov­els de­voted to life in utopian com­mu­ni­ties is com­par­a­tively short, which seems cu­ri­ous when one con­sid­ers what per­fect fic­tional fod­der the slow dy­ing of their per­sis­tence and their cost — are front and cen­tre in Ar­ca­dia, the sec­ond novel by Amer­i­can writer Lau­ren Groff, which de­picts the foun­da­tion, cor­rup­tion and, fi­nally, the dis­so­lu­tion of one such com­mu­nity.

The novel opens on a river bank in up­state New York in 1968. While women sing as they wash laun­dry by a river, a com­mu­nity gath­ers for the evening, their trucks and buses ‘‘ cir­cled like bi­son against the wind’’, their leader salut­ing the sun, naked chil­dren dart­ing through the trees on the camp fringes.

It’s a beau­ti­ful scene, one that cap­tures the

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