Posts

Once, Rich and Sandy were environmental activists, part of a world-famous blockade in Tasmania to save the wilderness. Now, twenty-five years later, they have both settled into the uncomfortable compromises of middle age — although they’ve gone about it in very different ways. The only thing they have in common these days is their fifteen-year-old daughter, Sophie.

When Rich decides to take Sophie, whom he hardly knows, on a trek into the Tasmanian wilderness, his overconfidence and her growing disillusion with him set off a chain of events that no one could have predicted. Instead of respect, Rich finds antagonism in his relationship with Sophie; and in the vast landscape he once felt an affinity with, he encounters nothing but disorientation and fear.

Ultimately, all three characters will learn that if they are to survive, each must traverse not only the secret territories that lie between them but also those within themselves.

I haven’t read any of Cate’s renowned short stories, but I will be looking for them now. This book is a masterpiece of character study combined with beautiful, lyrical writing. I don’t think I’ve read a better depiction of a teenager’s tumultuous relationship with her parents, and the internal struggles of middle age. While I love a page-turner, there is no rushing this read – Cate makes sure you immerse yourself in each sentence, and it’s no surprise it was shortlisted for numerous accolades, and won the People’s Choice Award in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards back in 2010.

Geiki Gorge landscape, in the Kimberley

It’s not about rights
(though it seems some rights mean more than others?)

It’s not about need
(who can say about greed)

It’s not about whales
(or this rare, safe place they calve)

It’s not about flora, fauna, or natural heritage
(or dinosaur footprints left 130 million years ago)

It’s not about a wilderness few will visit
(out of sight, out of mind)

It’s not even about pollution
(the inestimable clog of it)

No, it’s not about any of this
(It’s all of this)

 It is that all this damage is irreversible
(i.r.r.e.v.e.r.s.i.b.l.e.).

Land and sea are irreplaceable
And afterwards
They are all we’ll have left.

S.A.V.E. T.H.E. K.I.M.B.E.R.L.E.Y.
(and all places like it)

I’ve attended the Perth Writers Festival every year since I arrived in WA back in 2004, and I always seem to forget just how damn inspiring it is – that is, until I’m back in the auditoriums, listening to beautiful, radical, compelling and disturbing ideas, whereupon it all comes rushing back to me. Last year I was caught up with the fact that I had events of my own to participate in – a particularly daunting affair as they were my first public speaking engagements as a ‘published novelist’. Therefore, this weekend it was lovely to sit among the audience and try to take in as much as possible by osmosis – as well as scribbling quotes and thoughts in my notebook too.

I was particularly interested in sessions concerning the natural world. I have found myself becoming increasingly drawn to and protective of untouched landscapes, and I’m fascinated and terrified by the commentary of some front-line thinkers and researchers on the state of the planet. In a session on landscape, Annie Proulx talked about how her surroundings inspire her, saying, ‘there’s something about striding out and looking at far distances that sets the mind on fire’, while Tim Flannery gave the best description of climate change I have ever heard, and I think most others agreed, as he got a major round of applause in the packed Octagon Theatre. In essence he explained that the earth goes through a predictable 100,000-year warming/cooling cycle, but what is happening now is a warming spike caused by man rather than the normal pattern of nature. As a result, the seas are predicted to rise one metre in the next ninety years. If they rise just half of that, then we can expect to see major events such as flooding, which have so far occurred approximately every hundred years, happening every month or up to ten times a month. I repeat: ten times a month. If that isn’t an impetus to look carefully at what we are doing at all levels from superstructure to personal, I don’t know what is.

Later in the day I listened to Tim again, this time with Dorothy Rowe, someone I’ve always admired for her ability to examine and explain the more difficult and disturbing sides of human nature. Her latest book, Why We Lie, looks at why we hide from unpalatable truths, such as the scale of climate change we could be facing. She was marvellous to listen to, and I was very moved by her comment on mourning and grief being the great themes of human literature. ‘If you love other people you will suffer loss. And if you want to avoid loss you will be lonely. To be a human being is to choose between these two.’ It could have been demoralising, but these speakers all talked with open minds, passion, and a brilliant sense of humour, and what came across most in the sessions is that while we can be ambushed by our fears and our feelings of helplessness in the magnitude of the problems we’re faced with, the irrepressible spirit of Hope keeps on finding a way through.

I’ll be writing more about the diverse range of PWF events later in the week, but tomorrow I am delighted to welcome Nicole Alexander, who visits my blog to talk about her new book, A Changing Land.

Pages

I am sometimes lucky enough to be allowed to write on other people’s sites or blogs. You can check out some of my previous posts by following the links below:

On Writing (10 August 2011) on The Australian Bookshelf

Writer on Tour (14 April 2011) on Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

The literary/commercial fiction divide (14 Feb 2011) on Natasha Lester’s blog http://whilethekidsaresleeping.wordpress.com/

A shifting landscape, a perfect backdrop (13 Feb 2011) on www.lisaheidke.com

Inspiration (9 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

Mothering and writing for a living (8 Feb 2011) on http://anjwritesabout.com/

Endings: Beginnings in disguise (4 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

Stories within stories (3 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

Losing the plot (2 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

The North Yorkshire moors, the perfect setting (1 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

At long last, meet Grace (31 Jan 2011) on The Random Blog

On writing and editing (31 Jan 2011) on http://www.ahthepossibilities.com/

Sara Foster is grateful for… (31  Jan 2011) on http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com/

Breathing Life into Landscapes (4 Nov 2010) on www.fleurmcdonald.com

On pursuing publication (9 April 2010) on The Random Blog

Finding the time to write (8 April 2010) on The Random Blog

Friends and family readers (7 April 2010) on The Random Blog

Your editor is on your side (6 April 2010) on The Random Blog

When characters get minds of their own (5 April 2010) on The Random Blog