One of the things I really love about Melbourne Writers Festival is that it introduces me to the work of authors I did not know previously. Thanks, MWF, because I now know Julienne van Loon, and I suspect I will be a lifelong fan.
Beneath the Bloodwood tree is set in Western Australia in Port Hedland, looking at life over a few months through the eyes of several characters; there is Pia Ricci, the dentist of Chinese/Italian background who is conducting a casual affair with a married man whose wife lives out-of-town; Joachim, the Dutch nurse who enters into a more serious relationship with Pia with unexpected consequences and the widow Barnes who lives mostly in her own mind with the ghosts of her past.
I love the pacing of van Loon’s writing. Information is drip fed, but not in the way that makes you want to race to the end and pull it to pieces. Instead, she directs you in each direction, letting you see a little and then taking you elsewhere until eventually, you realise you’ve seen the whole picture, and it is not what you expected.
Julianne van Loon will be appearing at the Melbourne Writers Festival at The Morning Read on Friday August 23 at 10am at Beer DeLuxe, Asian Stories Australian Postcodes on Saturday August 24 at 10am at The Cube, ACMI, The Morning Read on Saturday August 24 at 10 at Beer DeLuxe and is hosting First Flight on Sunday August 25 at ACMI. For tickets and more information visit MWF.
The story starts in rural Victoria, with Annabel newly finished high school and heading home in a truck with her brother and his mate, Bill Whitton. She and Bill quickly fall for each other, but World War Two starts and they are separated. Annabel goes to university, studying science. When Bill returns, their love affair recommences. They marry and move to New York to help Bill escape the constant memories he suffers after spending years in a POW camp. There, they both gain work in chemical labs, but Annabel is never quite sure who she is working for on in what capacity. It is the Cold War, the commission in anti-American activities is in full swing and nothing and no-one is what they seem to be.
I absolutely love an unreliable narrator, and Annabel is most certainly one. She is an extremely intelligent woman, however she is in denial about what is happening around her, both in her marriage and in the world. As long as she was confused, I was confused; but for me, this was far from unpleasant. It was like reading a murder mystery only without the murder; when I wasn’t reading the book, I was wondering who each character really was and what was driving them. This is Lucy Neave’s first book and I am most certainly looking forward to reading more of her work.
Lucy Neave will be appearing at the Melbourne Writers Festival 2013 at The Morning Read on Sunday, August 25 at 10am at Beer Deluxe and First Flight on Sunday, August 25 at 11:30am at ACMI studio 1. For tickets and more information visit MWF.