Of old Eden
cream lustre or her tinsel-thread organdie,’’ I said. ‘‘I imagine she will have a new dress altogether,’’ said Louisa. ‘‘It will be sewn together from the desiccated corpses of seventeen bush rats, left out to dry in the sun.’’ I snorted gleefully. How fondly I felt towards Louisa sometimes! In her meanness towards Eunice Martin, I saw that she was demonstrating her loyalty and affection towards me. In her own strange way, she was a loving sister.
The whales are themselves characters in Rush Oh!: the killers — each with a name and a distinctive personality — and the great baleens, whom Mary describes as dawdling like “recalcitrant schoolboys on their way to school; if there was a bottle, they would kick it. It is truly a wonder that they ever get anywhere.”
So it is confronting, then, to read of the suffering the baleens go through, their long, slow death. And the humour and romance do not always sit easily beside this game of hunter and hunted (at one point our narrator asks us to please not compare her tale to Moby-Dick).
But Barrett has followed Mary for a reason, and it is her voice that carries Rush Oh!, with her self-consciousness, humour and florid language, less period detail than character quirk of an odd but likable person. It is Mary who you will miss like a sister — “in her own strange way” — when the final page is turned.
new novel is Long Bay.