The Life to Come

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - MEG NOLA

Michelle de Kretser Cat­a­pult (MARCH) Hard­cover $26 (352pp) 978-1-936787-82-1

In Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, lives in­ter­sect, en­twine, or sep­a­rate within dis­tinct yet uni­fied pas­sages. The gen­eral nexus be­ing Aus­tralia, back­drops shift from Syd­ney to Paris or Sri Lanka, from the present to the past, with each set­ting ob­served or re­called in fluid de­tail.

The novel’s in­trigu­ing, res­o­nant char­ac­ters in­clude Ce­leste, a trans­la­tor and teacher who lives in Paris and is hav­ing an af­fair with Sabine. Sabine main­tains the dili­gent fa­cade of be­ing a het­ero­sex­ual wife and mother, yet she reg­u­larly vis­its Ce­leste’s apart­ment dur­ing le cinq à sept, the famed French time for af­ter­noon trysts.

Aus­tralian Cassie wears fey, em­pire-waisted vel­vet dresses and strives to cook cur­ries and dhals for her boyfriend, Ash, who was raised in Sri Lanka. De­spite her dogged ef­forts and fre­quent vis­its to a lo­cal Tamil gro­cery, Ash re­mains ex­as­per­at­ingly de­tached—not only from Cassie, but from him­self.

As a com­mon friend to the var­i­ous per­son­al­i­ties, as­pir­ing Aussie au­thor Pippa writes and pon­ders, mak­ing her way through trav­els abroad, usu­ally hand­ing out copies of her own first novel with the dis­claimer that it isn’t very good (but she still al­ways of­fers the copies). Pippa is res­o­lute and re­silient yet also con­flicted, ques­tion­ing whether she should have chil­dren while yearn­ing for lit­er­ary suc­cess. Pippa’s blog, Twit­ter feed, and ob­ses­sive cy­ber­stalk­ing of a young Mus­lim woman she fears her hus­band is at­tracted to are to among the novel’s many keenly honed ex­am­ples of how so­cial me­dia can both en­rich and dis­tort re­la­tion­ships.

Though the pace is calmly mea­sured, the larger sway of his­tory, from po­lit­i­cal un­rest in Sri Lanka to France’s Al­ge­rian up­ris­ing to Aus­tralia’s lin­ger­ing colo­nial in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex, adds a deeper di­men­sion to the novel’s plot. Flow­ing from poignancy to elo­quence to de­light­fully wry satire, The Life to Come’s rich­ness of prose and char­ac­ter is meant to be sa­vored and re­flected upon.

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