Count­ing on sur­vival in­stincts to kick in

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Thuy On

bi­fur­cated worlds lit­er­ally and spec­tac­u­larly col­lide when “the foul-mouthed bo­gan” ac­ci­den­tally re­verses into Neve’s wall. Ge­orge sym­pa­thet­i­cally draws out how, de­spite their su­per­fi­cial dif­fer­ences, both women des­per­ately need nur­tur­ing them­selves. In­deed the ti­tle doesn’t just re­fer to the ac­ci­den­tally for­got­ten child but also to the adults (Neve, Leah and stone­ma­son Sal) who crave a sta­bil­is­ing, ma­ter­nal in­flu­ence. It’s a book about loss: what Anna Ge­orge’s 2014 de­but, What Came Be­fore, hap­pens when the once sta­ble struc­ture of an is a tense psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller about do­mes­tic equi­lat­eral tri­an­gle — of par­ents and child — vi­o­lence. The ti­tle refers to the se­ries of events col­lapses and jagged pieces are left be­hind. that pre­cede the open­ing mur­der. The be­lievGe­orge’s writ­ing is as cool and el­e­gant as able, flawed char­ac­ters have their mo­ti­va­tions Neve’s ar­chi­tec­tural cre­ation. The sus­pense is laid out in finely cal­i­brated de­tail. slow-burn. True to the tenet of the psy­chologi

The Lone Child con­tin­ues the Mel­bourne cal thriller, there’s a sur­pris­ing twist to­wards writer’s in­ter­est in the com­pli­cated, self-de­the end that adds an ex­tra level of in­trigue. lud­ing ex­cuses of vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors, It Vul­ner­a­ble char­ac­ters also pop­u­late Rachel once again shows how strong and con­fi­dent Matthews’s se­cond novel, Siren, which draws women can be bro­ken by forces t to­gether a dis­parate cast be­yond their con­trol. a around the pro­tag­o­nist, 16

In a cliff-top hol­i­day house y year-old Jordi, who fol­lows two that she her­self de­signed, nesAFL tled in the Vic­to­rian coastal A ious Mel­bourne­foot­ballers back­pad af­terto a lux­u­rmeetAi ranges, ar­chi­tect Neve Ayres, i ing them in a bar. Among the 39, is slowly un­rav­el­ling. Once s stench of sweat and af­ter­shave al­most too per­fect in co­mand empty vodka bot­tles, she’s po­sure and ap­pear­ance, she is r raped by one of them. Though now rum­pled and un­done by Max, the apart­ment’s owner, the un­re­lent­ing mews of a colen­gages in ca­sual flirt­ing, he icky new­born. b be­lat­edly de­vel­ops a con­science

Aban­doned by her lover once he re­alises her un­der­age when she was eight months sta­tus. His boof­head mate Dirk preg­nant, she is alone with her hhii is has out no cold such via qualms.a strate­gic Once punch Max son. “In any given hour, her only ob­jec­tive was sur­vival, his t to the head, he pins Jordi down. and hers. It was both too much The am­bi­gu­ity of the ti­tle and too lit­tle.” works well here, sig­ni­fy­ing the blast that her

Neve paces this enor­mous split-level house alds the start or end of play, but also sym­bol­isof glass and stone, with a re­duced life cru­elly ing a come-hither bea­con: the call of the and in­ex­actly mea­sured out in feeds and sleep. al­lur­ing en­trap­per. That, of course, is how the There ap­pears to be no sup­port net­work to ag­gres­sor ra­tio­nalises his at­tack on the teen­prop her up and she is flail­ing, her fa­cial dark ager: that she will­ingly left her­self open to asshad­ows and dis­ori­ented thought pat­terns a sault. Though it’s a fic­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mark of her in­tro­duc­tion to moth­er­hood. Post­sex­ual vi­o­lence in AFL cul­ture, wide­spread na­tal de­pres­sion seems likely. me­dia re­port­ing on the is­sue Pos­si­bly psy­chosis. and Anna Krien’s 2013 book to sleep, While she try­ing en­coun­ter­sto get her a NNs­baby­fiveNight sec­tion Game­sof sex, about power the and in­ter­footyear-old on the beach, b ball means Matthews has lots

o of orig­i­nal sources on which to bare-legged and tiny. It was draw. She chooses to con­cen­draped in ropes of weed and t trate not on the rapist but on a swirling, mak­ing the ten­drils n num­ber of other char­ac­ters ethe­real,fly. A wwslone lit child:up. re­splen­dent, skat­ing­who for on var­i­ous­the edge. rea­sons, are

There’s Jordi, of course. This first meet­ing seems alShell-shocked and trau­ma­tised most mag­i­cal. There’s an oth­erb by her at­tack, she is loath to re­ness about this found ob­ject, p port the in­ci­dent. Also in the mmp­ she’s But a on changeling­close in­spec­tionor sea p play­er­mix is who Max, tried the to age­ing pro­tect footy­her. there are signs of parental negW With his bung wrist, his ca­reer ligence and harm: bruises, thread­bare clothes is pre­ma­turely over and he copes by self-me­diand “teeth chipped like crock­ery”. Later, Jessie, cat­ing. Ruby, a 40-some­thing lonely heart who for that’s what Neve de­cides to call this un­acalso lives in the block; Florence, a home­less com­panied mi­nor, re­turns to Neve’s house and el­derly woman; and Jordi’s over­whelmed par­begs her not to alert the au­thor­i­ties. And Neve, ents of five, Pe­tra and Kane, are among oth­ers by virtue of non-ac­tion, ac­qui­esces, her pro­tecwhose lives are doc­u­mented. The cir­cum­tive in­stincts re­spond­ing to the woe­be­gone stances sur­round­ing Jordi’s sex­ploita­tion, the crea­ture. In re­sponse to the fo­cused at­ten­tion, jock cul­ture and the pol­i­tics of vic­tim-blam­ing Jessie bur­rowed in “like a louse, into the ten­der form the crux of this book but Matthews is also flesh of a warm host”. Over the Easter long in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing dis­pos­ses­sion, gen­er­aweek­end, Neve re­alises their sud­den, faux­tional poverty, sub­stance abuse and gam­bling. adopted re­la­tion­ship is mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial. Siren is starkly writ­ten, though stud­ded with Her loneliness has been in­ter­rupted, the ex­ten­ten­der de­tails that mark its sen­si­tiv­ity to trau­sion of care to­wards an­other soul a wel­come ma and de­spair: the fake Prada heels worn by dis­trac­tion to both her solip­sis­tic chat­ter and Jordi to im­press merely high­light her youth the baby’s word­less de­mands. (“But now her shoes were like ev­ery­thing else.

Just when you think the book will re­main in They were hurt­ing, they were let­ting her Neve’s claus­tro­pho­bic mind­set, Ge­orge in­ter­down”). Like Ge­orge, Matthews’s sense of weaves an­other nar­ra­tive strand: Jessie’s com­pas­sion for her char­ac­ters in­forms and mother, Leah, a woman on the op­po­site side of over­lays her nar­ra­tive. De­spite the many tri­als the so­cioe­co­nomic spec­trum. A sin­gle mum en­coun­tered, both authors bear wit­ness to the with two young chil­dren in her care, Leah’s strug­gle for sur­vival in­stincts to pre­vail. life­style con­sists of ex­treme sports such as money scrab­bling and couch surf­ing. Hith­erto is the books edi­tor of The Big Is­sue.

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