Counting on survival instincts to kick in
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 mmpsprite.like 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.