The Seal Woman
UQP, $29.95 hb, 0702224375
This is an elegant and satisfying novel. Like fine food, good sex, lasting relationships, and memorable music, it takes time to develop and the artistry that sustains it is understated and deceptive. It is, however, memorable. There is the instant gratification of Farmer’s delicate but sensuous prose and a finely woven narrative about a Danish woman, Dagmar, who is ‘over-wintering’ in Australia after the death of her husband, but this is definitely the tip of the iceberg. It is the cumulative effect of this virtuoso performance that surprises. Throughout, Farmer maintains a balance between the apparent simplicity of one woman’s exclusive story (with its nuances, modulations and personal significances) and the intricacies of a narrative (a kind of linguistic tessellation) which demonstrates a thesis about the inter-relatedness of our ‘one world’.